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NZ tech Inc should go ahead without government

The head of New Zealand biggest tech ecosystem NZTech today called on the country to set up a Chief Technology Advisor(s) – without the support of the government.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says the government handling of the CTO process has been a ‘shocker’ and now Kiwi tech business and organisations should not wait for government anymore.

“Let’s just get on with it.  In the past three years NZTech has managed to bring together and support 21 tech communities without any government funding to do so,” he says

“Now representing more than 800 organisations throughout New Zealand, from tech firms, startups and high-tech manufacturers to universities, government agencies and large corporations like banks, insurance companies, agri-businesses and an airline.

“Across these 21 tech associations many are already starting work on national strategies. The New Zealand AI Forum has more than 100 people voluntarily helping drive working groups, including the development of a national Artificial Intelligence strategy.”

Muller says he will pitch to the NZTech strategy and planning day on Thursday to bring together the people who cared enough to apply to be New Zealand’s CTO.

“Let’s develop our own Ministry of the Future and collectively start developing a national digital/tech strategy for New Zealand.

“Four years is too long to wait for a New Zealand government to establish a high-level technology advisory role.  A lot happens in the tech world in four years.

“New Zealand firms have sent rockets to space, developed autonomous vehicles and put faces to artificial intelligence. The pace of technology change presents enormous opportunities for New Zealand’s future, yet the government lacks a trusted advisor to help them navigate the path.

“During the 2014 NZTech annual meeting panel discussion with MPs, the idea of a CTO or tech advisor for the government was first muted by Rod Drury.

“Candace Kinser, the chief executive of NZTech at the time, picked this idea up and developed it into a core pillar of NZTech’s 2014 Technology Policy Platforms.

“The recommendation was for the creation of a chief technology advisor reporting directly to the Prime Minister to provide advice on the strategic use of technology across government and throughout society.

“You wouldn’t think that sounds too difficult, unfortunately no party backed the concept in 2014.

Great ideas don’t just roll over and disappear.  During the early months of 2017 NZTech, IT Professionals and InternetNZ brought together a collective of 20 leading technology groups to develop a Tech Manifesto for the 2017 election.

“The call was put out for a Ministry of the Future, a pseudo-agency bringing government and the private sector together, led by a chief technology advisor, focused on positioning New Zealand and all Government agencies and society to take best advantage of a technologically enabled future.

“Both parties eventually indicated support for some form of CTO role. Labour’s ICT manifesto stated that they “recognise the strategic importance of digitisation and will appoint a CTO to ensure that digital development is planned to achieve the best national outcomes”.

“It looked like things would rocket along as the cabinet approved the role by early December 2017. Two aborted recruitment processes have been well blogged by decent hardworking tech leaders who would all have something to contribute to helping define New Zealand’s digital strategy. Check out the personal experiences of Vaughan Rowsell and Dan Khan.

“Last week we finally got to put all of the speculation to bed about what was happening with the New Zealand Chief Technology Officer role when Derek Handley shared an update on LinkedIn.

“Having been offered the role, signed the contract and relocated his family from the US he arrived back in New Zealand to find out that the role had been canned. What a shocker,” Muller says.

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