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 Rod Drury 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.”
IRD 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.