Chief technology officer for New Zealand: a couple of contenders

Air NZ chief information officer Julie Raue turned professional director.

Communications Minister Clare Curran has opened applications for a chief technology officer for New Zealand.

Who should fill the $500,000 role?

Here are a few people I’d like to see apply.

My main criteria are that it should be someone with a big personality who doesn’t write white papers that get filed in a drawer somewhere but actually gets s*** done.

That’s because there is always the danger that these sorts of positions become meaningless show pony roles.

The CTO will report to Ms Curran and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, so it has drawn comparisons with the chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman.

But despite his access to Sir John Key (and later Bill English), and the respect his ground-breaking work at the Liggins Institute engendered, the previous government’s stance on issues like childhood obesit or climate change was to thank Sir Peter for his advice, then do the opposite.

The CTO needs to be someone persuasive enough to convince everyone from the prime minister on adopting a coherent view on everything from cloud strategy (currently, government departments get conflicting advice from the GCSB and the GCIO) to the digital divide to copyright reform and privacy. There are also tons of scope to coordinate different areas of the health and education systems into a common strategy and to, well, introduce any tech thinking at all into transport policy.

Here are a couple of contenders I think could bulldoze through bureaucracy and political inertia:

Rob Fyfe
Rob Fyfe’s strategic review skills as chief information officer for Air New Zealand helped him land the top job as chief executive. After Air NZ, he led Ice Breaker and is now a professional company director. For bonus points, Mr Fyfe is already engaged with the new government via his appointment as an independent adviser to the government on plans for the re-entry of the Pike River mine.

Julie Raue
Another Air NZ chief information officer who graduated to business, Julie Raue is an independent director for The Warehouse Group, TVNZ, Z Energy and Southern Cross, and a member of the Treasury’s risk and audit committee. She knows where technology is heading, she gets things done and she’s confident talking to media.

I also thought of Rod Drury – who has pushed for a government CTO role for so long – but he has already ruled himself out ("Little bit busy here. Gotta be a top ASX company over next few years." And, regardless, Ms Curran has indicated a preference for someone who is not active in the industry during their term, to avoid conflict of interest.

Who would be your ideal candidate? Share their name in Comments below.

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