Join TUANZ and win … (also, $1.5bn is ridiculous and Wrexham for the cup)

It’s that time of the year where once again we ask you all to renew your membership of TUANZ. There’s a lot to do this year – more so than I can remember in years gone by.

There’s UFB uptake, the 700MHz spectrum sale and the review of the law governing the sector. There’s also the small matter of telecommunications interception and whether or not the government understands just what it’s asking the industry to do.

There’s also the problem of the government intervening in the Commerce Commission’s work which directly undermines the independence of the Telecommunications Commissioner and means our hard-won fight to ensure there was no regulatory holiday was for nothing. Instead, we’re in an environment where protecting Chorus and its right to make money is deemed more important than the promise made to customers (to voters) that copper broadband prices would be reviewed and reduced.

The need for TUANZ is as great as it’s ever been and if you’ve already paid your membership fees, I thank you. If you haven’t, I hope to hear from your accounts department soon so we can keep up the work. Without your support, TUANZ can’t continue to lobby government, can’t represent customers’ needs at numerous TCF working parties, can’t continue to fight for better pricing and better services for our members.

To help you along we’re offering up a prize, courtesy of Gen-i (thanks, Gen-i). Every TUANZ member who signs up or renews their membership before June 1 goes into the draw to win a Samsung Galaxy S4, valued at $1149.

And of course, as a member you can attend our After Fives for free. Stay tuned and we’ll announce the speaker and timing for our next session in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile we’ll keep raising the issues you think are important and arguing on behalf of you, our members.

Cabinet has, apparently, agreed to spend $1.5bn on a ten-year project overhauling the computer systems used by Inland Revenue for tax collection.

By now I hope you’ll have read Rod Drury’s excellent piece on why this is such a stupid idea but I thought I’d chip in as well because rarely have I seen such an outrageous figure.
Our tax regime is not so complicated that we need something terribly outrageous to run it. Our needs are quite simple, compared with countries like the UK or US or even Australia, where state and federal taxes take a more complex bite out of our wages and purchasing power.
We also have a small population – four million people, not all of whom pay tax, and a further couple of million businesses (again, not all of whom pay tax – don’t get me started on those multinationals who like to move money around the globe to avoid this kind of thing) make for quite a small database when all is said and done.

So what could possibly justify the cost quoted? Yes, it’s over ten years and yes, I’m sure it includes ongoing maintenance and support and yes, it had better include your first year of tax payments for free for all users, because at that price we’re talking about thousands of dollars per tax payer at the least.

Drury lists some excellent points with regards to how to build a tax system (or indeed, any kind of IT system that will be used by lots of different users) but I’d like to focus more on the economic issue and why this is exactly the reason why we need a national digital architecture.
That amount of money, pumped into the New Zealand IT environment, would have an astonishing impact on local development. Even shared out among multiple vendors, we’d see a huge amount of work generated, a tremendous need for new staff and the flow-on effects in terms of economic uptake would be massive. Think of the coffee and pizza spend alone that would generate!
The Minister for Revenue Peter Dunne, the man responsible for the IRD and its behemoth IT system, says he hopes some of the spend will take place in New Zealand and that some New Zealand IT companies will benefit from the build.

I think it’s critical that any such government project be treated as an economic stimulant and as such should be given entirely to New Zealand IT companies as a way to boost the industry and because New Zealand IT companies are more than capable of doing the job and doing it for a lot less than $1.5bn of tax payers’ money.

If we had a digital architecture this kind of project would be treated as a godsend to the economy as a whole. We would rejoice at the stimulation it would deliver.
Without a plan, it’s quite likely we’ll see the project given to some big international providers (I can see Oracle and IBM, perhaps SAP and possibly HP getting involved rather than Catalyst or any of the other local software houses) and then two things will happen. Most of the work will disappear off shore along with the revenue, and in my experience the project will end up costing an awful lot more.

It’s high time we got coordinated on this kind of thing.

Speaking of coordinated, a story on the BBC caught my eye last night, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s about a call centre in the North Wales town of Wrexham where I spent several years growing up, and secondly because some of the call centre staff have migrated to Takapuna in order to do night shift work while sitting in the sunshine.

A handful of staff have been here on a trial basis and while it’s a bit odd, being so far from home, they’ve been rostered on four days on, four off so they can see something of the country.
This is tremendously cool, for many reasons. Not only do we expose New Zealanders to the great language that is Welsh but they get to experience the sun on their skin, the taste of proper wine and the Kiwi way of life.

In addition there are cost savings for the company in question, good outcomes for the customers who call this particular company and an opportunity for New Zealand to earn some export dollars.
Insourcing is something New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of. The next step for this particular UK-based company would be to hire New Zealand folk to work the night shift and before you know it they’ll have expanded their operational base to follow the sun (not that the sun shines often in Wrexham, but you know what I mean).
This is good for all concerned and something we could encourage, and is something I’d like to see more of.

And if you’re from Wrexham and are reading this, don’t forget you can apply for political asylum. We’ll see you right.