Drury says NZ needs a CTO

July 2nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Barack Obama has one. So do many large companies. The chief technology officer’s role, for the US at least, is to apply technology to help create jobs, reduce the cost of health care, help keep the nation secure and increase access to broadband.

New Zealand is the farthest country from its trading partners in the world. As a small, sub-scale, island nation we have the most of any country to gain by technology.

Our Government has done a great job with fiscal management and has achieved some useful incremental tweaks, but we haven’t as a country played a bold move with technology. We lack a technology plan.

In the last term, we went through the traumatic restructure of our telecommunications industry, and during the past three years the focus has been the implementation of the domestic ultrafast broadband network – a key part of improving the internet.

Over this timeframe, technology has seen entire industries disrupted, and new organisations like Xero, Vend and others become world-leading cloud companies, all from our small set of rocks in the South Pacific.

But as a country, we’ve been far too passive about using technology to redefine our place in the world. …

I believe the answer is to appoint a chief technology officer of New Zealand. Similar to the chief science officer, Peter Gluckman, but in the technology arena. A respected senior, international, technology leader at a point in their career where they want to give back.

That person can identify and determine the big issues of the day, own a New Zealand technology strategy and be the interface between the private sector and the Government.

They would be able to co-ordinate and encourage the investments that global technology companies will make in New Zealand.

Like Gluckman, a chief technology officer would have the ear of the Prime Minister and report regularly to the Cabinet. They would provide the interface point for industry to connect to the Government and provide the opportunity for a bold vision to be determined and implemented. 

Not a bad idea I must say.

Rod also has a radical idea for the IRD:

Inland Revenue has responded guardedly to a call from Xero founder for it to use a “public-private partnership” to replace its computer systems.

Spokeswoman Lorna Milton said considerations included taxpayers’ privacy and the “integrity of the tax system”.

The department warned in 2012 that it might cost up to $1.5 billion to replace its ageing mainframe-based First computer system.

Drury said Inland Revenue could save “hundreds of millions” if it just published the tax rules, maintained a computer that could collect tax payments, and left the rest to private-sector businesses such as Xero.

That would not mean everyone would need to pay to use Xero’s cloud-based service, or those of its rivals, he said.

Instead, Xero and other software companies could offer a free service that would let taxpayers key in any information needed for tax returns into online forms and would process that for no charge as part of a broader, non-exclusive partnership, he said.

“The private sector could do the ‘heavy lifting’. Inland Revenue doesn’t really need to build all the complex rules any more; all they need to do is be a transaction system that receives money and publishes the rules and the private sector is more than happy to invest in building the online returns.”

has some issues with the idea:

Milton said Inland Revenue saw opportunities to integrate Inland Revenue’s systems with third-party software applications “to allow tax agents and software providers to carry out some services that Inland Revenue currently provides”.

But she said there were several factors to consider, “particularly taxpayers’ privacy and security, the accuracy of information, maintaining the integrity of the tax system and how our core systems interact with third parties”.

I hope it is given serious consideration.

 

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31 Responses to “Drury says NZ needs a CTO”

  1. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Anything that will get rid of bludging public servants sounds good. The less of these overpaid beneficiaries, the less capitation fees for the envious Labour Party, hence with luck, less for them to spend on election strategies.

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  2. JMS (342 comments) says:

    If the CTO were anything like the “CSO” Peter Gluckman, then no thanks.

    He’s done more damage than good harping on about “man-made climate change”.

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  3. Albert_Ross (311 comments) says:

    He needs to explain why such a person would make a better job of getting technology deployed than the normal interaction between consumers wanting to make their lives better and suppliers wanting to sell them stuff. How exactly would this person “coordinate and encourage” investments that global technology companies will make in New Zealand? Has there ever been any example of a Government successfully dictating which private companies will invest, where and how – “successfully” meaning the outcome was different and better than it would have been had investors been left to make their own decisions?

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  4. mjw (400 comments) says:

    I dunno. These things seem superficially appealing, but they are too reminiscent of Think Big for my taste. Before you know it, somebody is getting a handout, then using it to pay a $ 2 million salary and buy $100,000 motorbikes. Instead of picking winners, it would be better to simply restrain anti-competitive behaviour while encouraging young people to be entrepreneurial.

    (Edit: And what Albert_Ross said too)

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  5. RRM (10,034 comments) says:

    Fuck me, if the new IRD computer is going to cost 1.5 BILLION then any alternative needs to be looked at.

