Which of the 60 applicants for New Zealand CTO were successful? None of 'em

Rod Drury: Lobbied for CTO role but otherwise occupied

UPDATE / Feb 12: Communications Minister Clare Curran has sparked a furore among the local IT community by announcing that none of the 60 applicants for the new, $500,000-a-year role of chief technology officer for New Zealand were successful.

The search will now be widened.

"This is a vital role to ensure we can use and develop digital technologies for the benefit of all New Zealanders. While the candidates we looked at have an impressive range of skills and backgrounds, I am not confident we have found the right person yet,” Ms Curran said in a statement.

The announcement was especially surprising given that after meeting with Ms Curran on January 31, Rod Drury – one of those who had lobbied for the new position – tweeted:

Tech commentator Richard MacManus responded to this afternoon's news of a wider search by posting "Which means they’re now looking for an overseas applicant. Hmmm."

However, when NBR put that to Ms Curran, her office replied: "International candidates were never excluded."

Don Christie, chief executive of Catalyst IT and co-founder of NZ Rise, tweeted: "Well ... that's disheartening. Part of the problem we have with IT in government is 'not built here' syndrome.

Others were more effusive. Michelle "Nanogirl" Dickinson offered, "So great to see that the government didn’t fill the important CTO role with the wrong person just to fill the position, but instead was bold enough to wait to find the right person. Amazing leadership from @clarecurranmp."

EARLIER / Dec 19: Curran creates CTO role, Drury rules himself out
What do you want to do in the New Year? Help New Zealand set its digital strategy?

The new role of chief technology officer for NZ (apply here) has been set up by Communications Minister Clare Curran.

A cabinet paper says the position will pay $400,000 plus a further $100,000 in expenses and travel.

Xero founder Rod Drury was the father of the new position. Along with a "Strategic Insights Panel" that also included Roger Dennis, Frances Valintine, Murray Holdaway (Vista), Steve Jurkovich and Frances Savage (both ASB Bank) and Dominic Quinn (Fonterra), the entrepreneur lobbied the major parties on the merits of a chief technology officer, and both National and Labour adopted the policy for the September election [UPDATE: Ms Curran says her party's support for a CTO predated Mr Drury's approach).

Approached by NBR today, Mr Drury said he wasn't interested in taking up the position himself, however. He was busy turning Xero into a "top ASX company."

An application page indicates the role requires fulltime attention. "It is likely that the influence of the chief technology officer will be greatest if the successful applicant remains outside the technology industry for the duration of his or her term of appointment," it states.

The Strategic Insights Panel offered qualified praise this afternoon.

"We applaud the speed at which the government is working to create this position and think that it is a vital role for New Zealand," Mr Dennis said on behalf of the group.

"However, it is our opinion that the most effective approach to ensure the success of this role is to have a public-private partnership. This is because the speed of technology development is largely led by the private sector, while policy and regulation are led by government.  

"The combination of these two points of views creates a perspective that is necessary to position New Zealand to cope with rapid change.  We also believe that this approach will attract a candidate who has the credibility and mana required for the role."

He adds, "We have some of the country’s leading technology firms committed to financially supporting the Office of the CTO and we would welcome the opportunity to work closely with the minister on this."

For her part, Ms Curran says, "This position is critical to ensuring we can use and develop digital technologies for social prosperity, economic productivity and for the good of all New Zealanders. 

“The chief technology officer role would suit someone who has a high level of expertise in the digital technology industry, who is passionate about the issues, who carries the influence needed to stimulate public discussion and who wants to take action with government and other stakeholders to deliver and support meaningful change.”

The chief technology officer will be accountable to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, and Government Digital Services minister (Ms Curran) and will provide independent expert advice to ministers and senior leaders on digital issues.

“The chief technology officer will be responsible for preparing and overseeing a national digital architecture, or roadmap, for the next five to 10 years,” Ms Curran says.

“This government intends to close the digital divides by 2020, and make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025. The internet and digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals.

“In particular, I see the chief technology officer working on issues such as improving digital equality, protecting citizens’ rights online, and building a connected nation, alongside the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group and the other advisory groups I have already signalled I will be establishing.

“Although the role sits within the government context, the chief technology officer will require a collaborative way of working across government, with ministers and officials, and with a range of other stakeholders to shape and drive New Zealand’s digital agenda,” Ms Curran says.

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