The head of industry alliance NZTech is calling on the country to set up a chief technology advisor, rather than a CTO, without the support of the government.
NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller described the handling of the CTO process as a "shocker", saying Kiwi tech business and organisations should not wait for government to sort its act out.
"Let’s develop our own Ministry of the Future and collectively start developing a national digital/tech strategy for New Zealand," Muller said. "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."
Many of its twenty-one member tech associations are already starting work on national strategies, Muller said.
"The New Zealand AI Forum has more than 100 people voluntarily helping drive working groups, including the development of a national artificial intelligence strategy," he added.
On Thursday, Muller said, he will pitch a plan to NZTech's strategy and planning day to bring the people who applied to be New Zealand’s CTO together.
The recommendation to create a chief technology advisor was included in NZTech’s 2014 Technology Policy Platforms following a suggestion from Xero founder Rod Drury.
Under that scheme, the adviser would have reported directly to the prime minister to deliver advice on the strategic use of technology across government and society.
“You wouldn’t think that sounds too difficult, unfortunately no party backed the concept in 2014," Muller said.
However, during the early months of 2017, NZTech, IT Professionals and InternetNZ brought twenty leading technology groups together 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," he said.
Both parties eventually indicated support for some form of CTO role, Muller said, and it looked like things would "rocket along" after cabinet approved the role in December 2017.
However, two aborted recruitment processes followed.
Last week Derek Handley shared an update on LinkedIn ending speculation about what happened with the CTO appointment.
“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,"Muller said. "What a shocker."
Muller said NZTech represents more than 800 organisations throughout New Zealand, including tech firms, start-ups and high-tech manufacturers to universities, government agencies and large corporations like banks, insurance companies, agri-businesses and an airline.