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What does it take for government to buy NZ-made technology?

Tom Pullar-Strecker at the Dominion-Post writes:

Don Christie, co-chairman of information technology industry group NZRise, said Inland Revenue's decision to shortlist Accenture and CapGemini signalled it was "business as usual" for government procurement despite two years of "agitation and consultation" by the domestic industry.

The lobby group and the Institute for Information Technology Professionals criticised Inland Revenue in October for effectively excluding domestic firms when it invited suppliers to express interest in the work. A clause required would-be suppliers to have led or managed a $100 million-plus major transformation programme for a national tax authority and to have designed and implemented a "national-level social policy transformation programme".

This problem has been with us for more than a generation. It was a common them when I first arrived in New Zealand in the late 1980s to edit The Dominion's Computer Pages.

I recall at the time there was one company which had repeatedly attempted to sell its software to government buyers in Wellington with no success. It did, however, manage to partner with Digital Equipment Corporation, then a major player. The software went into Digital's catalogue and within months a New Zealand government department purchased a licence from the multinational. That deal was worth considerably less than a direct sale.

The incident was proof there was a clear bias, intentional or not, against buying from local technology firms. It seems we have learnt nothing in 25 years.

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