CTO candidates don’t cut the mustard, says Curran

The Government had hoped to have the position filled ahead of the D5 Ministerial Summit

Digital services minister Clare Curran says none of the more than 60 applicants for the post of New Zealand’s first chief technology officer merit appointment, and the government will widen its search.

The Government had hoped to have the position filled ahead of the Digital 5 (D5) Ministerial Summit being held in New Zealand on 20-21 February 2018.

D5 is a network of the world’s most advanced digital nations with a shared goal of strengthening the digital economy. New Zealand was appointed chair in December 2016 and will host the February summit.

Curran said having the right person in the role was vital to ensure the government could use and develop digital technologies for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

“While the candidates we looked at have an impressive range of skills and backgrounds, I am not confident that we have found the right person yet,” Curran said.

“As I’ve said previously, this is a role for someone who has a high level of expertise in the digital technology industry, who is passionate about the issues, who carries the influence needed to stimulate public discussion. It’s also a position for someone who wants to work with government and other stakeholders to deliver and support meaningful change.”

Curran said she would seek input and perspectives from a new digital advisory group that is being set up.

She made no mention of making an interim appointment, an option canvassed in the cabinet paper announcing the creation of the CTO. It had anticipated difficulty in filling the role saying: “It will be a challenge to find a person for a role of this size and complexity and … an interim appointment may be made initially.”

The CTO will be accountable to the prime minister and to the digital services minister and will provide independent expert advice to ministers and senior leaders on digital issues.

Curran put creation of the role at the top of list of priorities across digital technology, media and open government set out in a speech at InternetNZ’s NetHui 2017.

She said the CTO would have responsibility for preparing and overseeing a ‘National Digital Architecture’ or roadmap for the next 5-10 years including fibre optic capabilities, 5G/6G/7G and beyond in mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, digital fabrication, AR/VR and the Internet Of Things.”

Applications opened in late December with Curran saying: “I see the chief technology officer working on issues such as improving digital equality, protecting citizens’ rights online, and building a connected nation, alongside the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group and the other Advisory Groups that I have already signalled I will be establishing.”


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