Doesn’t anyone else think “Ahem, conflict of interest!” when the new chair of the federal government’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Advisory Board is one Steve Vamos, MD of Microsoft Australia? Especially when there’s no “community” representation whatsoever.
According to Friday’s media release from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA):
bq. The Government has strengthened its ICT advisory group to include peak business bodies to ensure the needs of ICT business users are also considered in the development of ICT priorities.
And minister Helen Coonan says:
bq. ICT offers significant potential to further build economic growth, prosperity and quality of life for all Australians.
But if you look at who’s actually on this board, you wonder whether anyone will ever get past the “build economic growth” issues to that “quality of life” stuff.
You’ve got seven people from the hardware and software industries, someone from labour hire firm Manpower, two from government research bodies CSIRO and NICTA, a token academic and the inevitable representative from Macquarie Bank.
Let’s run through that again. That’s nine from business, two from government, one from academia.
And from the community?
Not a single person representing families and how always-on workplace communications might intrude upon their private time. Not a single person representing workers whose jobs might be affected. Not a single representative from health, legal or social welfare organisations, from religious organisations or from anyone who might want to think about privacy issues.
There’s no doubting Steve Vamos’ understanding of the industry, since he previously ran NineMSN and Apple Computer Australia. But how can he possibly frame the board’s agenda to consider all options when his day job _requires_ him to promote the interests of Microsoft above all else?
Since one priority area is “ensuring Government and industry achieve and maintain the best ICT capability over the next five years,” one obvious question is whether open source software would deliver cost savings or more transparency. Mr Vamos cannot _possibly_ chair such a discussion in any credible way.
Linux Australia president Jonathan Oxer gets it right:
bq. ICT is playing a major role across all industry sectors, [but] the counterpoint is that ICT is also a huge contributor to our current trade deficit. It is crucial for the ICT advisory board to do all it can to support local ICT companies so we are not just a consumer [of IT].
If you were putting together the minister’s ICT advisory board, who would you suggest?