Government names new digital advisory council members

Council replaces the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group (DEDIMAG)

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The government has named the seven members of a new Digital Council that it says will advise it on how to ensure new and emerging technologies and uses of data improve New Zealanders’ lives.

Minister for government digital services, Kris Faafoi, said it would also help identify gaps in accessing and using technology, how it could benefit societies and the economy, assist New Zealand’s role in the Pacific, and help overcome distance from major trading markets.

In a joint statement Faafoi and statistics minister James Shaw said the council would draw on its members’ expertise, gather views from communities across New Zealand and learn from national and international experts to develop advice and provide recommendations for government consideration.

The council replaces the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group (DEDIMAG), which concluded its work programme at the end of last year. The Government said  DEDIMAG had been set up to explore a narrower, more government and industry focused range of issues than the remit of the new body.

Today’s development is the latest in the long running saga of the government’s attempts to obtain high level technological advice.

The process started in the early days of the current government, in December 2017 when the then minister of broadcasting, communications and digital media and government digital services, Clare Curran announced plans to form the group.

She named the first eight members in March 2018 saying they would help the government with its stalled plans to appoint a chief technology officer.

She had also announced in November 2017 plans to appoint a government CTO with the hope to have the appointee in place by February 2018 but the government was unable find a suitable candidate.

The process dragged on and Curran was forced to resign in August 2018 over an undocumented meeting with a candidate for the role, whose recruitment was being managed by her department.

In December 2018 the Government announced, quietly, that it had abandoned its problem-plagued plan to create the CTO role in favour of another advisory group.

The National Party's broadcasting, communications and digital media spokesperson Melissa Lee said at the time that the Government had wasted a year on the exercise, a year that should have been spent developing an innovative digital policy and said industry groups would be wondering what had happened to existing working groups like DEDIMAG.

The government has named the members of the new body, but has not given their affiliations.

    Mitchell Pham (Chair), and chair of NZTech

    Roger Dennis

    Marianne Elliott

    Kendall Flutey

    Colin Gavaghan

    Rachel Kelly – AI Forum executive member

    Nikora Ngaropo

The announcement has been welcomed by NZTech and the AI Forum. NZTech CEO Graeme Muller  said: “With good expert advice, the New Zealand government should be better placed to leverage technology for the benefit of all citizens and businesses.”

AI Forum executive director Emma Naji said: “The government has to tackle some big topics across the New Zealand tech ecosystem, and I am sure the Digital Council will help enormously.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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