The recently released policy on the treatment of intellectual property rights within government ICT contracts may open up downstream opportunities for New Zealand companies who provide software and services to public sector agencies. But industry commentators cannot seem to agree on whether or not it is a good thing.
A few years back a lobby group called ICTX pressed government to change the rules around onselling of intellectual property arising from publicly funded I.T. projects. ICTX cited replication of effort and confusion over copyright as barriers to further commercialisation of such technology. But now that the rules have been clarified, former ICTX members still appear disgruntled.
Others view the new guidelines as an opportunity because it opens the door to vendors retaining ownership of the technology. Under this scenario the developer effectively gets their R&D funded by a government contract, licences out the application and then has the option of pursuing further commercialisation where a wider market exists. That seems like a win-win situation.
But the State Services Commission (SSC) makes it clear that the guidelines are just that. Government agencies still get the final say on what goes into the contract. That’s fair enough, especially in the case where the technology relates to a sensitive area such as Defence, Customs or Police for example.
It is unsurprising that a diversity of views exist on this topic. The ICT sector has still not managed to solve the representation problem, with a myriad of bodies still claiming to speak on its behalf. Now that the SSC has finally responded to industry feedback it seems a little unreasonable to criticise.
Perhaps the best way to resolve the debate is to test the guidelines. Are there any technology applications currently in the pipeline that can be taken down a commercialisation pathway? Having a successful reference site already operating within a government agency is a great selling point after all.