Thursday, 27 November 2008

NZ Conference Report

With CITRA’s merger with Socitm now largely complete, David Claydon, the President of the CCitDG (and Director of Strategic Information for the Salvation Army, UK & Ireland) has accepted an invitation to join the board of Socitm as a Non-Executive Director.

The ALGIM Conference Welcome Plenary was held in a marquee adjacent to the part of the hotel in which the exhibition was held. Mike Manson, ALGIM’s CEO, was the Master of Ceremonies, first introducing Rick Cooper, the Mayor of Taupo, for his opening address. We international guests were introduced, and then each sponsor got up to present themselves. They were invited onto the stage in alphabetical order, and a buzzer sounded at the end of two minutes if they were still speaking. The presentations were split into two sessions, before and after the evening dinner. This worked well; the presentations were good natured, and I found them to be quite informative, although many claimed they were “only here for the beer”! During the proceedings, Mike played several amusing videos, including one of “George Bush” and “Condolesa Rice”, and the Miami Dade Police recruitment video, having called Commander June Randall (one of the international guests, and rather more petite than her title seems to suggest) up onto the stage, who took it all in good part.

On Monday, Mike Wanden, the ALGIM President, opened the formal proceedings, and there were presentations from Rod Titcombe, Chairman of New Zealand’s “Local Government Online” – a commercial organisation set-up and owned by NZ Local Authorities that develops and sells Local Government solutions – and Basil Morrison, Chairman of the Local Government Forum Board. Jim Higgins, the CEO of Local Government Online, spoke on behalf of New Zealand’s new Digital Development Council, and its plans to support the development of the country’s broadband infrastructure. During the conference, I heard many references to how far behind NZ is in broadband development, with unflattering comparisons with places like Zambia and Fiji, and I have to say that I struggled with the poor performance of the hotel “broadband” throughout our stay. Maurice Williamson, the MP whose portfolio included New Zealand ICT, until the change of Government two weeks ago, had been due to speak. From some of the comments, I’m not sure what sort of reception he would have received!

Annette Presley, who I hadn’t heard of, but is well-known in New Zealand as one of its most dynamic entrepreneur’s (and lives next to Bill Gates, apparently) was the motivational and inspirational speaker. Her rags-to-riches tale, despite adversity, with its main messages being confront your fears, learn from failure and do what you enjoy most. She did also say that her first employer (and mentor) sent her home three times to change her clothes and I couldn’t help thinking that, in spite of all that wealth, she still had rather odd dress-sense! However, I’m not exactly famed for my sartorial taste, she’s super-rich, and I’m not, and not only was her story truly inspiring, but also she now does a lot of work to help young people to realise their dreams.

James Hettrick, a US evangelist for connected communities, a former Local Government CIO who was responsible for pioneering work on broadband rollout in the city of Loma Linda, California, and founder of ISMS, was another keynote speaker. In his session – “An Economic & Feasibility Case for New Zealand Broadband Infrastructure” – among other things, he spoke about reusable plastic fibre suitable for use in pre-prepared domestic trunking, and rugged kerb-side trunking installed in slots easily cut with grinders to reduce deployment costs. He also demonstrated a “patch panel” suitable for installation in street chambers, which reduces costs by avoiding the need to terminate all the fibre pairs.

Other interesting presenters over the three days of the conference included Jan Zawadzki, CEO of Zawadzki Limited – a New Zealand based Google Business Partner – who told us that the Web is now just over 5,000 days old and, in the past few weeks, the number of web pages indexed by Google passed a trillion. I saw Anna Karin Jonbrink, a Parliamentary Advisor to the EU in Sweden, present on “Green ICT - Energy and Environment Manager” in Sweden, but here she spoke in English, so I took the opportunity to attend her session again, and now realise that her research shows that the greatest environmental impact from PCs is in use, not manufacture and disposal, which is the accepted wisdom in the UK, so I plan to put her in-touch with Catalina McGregor, who leads on Green ICT matters for the UK. I also saw Fairfax County’s Deputy County Executive, Dave Mulchany’s, excellent presentation on the use of Social Media in Local Government when I was in Atlantic City, but he presented to ALGIM via video-link from his in Washington DC office, so I attended again to see how it went. Mike Manson told me ALGIM has been doing video-link presentations for 5 years, and it showed, as the presentation was of a very high quality.

On Tuesday morning, I presented on developments in Socitm, and the Changing Role of the IT Professional, and included an overview of Newham and the opportunities it’s pursuing. One of the audience recently emigrated to NZ, having worked in Newham, so we later chatted during a boat tour of Lake Taupo that was among delegates ‘leisure options for late Tuesday afternoon. Rod Drury, a New Zealand Technologist & Entrepreneur presented on “The Role of Local Government in Broadband” on Wednesday morning. He spotted me in the audience – “oh look, there’s Richard Steel!” Newham was among the first UK customers for his product “@ftermail”, which he subsequently sold to the US company, “Quest”. Rod made the case for publicly financed broadband infrastructure development, which, of course, I agreed strongly with, since we’re doing it in Newham, but it was especially interesting hearing the case made by a capitalist! To paraphrase some of his presentation, “costs are too high for the private sector, which is interested in profit maximisation, rather than maximising public access”, and “local government should deal with the last mile”.

Tuesday night’s formal dinner, and ALGIM Innovation Award presentations, was followed by dancing to a great NZ 80’s band that got even me dancing. The conference, which included an annual light-hearted session – this year, “The Green Debate – are you ready for the Hemp Keyboard?” - finished with lunch on Wednesday, following prize-giving and a keynote from Rob Waddell, an Olympic Champion and NZ Champion Rower. Then it was time to say goodbye to many warm and generous new friends.

1 comment:

Rod Drury said...

Hi Richard. It was great to see you in New Zealand and thanks so much for your support in the past.