    W

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  6. Redbaiter (9,662 comments) says:

    If Barack Obama has done it, and Rod Drury is for it, it is something NZ should keep well away from.

    And JMS is correct. Look at what Gluckman’s bad advice has cost the country.

    No more ever expanding self serving bureaucracies staffed by overpaid incompetents thank you.

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  7. kowtow (8,784 comments) says:

    Chief Ultra Nova Technology Officer………

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  8. berend (1,716 comments) says:

    I don’t believe in a CTO for NZ, central planning of how our business should be run? Advising the government is another, but if this is just another plan to force taxpayers money to be spend on some big businesses, sorry. So would need more details.

    But let’s start with the IRD. As the replacement system is $1.5 billion, we know by now this will never work. We’ll end up with $3 billion before the implementation has to be abandoned. So let’s start with Rod’s plan first. We can always spend $1.5 billion later.

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  9. m@tt (632 comments) says:

    I agree 100%. Actually, I’m surprised we don’t already have someone in this role. Shouldn’t Joyce be all over this?

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  10. thedavincimode (6,880 comments) says:

    Drury said Inland Revenue could save “hundreds of millions” if it just published the tax rules

    They have been published. And they support a billion dollar industry trying to work out what the fuck they mean.

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  11. tom hunter (5,102 comments) says:

    Barack Obama has one.

    How’s that been working in the last few years? In between the gigantic clusterfuck of the Obamacare website launch, the IRS, and now the EPA losing email records across the board, there’s got to be some successes this CTO can point to, no?

    Actually if you’re going to have a CTO they have to be directly in charge of something. I know, we can create one single group that will cater to the computing needs of every government department. We’ll call it Government Computing Services. It will be centralized and therefore efficient and effective, especially with a CTO in charge.

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  12. mikenmild (11,798 comments) says:

    We’ve already got a Government Chief Information Officer, tom.

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  13. davidp (3,588 comments) says:

    Surely both science and technology are just tools towards some other end, rather than being an end in themselves. Every government agency should be using science and technology to make their processes better in order to achieve their agency outputs. So I really don’t understand why we’d have either a chief science or a chief technology officer… both are titles that imply some sort of executive responsibility for outputs, rather than an advisory position. And I’m not sure why you’d have these as advisory positions, either.

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  14. tom hunter (5,102 comments) says:

    Oh and I almost forgot this standard gem built into the article …

    … at a point in their career where they want to give back.

    Because they’ve taken so much from society – the greedy bastards.

    I nominate Larry Ellison.

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  15. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @tom

    “..and now the EPA losing email records across the board…”
    Should that be the IRS?

    And losing is tongue in cheek I hope….

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  16. OneTrack (3,237 comments) says:

    ” We lack a technology plan.”

    Would that be a Five Year Plan?

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  17. berend (1,716 comments) says:

    tom hunter: it will be centralized and therefore efficient and effective,

    Ah, the belief that if things are just in a single hand, everything would be so more efficient! Just a single dictator, far more efficient than 120 people fighting. A single ISP, no need to spend money on advertising, all can be spend to give customers the fastest broadband for the lowest price. A single electricity provider, all these different companies, what a waste!

    Centralization is usually the opposite of efficiency, unless it is used to copy what others already have done as then you don’t have to think about anything except organisation.

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  18. ross411 (882 comments) says:

    This Drury guy sounds like he is onto a winner. Unfortunately, all the people doing jobs created solely because of bureaucracy and complexity will be out of a job, and at some point the person who makes this call has to stand in front of the job losses.

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  19. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    I guess this is Rod putting his name forward for the CTO job?

    I would prefer it if he actually devoted some time to bringing his craps software up to speed, instead of continuously getting his and his company’s name in the media.

    Xero needs loads of work so that it does some of the fundamental things that a small business accounting package should.

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  20. scott.stevens (3 comments) says:

    Not that there is anything wrong with a mainframe – for highly transactional systems mainframes are still the best choice.

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  21. Viking2 (11,581 comments) says:

    IMHO I think Drury is saying we have a tourism Minister, a Minister for everything including changing your undies but we have no one actually standing up and saying we need to drive IT technology harder and faster.
    No one in Cabinet for example says, well that IRD system idea is a load of crap. Lets sort it out better. No one in cabinet or near cabinet that has any idea of the abilities of IT.
    Lets face it The Nats. can’t even do social media decently and Labour are appallingly worse.

    So I guess he is saying we need a high level techo that nows where its at out there and can have an effect on Govt. departments etc.

