439-20-lobbyist-cartoon3It’s that time of year again, when the ICT Lobby Groups and Industry Groups start clamoring for your cash in the form of memberships. All well and good, but who is who in the zoo and why would you part with your hard earned dollars to join them?

There are five well-known industry groups in New Zealand; The Institute of IT Professionals (IITP), New Zealand Rise, New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTIA), Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), and Internet New Zealand. They are all different in various ways some being more lobby than industry, some the reverse, and quite frankly some that have little or no value.

Paul Brislen resigned from TUANZ this week to join a PR firm. Paul has done well for TUANZ in his tenure and is an unashamed lobbyist. Paul and TUANZ have lobbied hard on competition in the market, better broadband, and better pricing. Certainly, as a voice for TUANZ Paul has been vocal, fair, and at times vociferous in representing the views of the group. They are going to struggle to find a replacement to fill those boots. Of course it’s critical that they get the right person because they are the front to a group that is dealing with complex issues.

Putting that aside, a strong telecommunications group is essential given the continued foolishness in the market. Ultra Fast (irony) Broadband, anti-competitive behaviour, market domination, and the lack of solid progress on overall Telecommunications Infrastructure in New Zealand are weighty issues that need someone to keep prodding the dragon over.

Anyway, you’d only join TUANZ if you had some kind of stake in Telecommunications. For the average contractor and employee in ICT it would add little value to your daily life and career.

InternetNZ are a strong lobby group, but more idealistic and modern, closer to a true industry group than the others. You seen in them a good balance between poking the dragon and providing a tech community of sorts. They are youthful, clever, and tackle wider issues of technology and its use in society, particularly the digital divide.

These guys charge reasonable fees and I think provide great value for money to a very diverse and interesting membership of creative individuals. Worth the money I say.

IITP is a lobby group. Paul Matthews hates me saying it, but they are. Their primary focus is that of ICT education and they have done some excellent work in lobbying for change in that area through the entire education stack from the wee ones to tertiary and beyond. They offer good training courses and presentations as part of their membership, though they can be a little dry from time to time.

With Sarah Putt and Bill Bennett on the team IITP is a good place for industry news, especially since Computerworld New Zealand was subsumed back into it’s awful Australian mother ship.

IITP does come across as a little stuffy, a little bit Auckland based, and could do with a kick up its pants. I guess its hard not to be conservative when you spend your life focusing on education and trying not to rock the boat (boy am I going to get in trouble for this). The core team and senior members are excellent, the change from its former dinosaur life into IITP has been a good success, it just needs to get more radical.

Worth the joining fee, check the courses and presentations that they offer to make sure it is you. I won’t join, because I think Paul Matthews should give me a free membership.

NZRise is my favourite lobby group. Bullish, radical, experienced, outspoken, and actually doing a better job of lobbying central government than any of the others across a range of broad ICT issues. There core members are scarily smart, very very diverse, extremely focussed, and utterly passionate about doing good for ICT in NZ.

No I’m not angling for a free membership, I’ve seen these guys in action (they stupidly invited me to a meeting), and I can attest to the high praise. These are the people who have the agenda (and relationships) to teach central government about what ICT is, what the new trends mean, and how they can practically support the industry.

You can join as an individual or a company. I think. I would. In fact, I probably will.

The New Zealand Technology Association is the black sheep of the family with the other lobby groups looking down there noses at them for the fact that they charge more for membership and appear to represent the interests of multi-nationals over local business. Mexicans with cell phones anyone?

One of the other lobby group members once said to me that “When we go to government to meet with ministers, the NZ Tech Association comes along, but WE set the agenda, they just sit there.”

There is no doubt that the group comes across as the “Flash Harry” of the ICT Industry groups, the top tier for membership is $25,000 per year. Now, I haven’t been invited to a meeting of this circle, so I can’t comment on their effectiveness. They certainly have a good PR machine  and appear well-funded. The website contains a lot of rhetoric and some of their claims might be… stretching it a bit?

Anyway, I’d rather spend the $750 a year fee for a company my size on a Koru Club membership. In fact I did. Sorry Candice!

In summary, we have five lobby groups (sorry Paul M), who are for most part heartfelt about the industry in New Zealand, which can only be a good thing.

Now, given it’s election year, its about time they ditched the rhetoric and started to take some action. Yes yes, you’ve all told me that you’re talking to every man and his dog, but lets have some more fire. Where’s Brislen and Christie when you need them.

 

2 comments

  1. Don’t forget NZ Software Association, Auckland ICT, Hi Tech (Awards) Trust and then various technology-specific groups like (mine) NZ Game Developers Association and various ICT education/digital divide groups. I reckon some grassroots, bottom-up mergers are possible, but it should only be done on a voluntary basis where everyone is happy and it creates value for members. That value would be: more resources and a stronger, single voice for government.

    I have heard govt ministers complain about the lack of a single voice, but they also use that argument as an excuse for other sectors too (eg, screen and creative industries, manufacturing).

    NZTIA have organised several Ministerial trade missions, and being stuck in an airplane/bus with Steven Joyce for a week must get you some air time with govt. They also succeeded in encouraging NZTE to create a Digital Technology High Impact Project (eg, at SXSW last month). Previously NZTE didn’t have any ICT sector programmes. So NZTIA seem to have a strong export focus not just representing the multinationals selling locally. (Disclosure: not a NZTIA member but I’ve worked for those multinationals plus with almost every group mentioned here).

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