Boosting national productivity may be one target for the new ICT vendor group being assembled under the guidance of Microsoft CEO Kevin Ackhurst.
A paper in the final stages of development advances the idea of a series of partnerships between local and multinational technology companies to address the productivity issue with seed funding from the government’s Technology New Zealand schemes.
Technology correctly applied, XSol CEO John Blackham says, offers hope for boosting NZ’s productivity — recently condemned by company director Kerry McDonald as “a national disaster”. The government has funding available for research and development, but applicants “have to jump backwards through hoops six times” to secure it. This is largely, Blackham says, because of a lack of confidence by the funders in applicant’s bona fides and ability to deliver.
Under the scheme suggested in Blackham’s paper, a credible multinational would act as guarantor of the worthwhile nature of a suggested productivity improvement in a local company or industry sector. It would also be the conduit for the funding and assist in keeping the development on track.
While not directly mentioning technology as a potential driver of productivity, former Comalco NZ director McDonald bemoans the government’s “abandonment of the Knowledge Wave” and the decline in the productive role of multinationals in improving the knowledge and expertise of their New Zealand-based workers and partners.
“Multinational companies in New Zealand traditionally gave many New Zealanders high-quality training and experience but this has fallen off sharply and there has been a hollowing out of business, including senior executive opportunities, which is also constraining the supply of potential company directors. This all makes learning difficult and low productivity and wages will make it increasingly difficult to attract and retain good, learning talent,” he says in a recent paper for the Institute of Directors’ Boardroom magazine.
Blackham discussed his vision with Computerworld last year, but now sees a better hope of getting it off the ground.
“We now have a vehicle to get behind this, in the shape of the industry body that [for want of a definite name for itself] I call Itanz 2.” He sees it as a successor to the IT Association of NZ, which disappeared during the inconclusive ICT-NZ negotiations.
While Wayne Hudson, who heads the Software NZ Alliance, says “ITANZ 2” does not meet the needs of the local industry, being composed largely of multinationals, Blackham sees in his plan a way of getting it behind the efforts of local industry.
“Technology plays a critical role in productivity improvement,” says McDonald, “but there are a number of factors working against it.” Government policy, he says, is starving New Zealand companies of capital and making it difficult for them to invest in ICT.