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New Digital Council named to chart New Zealand’s course into the digital landscape

Two years after a controversial failed appointment of a chief technology officer, the New Zealand Government has announced that a new independent ministerial advisory group called the Digital Council has been formed to help navigate the fast moving digital and data landscape. Members of the newly formed council include Roger Dennis, Kendall Flutey and Rachel Kelly.

The members of the Digital Council are:

– Mitchell Pham, director and head of sales at Augen Software Group, chair of NZTech and FintechNZ and now chair of the Digital Council
– Roger Dennis, innovation consultant
– Marianne Elliott, co-founder of ActionStation and co-director of The Workshop
– Kendall Flutey, co-founder and CEO of Banqer (pictured above)
– Colin Gavaghan, inaugural New Zealand Law Foundation Chair of law and emerging technologies
– Rachel Kelly, co-founder of the Waikato Technology Cluster and former deputy chair of NZTech
– Nikora Ngaropo, director and founder of NNMD Tech, a a Māori-led design and animation technology company.

Minister for Government Digital Services Kris Faafoi says the Government wants to understand the imapct of technological change from a uniquely New Zealand perspective, including te ao Māori.

“The Digital Council will also help identify gaps in accessing and using technology, how it can benefit societies and our economy, assist our role in the Pacific, and help overcome our distance from major trading markets,” he says.

NZTech welcomed the developments, with chief executive Graeme Muller saying the advice from the tech industry for the last two election cycles has been to seek expert advice to help identify the benefits of emerging technologies for New Zealand.

“Having a diverse group like the NZTech ecosystem which has 22 tech alliance sectors tasked with considering new cutting-edge tech and what it could mean for New Zealand will definitely inject confidence in government making the right and better decisions faster,” Muller says.

“How important will something like digital identity be to help ensure all Kiwis have easy access to digital services? Can artificial intelligence be used to help improve our environment or make housing more affordable? Are there opportunities to use digital technologies to lift Kiwis’ wellbeing or to improve their financial security? These are the sort of questions we hope they will be applying their expertise to. 

“With good expert advice, the New Zealand government should be better placed to leverage technology for the benefit of all citizens and businesses.”

In 2018, word broke that Derek Handley was going to be named as New Zealand’s new chief technology officer. Handley was in the process of coming back to New Zealand with his family to take the role when a political scandal broke out that cost then Minister, Clare Curran, her Cabinet position. After backlash in the industry, the idea was dropped.

At the time, Justin Tomlinson wrote of the kerfuffle, “Anyone “big enough” from technology industry probably won’t want the job. The spec reads like an impossibility wrapped in vagueness on what constitutes successful outcomes. The structure is a mess, with a now outgoing chief digital officer (CDO) and an incoming chief technology officer (CTO). There are other confusing roles in the mix too. I suggest get the story totally straight on who does what. ‘A national architecture and roadmap’ just smacks of assumption and ignorance of what’s needed. This job is hard enough in corporate. In government, god help them.”

With the weight of the responsibility of charting New Zealand’s digital future resting on not one, but many diverse shoulders, the Council stands a better fighting chance than a CTO ever could.

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