ICT Minister Pulls out Plum from Pre-Xmas Pudding

Way back in August I wrote about the difficulties being faced by those charged with developing a unifying industry body for the ICT sector and I predicted that ICT-NZ might continue to struggle to gain traction.

Last week Communications and Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe drove the final nail into the coffin of ICT-NZ by announcing the establishment of an ICT industry super body that will also mop up whatever remains of the Digital Strategy funding pool. No doubt this move will provide fuel for conversation over the tea cups at this week’s Digital Summit. At the very least the industry should feel slightly chastened that the Minister himself has had to intervene to find a solution.

The structure and governance arrangements for the new body will be critical to its success. Without proper buy-in from key industry players it will be doomed to circle like a rudder-less ship on a stormy political sea, just like its predecessor. It will also be neccessary for it to articulate a much clearer value proposition to potential members and partners.

Having the government facilitate and partially fund such a body is a departure from the accepted wisdom generally promoted by the economic development ministry however. The ministry has been opposed to public funding of industry networks for quite some time, although the intellectual rationale behind this thinking has never been made clear.

So the government will certainly want a payback on its investment and the new body is expected to provide sectorial advice, be involved in research and manage the Digital Strategy programme. Precisely how industry growth issues will be tackled has yet to be announced.

On balance this is a good outcome. It creates the opportunity for a fresh start and cements government committment to having ICT as a central plank in economic development. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

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