    One can look at Nova pay as an example of what to expect from IRD.

    I’m never much in favour of this sort of job but I can see that advantages with the right person with the right grunt.

    Here is an example of the sort of stuff we need to be driving. (from tonights paper.)

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=11285474

    Govt. has to be driven to remove the barriers and to have both legislation and budgeting in place to drive this stuff.

    When one looks at tourism that’s what Key has done.
    Science I consider he fucked up with both the man and the subject. The man has the right attitude but is not a driver of the go get em type needed and indeed has his own biases.(which are neither right nor wrong in that context but are when we look at what we should have done.)

    Sunday night I watched Undercover boss. This guy was a CEO of a company called Family Dollar. Small stores selling everything all thru 42 States in the USA. This guy ran an operation of 7800 (yep you read that right), stores, I think some 15 major distribution centres and their goal was to double that number i.e. 15500 stores.

    Now do the maths. If we exported a product that sold thru those stores and each sold 10 per week. Thats 78k currently going to 155k each week. Now that’s no small tally of sales.

    Who in NZ Cabinet seeks out those opportunities?
    Imagine having a dozen product lines like that.

    Its just not IT that needs this sort of grunt but many businesses with product.
    Unfortunately though our Reserve Bank is clobbering our exporters. Just today I spoke with an IT person who runs a dept for a large NZ exporter. Offices in many countries. They have had a new boss who is slashing the workforce. When asked for a please explain the CFO said we are in deep shit. Can’t make sales at this price.

    Have a friend whose Daughter runs an IT dept. at a major bank from out the West. Have had staff slshed and told they need more profit. That despite the published results of our 4 banks yesterday that showed them to be extremely profitable for banks.
    http://www.interest.co.nz/business/70689/big-4-nz-banks-more-profitable-counterparts-major-developed-countries-pre-tax-basis-a

    When you look at the 29% fall in dairy prices including 4.9% last night, the big fall ion log prices, the fall in business confidence including farming and talk to local businesses that are demand driven and who have found demand falling like a stone in the last 6 weeks its about time our RB, the banks (who have all increased their rates again in the last week), and Bill and John started to listen instead of burying their heads in the sand.

    The builders may be busy in Auckland ,CHCH and Hamilton but the crunch is coming faster than you think.
    This is going to be a big election issue

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  22. big bruv (14,166 comments) says:

    Rod Drury this, Rod Drury that……

    When the man makes a profit then perhaps we can set him up as somebody worthy of the adoration so many are prepared to heap on the man.

    Until then….

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  23. thedavincimode (6,880 comments) says:

    Because they’ve taken so much from society – the greedy bastards.

    When you say “society”, you no doubt refer to his (likely entirely corporate – as if it makes a difference) customers who willingly purchased something that he had created and sold.

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  24. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    Pretty much bollocks

    Technology is such a broad area not a hope of even providing basic direction/leadership. CIOs struggle with a narrower area, which is pretty damn broad in itself.

    Technologists also tend to be poor at understanding the mundane and much more important consequences of technology.

    Rod may be following Morgan down the path of making public commentary on shit he has no understanding of but as he’s famous/rich he must know what he’s talking about (according to the media driven approach) – about as useful as Lawless talking about climate change.

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  25. itstricky (1,904 comments) says:

    I hope it is given serious consideration

    Translation: Rod and I own shares in Xero. Much like I’ll advertise National because they keep me employed. The whole “understand what interests Bob has in telling you something” scenario.

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  26. itstricky (1,904 comments) says:

    In between the gigantic clusterfuck of the Obamacare website launch

    Why was it a clusterfuck?

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  27. jp_1983 (227 comments) says:

    Will the CTO have a maari deputy because a treaty said so?

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  28. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    @itstricky

    between not being ready on time, huge holes in functionality (people could not even register for instance) and crashing frequently it was otherwise a raging success.

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  29. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    $1.5 Bn to replace a system? what f****g nonsense – you can buy a decent sized technology company for that.

    Assuming most of the costs are people then they reckon it will take thousands of man years to build – a guaranteed failure for software projects.

    They need to be stopped as large government IT projects are by definition doomed to failure.

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  30. V (751 comments) says:

    We will see once Xero starts actually making money if Drurys idea is a goer.

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  31. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    I was thinking…. Why doesn’t the IRD just get the worlds greatest computer programmer, lynny prentice, to build their new super-computer?

    Based on how good he tells us he is, I reckon he could probably have this knocked over in 10 days…

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