Politicians need to move more quickly on our KBE

This month we've seen the loss of Brierley Investments to Singapore and telecommunications software company Telemedia to Sydney, both for very similar reasons: it makes better business sense for them to operate out of another country. If that doesn't worry you, it should.

This month we've seen the loss of Brierley Investments to Singapore and telecommunications software company Telemedia to Sydney, both for very similar reasons: it makes better business sense for them to operate out of another country. If that doesn’t worry you, it should. Brierley isn’t renowned for its IT investments and after shedding much of its portfolio in recent years you could be forgiven for thinking the company is basically a dinosaur left over from pre-1987 days. According to the company’s Web site (www.bil.co.nz) Brierley manages $4 billion worth of investments that include nearly half of Air New Zealand and a 93% stake in Asia Power, a "developer and investor in power generation projects" in the Asia-Pacific region. While neither investment is directly IT related, both clearly rely on IT to function and demonstrate Brierley’s level of commitment. Now, however, Brierley is shifting its head office, and presumably its focus, to Singapore and we have to ask the question: why? Isn’t there anything worth investing in here? Aren’t we developing the sort of businesses that would seem worth pumping money into? If not, why not? Telemedia is an even more straightforward case. "The [Australian] environment for development and exporting is attractive," says CEO Chris Jones. The company has turnover of around $A6 million but Jones hopes to drive that up to $A23 million by June. Sydney is a "logical point" for Telemedia to work from because of competitive tax breaks for research and development, which also begs the question: why? The answer is quite simple really. We’re still at the talking stage of developing our knowledge-based economy (KBE) environment, while other nations of the world are out there doing the business. Governments are renowned for moving at a glacial pace at the best of times, but our lot don’t seem to realise how fast IT develops. Just look at the Internet. Ten years ago you’d be lucky to find a New Zealand politician who knew what it was. Today Internet protocol (IP) has completely revolutionised the multitrillion dollar telecommunications industry, yet it seems our glorious leaders haven’t even grasped that most basic of concepts, except as a photo opportunity. How can we become a KBE when the politicians don’t even see the need to move quickly? Another committee

Speaking of moving quickly, I see we now have yet another committee looking at Y2K. This one, will advise on "any issues that may require a response from the whole government arising from the year 2000 changeover or from general millennium activities". Hang on, isn’t that what the Readiness Commission is supposed to be doing? Is this a vote of no confidence in the Commission’s work? Maurice Williamson’s press secretary says no, but you have to wonder just what is going on when the latest report from the State Services Commission to cabinet that says not all of the fundamentally important government departments will be ready in time. That’s right — everything’s fine, but somehow some of the government departments that were deemed "high impact" will slip through the net. Apparently, again according to the minister’s press secretary, there aren’t many of them; they aren’t the really important ones and the information is from July, making it somewhat out of date and not really relevant. As a defence, this is unbelievably lame. These departments are on the list of high-impact agencies for a reason. If your methods for measuring readiness are so lax that you can’t even assess which agencies are important enough to triage, then you’re incompetent. If you claim the information is no longer relevant, even though the report was released only a week ago, then someone else should be doing your job. There are less than 100 days to go until Y2K and I shouldn’t even have to be writing about this sort of nonsense. It’s not rocket science — get on with the bloody job and stop mucking about. Paul Brislen is Computerworld’s Y2K  reporter. He can be reached at paul_brislen@idg.co.nz, or phone: 0-9-377 902. For publication copy letters to cw_letters@idg.co.nz

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