Advocating for the IT Profession
One of ITP's key functions is to provide independent advice to Government on behalf of the tech professional community, both at ministerial and official levels.
IT Professionals NZ meets regularly with relevant ministers and senior government officials across a very broad range of portfolios and initiatives. This includes both regular scheduled meetings with ministers (eg quarterly) as well as one-off meetings were necessary.
This page outlines some of the larger recent engagements with Government.
Digital Technologies in schools
ITP has been leading the development of the Digital Technologies curriculum and achievement standards in school for a long time, directly leading to the new Digital Technologies Achievement Standards and reviews that have led to redevelopment of the digital technologies curriculum.
This started with ITP (then NZCS) conducting a detailed investigation and report into the Achievement Standards available to teach computing in schools in 2008, which found "serious and significant failings" with the generic standards then in place.
ITP went on to form the Digital Technologies Expert Panel with the Ministry of Education and helped develop the new Digital Technologies Achievement Standards in 2011-2013. More recently, ITP was involved in the year-long Ministry of Education review of the content and positioning of Digital Technologies in schools in 2015, and is now part of the Digital Technologies Reference Group overseeing changes as a result of that review.
Digital Skills Forum
ITP is a founding member of the NZ Digital Skills Forum, a partnership between the tech sector represented by IT Professionals NZ and vendor bodies NZTech and NZRise, and Government represented by MBIE (Skills and Employment Policy, Digital Economy, and Immigration NZ areas), Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, the office of the Govt CIO, Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and others as necessary.
The Forum meets regularly and has created a single point of engagement for industry/Govt collaboration on skills issues. The work of the Forum is achieved via four Working Groups: Education (chaired by ITP CEO Paul Matthews), Professional Pathways (chaired by ITP member Paul Ramsay), Immigration, and Data and Evidence.
ITP is leading a partnership of 10 tech groups working to rebalance the low rate of research funding for IT-related fields. This included an analysis of the proportion of IT and computing-related research awarded by the Marsden Fund, New Zealand's $54M government-funded "blue skies" research fund. The findings were submitted to a review of the fund.
The review found:
- Just 17% of funding approvals for the combined maths and tech-related areas goes to tech-related research. This means around 4 maths-related research applications are approved per tech-related research application in NZ. This compared with 50%+ in other countries such as Australia.
- On average the Marsden Fund funds around 1.5 research projects a year in tech fields, compared with an average of 46.5 a year by Australia's equivalent Discovery Fund.
- The tech-related research community (based on PBRF assessments) makes up around 60% of the size of the combined tech and maths research community. While the number of top (A-ranked) researchers is smaller - around 35% of the combined area - this is still double the actual proportion of funding that goes to tech research vs maths.
- The apparent bias is probably due to the structure of the fund, which combines maths and stats with tech-related areas such as Computer Science, Information Systems and Software Engineering in one panel. The panel decides which research applications progress and is generally made up of 2/3 maths and statistics researchers and only 1/3 or fewer computer science researchers.
With the tech-related research community missing out on 10s of millions in research dollars over the last decade, ITP is calling for the Maths and Information Sciences (MIS) panel to be split into two panels, one focusing specifically on tech-related research.
Competency-based assessment for Immigration
Immigration NZ operates a Long Term Skills Shortage List for occupations in significant long-term shortage in New Zealand. Given the skills shortage in our industry, many tech-related occupations are on the list.
Migrants with the skills the IT industry needs, who are looking to move to New Zealand, can gain the right to work here by obtaining certain work visas. Two of these are the Skilled Migrant Visa, utilising a points system based on factors such as age, work experience, your qualifications, and an offer of skilled employment, and the Work to Residence: Long Term Skill Shortage Visa.
Potential migrants gain credit in either of these visa options (points in the Skilled Migrant category, or the right to be able to apply under the Long Term Skill Shortage Visa pathway) by meeting the qualification and experience requirements contained in the Long Term Skills Shortage List. This is intended to be a test that they have the skills in demand, however in the case of IT, the requirements are an IT-related degree and 3 years' experience.
This means that highly skilled tech migrants who want to come and work in New Zealand, and who are in demand by our industry, often can't get a work visa because they don't have a computing qualification. We don't believe this is a suitable measure of skills, and a proper competency-based assessment of skills should be an option for those who clearly meet New Zealand's skill needs but don't necessarily have the correct degree.
IT Professionals NZ is now working with Immigration NZ on a possible solution with an announcement hopefully being made in late 2016 or early 2017.
Qualification Developer for sub-degree quals
IT Professionals NZ is the co-developer of all sub-degree ICT qualifications in New Zealand, in partnership with NZQA's Qualification Services.
This means ITP is responsible for the creation and development of all computing and IT-related diplomas and certificates in New Zealand on the NZ Qualifications Framework at levels 1-6, delivered by Institutes of Technology, Polytechnics, and Private Training Establishments.
ITP began the role by co-leading (with NZQA) a review of all sub-degree qualifications in New Zealand in 2013 and 2014. Following extensive industry consultation, this resulted in the de-listing of all 224 existing computing-related diplomas and certificates, replaced by a landscape of 14 new qualifications with evidenced industry need and pathways. These were approved in April 2015, and most of the old qualifications are unavailable from 2017.
Govt tech strategy and Open Govt
ITP meets with the Minister of Internal Affairs as well as the Government CIO's office within the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) on a very regular basis to discuss matters related to Government's internal tech transformation agenda, procurement, security, open government and much more.
