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New digital super group announced

25 March 2008 Media Statement

New digital super group announced

Communications and Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe has announced the government will fund the establishment of a new overarching digital sector forum.

The forum will consider aspects of the work of the NZ HiGrowth Project and the Digital Strategy Advisory Group which will cease operation by the end of March and April respectively.

“Creating a digital future for New Zealanders requires collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders,” said Mr Cunliffe.

“The new forum will create partnerships between industry, community and voluntary groups and users and provide a coordinated voice to government on digital issues. It is important that the interests of the wider digital community and those working with government on the development and implementation of the Digital Strategy and other initiatives are heard.

“The key to the success of the forum will be its wide representation and I encourage all groups with a digital interest to join.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank HiGrowth and DSAG for their contribution to date to New Zealand’s digital future. These groups have created a solid foundation for us to build on as we look towards our digital future,” said Mr Cunliffe.

Background

Cabinet has agreed to fund the overarching forum but the establishment process will require further engagement with stakeholders to confirm the forum’s design, terms of membership, and mode of operation.

The forum is expected to be fully operational by the middle of 2008. This will coincide with the launch of the refreshed Digital Strategy 2.0. The Digital Strategy sets out the strategic direction of New Zealand’s digital future.

The ICT sector is also advancing plans to establish an industry body to focus on commercial issues. The government has noted this and is happy to cooperate with it as a self-funded initiative.

Questions and answers

What is the purpose of the new overarching digital forum?
The purpose of the overarching forum will be to:

- Initiate and oversee work and projects on digital issues in the national interest (with or without government input and funding), such as community-based ICT skills and building ICT capability in voluntary and charitable organisations.
- Facilitate the sharing of knowledge and learnings, possibly through events like the Digital Future Summit.
- Provide an independent stream of advice to and dialogue with the government on the development and implementation of the Digital Strategy and related digital policy initiatives.

Who will make up the overarching forum’s membership?
The forum is expected to represent the varied interests of the wider digital community, with representation from the community and voluntary sector, business, local government, ICT users (such as academics and the research and science sector) and the ICT industry. It will effectively be a coalition of existing bodies – an “association of associations”.

How will the overarching forum operate?
The forum will be an independent body, constitutionally separate from government. The proposed structure presently includes:

- a National Council comprising all members of the overarching forum, whose main administrative function would be to consider nominations for and elect members to the Executive Board;
- an Executive Board whose principal business would be to oversee the delivery of the agreed work programme of the overarching forum within budget, and to approve financial and other reporting to its members and other stakeholders on an annual basis;
- an Executive Director appointed by the board to manage day-to-day interests and work;
- supported by a small Secretariat, to implement aspects of the overarching forum’s work programme;

- Working groups comprised of sub-groups of forum members to carry out the substantive work of the overarching forum, supported by the executive director and staff.
Engagement with potential members to the forum on the terms of membership and mode of operation is planned from the end of March and through April.

What is the government’s role in the forum?
While the overarching forum will be an independent body, its primary purpose will be to serve the national interest and, in particular, to interface with and contribute to the development and implementation of the Digital Strategy. As such, it is appropriate for the government to fund the forum’s establishment and provide a base-level of ongoing operational funding.

What is the government funding, and by how much?
On Monday 17 March 2008 Cabinet agreed to:
 funding of $825,000 for each of the first two years – in years 2008/09 and 2009/10 – for the design, establishment and initial operation of the new digital overarching forum;
 annual funding of $400,000 from 2010/11, 2011/2012 and out years, to cover the operational costs of the forum;
Funding would be provided on an annual basis for the first two years with a review in November 2009, in conjunction with mutual agreement on a work programme.

What work did MartinJenkins and Associates complete?
Since November 2007, MartinJenkins and Associates have conducted an independent consultation process with stakeholders to investigate the purpose and design of sector representation and, on the basis of that consultation, made a recommendation to government on ICT sector representative structures.

Why are two separate representative bodies being established concurrently?
The ICT-sector identified for itself the need to develop an industry body, so that strategic issues of an industry-good nature could be advanced by the sector. The overarching forum will focus on digital issues of national importance. The two separate bodies will achieve the same high-level objectives identified by government in 2007, but provide for a clearer separation between national good and industry good objectives.

Who will be establishing the overarching forum?
MartinJenkins and Associates have been retained to help implement the overarching forum. Their appointment will ensure the establishment of the new body will proceed with some independence from government. Formation of the overarching forum will commence with the election of an executive board and appointment of an independent chair. The board and chair can then lead the work to finalise the operations of the forum and appoint an executive director. The overarching forum is intended to be operational by 1 July 2008.

What is the timeline for establishment of the overarching forum?
By 31 March: Stakeholders will be consulted on a draft constitution
By end April 2008: Executive board and independent chair appointed
By 1 July 2008: Overarching forum operational.

What is the timeframe for the establishment of the industry body?
Key ICT industry players have agreed to meet this month to progress formation of an ICT industry association. This is an industry led body and its success is dependant on their ability to implement the body.

How does the establishment of the overarching forum impact on the Digital Strategy Advisory Group?
The Digital Strategy Advisory Group (DSAG) provided the mechanism for communities, local government, the private sector and other stakeholders to advise government and provide informed perspectives on the strategic direction of the Digital Strategy. DSAG will be disestablished once the executive board and chair have been appointed which is intended to be by the end of April 2008.


How does the establishment of the overarching forum impact on HiGrowth?
The government will be ceasing funding to the HiGrowth project. HiGrowth was established in 2004, with an industry-good focus to assist with implementation of the ICT Taskforce’s strategy. The HiGrowth board are now proceeding with an orderly wind-up


ENDS

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