The ZX Spectrum. Clearly what the majority of political parties think a computer is
The ZX Spectrum. Clearly what the majority of political parties think a computer is

It’s 2014 and in case you missed it yesterday marked the kickoff of the New Zealand election with National cleaning itself up, declaring who it might be able to work with, and a volley of shots from minor parties.

I am interested as an ICT professional, with a small company, in the ICT policies of the various parties and how they are going to invest in technology from the average citizen through to the support of a fledgling, powerful, ICT industry that may one day rival our trade in milk and meat.

You’d think that by now, in readiness for the election kickoff (and a rumoured early voting date) that most parties would have some kind of ICT policy. You’d be wrong. It’s a telling sign when the majority of parties pay it lip service or miss it altogether. I’ll keep an eye on them as the develop, along with other related ICT election news.

As well, I’ll keep an eye on the various lobby groups in the ICT Industry who have a chance to stand up this year and actually make it worthwhile for those of us in the industry to keep paying our dues. I’m going to score each of them as the year goes by. In the meantime, here’s what’s available from various parties by the way of ICT policies.

National

The entire policy revolves around the deployment of UFB. That really is the total extent of it at this point and there is no information on other policies at this stage. Of course, they have interfered in the ICT Industry by the way of the two pieces of spy legislation and the continuing, “issues”, with Chorus. Let’s hope we see some fresh policies this year that actually move the industry forward rather than the closed thinking to date. National has forced over their terms changes in Government agency ICT direction, not always for the better, and its not as good as its sold. I’ll be looking at that in the next couple of weeks.

Labour

Labour’s only current policy is also from 2011. At the time, it was a comprehensive and well-balanced piece of policy though it had a tendency to want to over regulate and mix broadcasting in with the whole sector. The issue with regulating is that in a rapidly evolving market it is largely ineffective. It has nothing specific for the ICT Industry as a whole. It does moot the creation of a Ministry of Communications and IT, which is forward thinking for 2011, and still a very good idea. Having the Government Chief Information Officer running the Department of Internal Affairs is an inelegant approach to supporting not only Government ICT, but the ICT industry in general.

Greens

Again, a reasonably well balanced policy that focuses on access to the Internet for everyone, for free, as you’d expect. Certainly they are pro-New Zealand ICT Companies but stop short of calling for measures to support the industry other than that. The policies are a little wishy washy rather than hard and fast, and somewhat naive. Calling on all government departments to utilise open source software could cost the country billions in transition and leave us in a perilous position as the world of ICT evolves.

New Zealand First

While they have a spokesperson for ICT, she is little known and little spoken. The policy seems to be “Free, open and affordable access to information and communication technology is the foundation of the democratic state.” Which is more a statement than policy. Given their voting demographic I’m surprised they don’t have a policy for all smartphones to show large fonts.

Maori Party and Mana Party

I couldn’t find any specific information on ICT Policies.

Act Party

Again, no specific ICT policies. For a party that prides itself on economic matters, and supporting primary industries, this is strange. Basically this is a party that believes in milk and butter rather than other industries such as ICT.

United Future

All their policies are currently under review. One hopes that they continue to do multi-billion dollar spends (IRD) on ICT perhaps though with a focus on local industry getting the work.

The Outlying Parties

The Alliance has almost nothing, you need to pick through the Broadcasting and Communications Policy to find it, why is it that out of touch parties dump ICT into broadcasting exactly?

The Conservative Party, unsurprisingly, has zero policy I could find on ICT, or much of anything for that matter. Given their roots we may see the mandatory use of tin foil hats and a subsidy on personal faraday cages.

The NZ Democrats, Legalise Cannabis Party, and Libertarianz all have zero information on ICT. That came as no shock.

Summary

Its early days yet, however if you wanted a good strong example of what policy looks like, detail, coverage (I didn’t say anything about content) then the Labour Party has it right. I’m sure that policy will develop over time, you’d hope so, because if you took what was there as a representative view (excluding the Labour party) then you’d be forgiven for thinking that New Zealand parties had a collective view that a) throwing UFB at everything will solve the ills of the world, b) making everything free was a good idea including open source, and c) well, there is no c.

Policy has to be clear, modern, detailed, and relevant to both the citizen at thome and the industry within the country itself. Further, policy can’t just be weasel words on what a party plans to do, it has to create substance, which means that they describe not only what, but how. 

And no, I didn’t include the Internet Party in the mix. Firstly, they aren’t even a party and secondly, they have zero policies.

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