State Services Minister Trevor Mallard is distancing himself from interpretations of his remarks on the e-government initiative in a radio interview late last month, suggesting he had let slip a potential major role for Microsoft in the e-government exercise.
“All [my] comment indicated,” Mallard told Computerworld through press secretary Moerangi Vercoe, “was that with Incis the National party attempted to have software designed that Microsoft said could not be done. There was no question of preferring a particular supplier.”
On April 26, News 1ZB interviewer Larry Williams put it to Mallard that “government departments aren’t famous for doing computers well”.
“No they’re not,” Mallard replied, “and that’s why we don’t want to be second-guessing Microsoft the way the previous government did with Incis. They tried to do something which Microsoft told them couldn’t be done.”
Media including the Aardvark website and the New Zealand Herald drew from this a supposition that Microsoft may be cosying up to government and the e-government project. As the Herald confirmed, Microsoft has a Wellington-based group dealing directly with the e-government team, but many of the other major vendors, including IBM, Oracle, Novell and Siemens, also have such contact points with the e-government unit. Microsoft is playing a large role in the UK’s e-government effort.
Aardvark editor Bruce Simpson says Mallard’s use of the phrase “second-guessing Microsoft” in the interview and “seamless front office” seemed to give a really clear hint that Microsoft would be playing a critical role in the e-government rollout.
The phrase “Seamless Front Office” — in capitals — was used in an e-government strategy document, but the minister says this was meant in the generic, customer-focused sense, rather than referring to Microsoft’s product.