This is part of a broader piece of work, with ITP providing free and frank independent advice on modernisation of Government services.
TEC Investment decisions
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has responsibility for prioritising and funding tertiary education in New Zealand. ITP meets with TEC senior officials on a regular basis to discuss prioritisation of tech-related education, given the industry demand in New Zealand.
ITP also discusses related activities with TEC, such as the ICT Graduate Schools (see below).
2015: Tech job roles at Careers New Zealand
ITP put together a panel of experts and worked with Careers New Zealand to modernise the list of IT-related roles on the Careers NZ site. ITP also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Careers New Zealand to keep the tech occupations up-to-date and ensure that the roles listed are consistent across both Careers New Zealand and ITP's TechHub programme.
Now ITP maintains a "master list" of 20 main representative tech roles, ensuring that the right roles are marketed to students and the list of occupations is kept up-to-date.
2014-2015: Government Procurement Project
ITP works with various area of Government on an ongoing basis to promote procurement reform, given the strong evidence both within New Zealand and internationally that traditional procurement doesn't work well for software.
In 2014 and 2015 ITP worked with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to create a new procurement model, based on international best-practice and research. The components of this approach included:
- Use of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) to determine partners to deliver an innovative project, rather than just attempting to procure a product;
- A collaborative outcomes-based rather than price-based approach;
- A proof of concept "bake-off" between two preferred partners, to experience working with each and allow for strong innovation;
- A focus on providing a good model and environemnt for agile development; and
- Partner-owned Intellectual Property, so providers can sell solutions around the world.
Unfortunately the specific project was discontinued for unrelated reasons, however ITP continues to advocate for trials of modern procurement approaches within Government.
2013-2015: Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), TISA, and other trade deals
ITP was heavily involved in advocating on behalf of the IT profession around the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement while it was being negotiated, as well as TISA and other trade deals. Previously ITP has lobbied hard around ACTA and earlier incarnations as well.
ITP's focus was ensuring that the industry was not disadvantaged by any of the provisions being negotiated, while also ensuring the agreement was positioned to provide the most benefit to the profession as possible. This involved ongoing and frequent meetings with TPP negotiators, taking a public position where needed (especially around software patents), and analysing drafts of the agreement.
ITP put a huge amount of work into this, which resulted in what we believe to be a favourable outcome for the tech sector, as outlined in this TechBlog summary.
2013-2015: IRD Transformation Project
In 2012, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) announced a significant transformation project to replace the 30-year-old Cobol-based tax system. This was originally announced as a $1Billion project, before becoming $1.3B, $1.5B, $1.8B and now up to $2.61B.
During the scoping and development of the project, ITP met very regularly with senior IRD officials to share the IT Industry's concerns about the Government's approach to large-scale software projects and promoting a modular approach. Evidence shows that a modular approach would be far more likely to succeed, as well as providing significantly more opportunities for New Zealand's tech sector to be involved.
ITP's advocacy on behalf of the sector helped shape the approach to this project and ITP has also hosted semi-regular ITP update events, featuring senior officials around the country.
2013-2014: ICT Graduate Schools
ITP was at the forefront of working with the Tertiary Education Commission during the scoping and formation of what became the ICT Graduate Schools project. ITP's CEO Paul Matthews was the "special advisor" to TEC during the selection process.
The Graduate Schools were the result of a $28.6M investment by Government in tackling the transition from study to industry via new practical-based masters-level qualifications, as well as retraining graduates from other disciplines into IT.
2013-2014: Online Voting Working Group
ITP worked with the Minister of Internal Affairs on scoping the viability of online voting for local body elections, participating in a working group looking at whether this was viable for New Zealand. If adopted, this would provide another option for the collection of votes, operating alongside postal voting (not replacing booth voting in national elections).
The report of the working group found that online voting was viable, however only after a set of security and transparency criteria was met. In April 2016 the Minister of Internal Affairs announced that these criteria hadn't been met ahead of the 2016 local body elections, thus an online voting trial wouldn't yet be available.
We expect a trial of online voting for local body elections in the next few years.
2013: Non-patentability of software
IT Professionals NZ is at the forefront of campaigning for the removal of software patents in New Zealand. This was achieved via changes to the Patents Act 2013 following a significant political campaign led by ITP (then NZCS/IITP).
This was a major political and public campaign, culminating in the majority of New Zealand's Parliament supporting the IT Profession's position and the government of the day making corresponding changes to the Patents Act.
While ITP strongly supports the right of developers to protect their work, the risk posed by software patents far outweighs the benefits. With hundreds of thousands of software patents in the US, often patenting "obvious" developments, it's now mathematically impossible to develop software without technically breaching patents. To make matters worse, a significant number of generally US-based law firms seek patents as a means to extract payments from software developers (called "Patent Trolls"), and companies are now using patents as a tool to attack and repel competitors.
The risk of this environment is intense, and just like with music or movies, software can be adequately protected via Copyright laws.
A poll of 1000 ITP members in 2014 found that 81% supported the removal of software patents in New Zealand, and even ex-US President Obama spoke out about the need to reform the patent system in light of patent trolls.
And much more
This page just outlines some of the more prominent projects, however from tax treatment of failed software projects through to the use of competency frameworks in Government, ITP represents the IT profession to Government on a daily basis on all sorts of tech-related issues.
ITP can only take the profession's voice to Government with a strong and engaged membership. Find out more about joining ITP.