We seem to be awash in a sea of forums, networks, industry bodies and think tanks these days, all of whom have opinions on broadband and the state of the ICT industry. Will we ever get a consensus?
After a lengthy debacle, in which ICT industry players failed embarrassingly to score any goals, the government has stepped in with a solution that bundles the picked over carcass of ICT-NZ with that of the decapitated body of the Digital Strategy. Hopefully increased gate takings in the form of new digital sector funding and some firm direction from the game’s governing body can breath life into Digital Development New Zealand (DDNZ).
Minister Cunliffe announced that the new team will comprise a partnership between industry, community and voluntary groups and will focus on issues of national importance. In the meantime another more commercially oriented organisation has reportedly sprung Phoenix-like out of ITANZ. This group will also have representation at the table of the digital sector body as will TUANZ, NZCS, INZ, LGNZ and WIT – to mention but a few of the team members. A group of prominent business people and heavyweight telco players has also established the independent Broadband Industry Forum to channel ideas on scoring better broadband for New Zealand.
DDNZ is tasked with “providing policy advice and delivering on strategic goals”, although the groundsman has not yet set up the goalposts. I must admit that I’m also left back wondering how well DDNZ can actually function as a team, given the wide spectrum of views represented on its founding board and the lack of industry alignment in the past. Perhaps that’s why Fran Wilde has controversially been engaged to referee the council. Wilde is a consumate political animal with a history of driving difficult projects forward. It may not matter that there is no consensus.
Notably absent from the DDNZ council are representatives of the academic community. Given the nature of comments on innovation by sports columnist Stuart Corson in a recent Unlimited article, I trust that these new bodies will move quickly to establish links into academia. Considering the absence of academics on New Zealand tech company boards, the shortage of technology graduates and the general paucity of informed debate on the broadband issue, it behoves the industry to finally substitute some representation from the university community onto the playing field. In my experience, contemplative intellectual types are generally the last people chosen to join sports teams. In this case it may prove to be a mistake.