Hunt for New Zealand’s first CTO is widened

By on 28/02/2018
The Beehive in Wellington, which houses the offices of New Zealand's prime minister and cabinet (Image courtesy: Nick-D).

The search for New Zealand’s first chief technology officer is to continue, after the government decided not to make an appointment from among the 60 applicants.

An appointment for the NZ$500,000 post (US$365,000) was due to be announced at the Digital 5 Ministerial Summit in Wellington last week but has been postponed to an undisclosed date. The package comprises 80% salary and 20% travel allowance.

The tech supremo, who will lead the development of New Zealand’s digital strategy, will be accountable to prime minister Jacinda Ardern and minister for broadcasting, communications and digital media Clare Curran.

Still looking

Curran, who is also responsible for the Government Digital Service, said she was “heartened” by the number of applications for the critical position but, after careful consideration, had decided not to make an appointment at this stage.

“This is a vital role to ensure we can use and develop digital technologies for the benefit of all New Zealanders,” she said. “While the candidates we looked at have an impressive range of skills and backgrounds, I am not confident that we have found the right person yet.”

The job spec includes having a high level of expertise in the digital technology industry, being passionate about the issues, and being someone who “carries the influence needed to stimulate public discussion”.

Big plans, big job

“It’s also a position for someone who wants to work with government and other stakeholders to deliver and support meaningful change,” Curran said. “The CTO will be responsible for preparing and overseeing a national digital architecture, or roadmap, for the next five to ten years.

“We intend to close the digital divides by 2020, and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025. The internet and digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals and I want the CTO to work on issues such as improving digital equality, protecting citizens’ rights online, and building a connected nation.”

Seeking advice

Clare Curran, minister for broadcasting, communications and digital media in the New Zealand government (Image courtesy: Clare Curran).

Curran said she had decided to seek “input and perspectives” from a new Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group (DEDI) before making the CTO appointment. The DEDI will work alongside the CTO on the government’s digital goals.

“More than 300 people have expressed an interest in being on the DEDI and we are in the process of selecting [the membership],” she added.

Get on with it

The delay was met with a chorus of disappointment from leaders of New Zealand’s tech industry.

Don Christie, chief executive to Catalyst IT and co-founder of trade association NZ Rise, tweeted “Well …that’s disheartening. Part of the problem we have with IT in government is ‘not built here’ syndrome,” New Business Review reported.

Graeme Muller, chief executive of industry body NZTech, said he found it surprising that out of “62 quality applicants, that there wasn’t a match-up”, as reported by www.stuff.co.nz

“I am interested to understand what widening the search actually means,” he said. “It was pretty well publicised. What do you do next? Try to talk an American CTO into the role. I don’t know.”

Muller said that a delay in the appointment was annoying for the tech sector and he hoped it would not stretch to six months or a year.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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