Chief Technology Officer likely – whoever wins election

New Zealand looks set to have a Chief Technology Officer, whatever the outcome of the General Election.

National Party Economic Development & Communications Spokesman Simon Bridges has made the following statement: “Further to our current programme of work, the Government is considering the establishment of a Chief Technology Officer-led think tank. The future form of this is still to be determined.”

The Labour Party has already said it will create a Government CTO, if it forms the next government. In its ICT policy it says the CTO would report directly to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, be tasked with introducing a National Digital Architecture and Digital Technology Roadmap. The CTO would also work with the wider industry to “develop ingenuity and creativity in the ICT sector, and establish “X” prizes to “encourage breakthroughs in the science world that would be administered by the CTO.”

The tech sector has been lobbying for the establishment of a CTO for several years, after the idea was first put forward by Xero founder and CEO Rod Drury over seven years ago.

Eighteen tech sector groups argued for the establishment of a Ministry of the Future led by a CTO in their Election Manifesto released in May. “While New Zealand has a Government Chief Information Officer as a functional lead for digital and ICT within Government, this proposed Ministry would be strategically focussed and have a higher level broad scope,” the Manifesto reads.

Institute of IT Professionals CEO Paul Matthews told The Foresyte Report that while National has provided no detail, he is pleased that both major parties have now committed to establishing the CTO position. “From our perspective, the CTO officer must have three things – be an independent person, be well resourced, and be connected at Ministerial level.”

As for who would be a likely candidate, Matthews didn’t want to speculate. And Drury has ruled himself out – for now, tweeting in reply to the suggestion he assume the role – “Bit busy. In 10 years maybe.”

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