None of the more than 60 people who applied to become New Zealand’s first chief technology officer managed to convince the appointment panel.

Communications minister Clare Curran says the government will now widen its search. It’s a statement some have interpreted as meaning it will now look overseas for a candidate. 

Curran says its important to have the right person in the role to help government oversee how digital technology can be harnessed to benefit all New Zealanders. 

She says: “While the candidates we looked at have an impressive range of skills and backgrounds, I am not confident that we have found the right person yet.

“As I’ve said previously, this is a role for 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. It’s also a position for someone who wants to work with government and other stakeholders to deliver and support meaningful change.”

The minister originally hoped to have someone in place in time for the Digital 5 Ministerial Summit. This is a prestigious international talking shop on digital economy issues that is due to take place in New Zealand next week. 

While the cabinet paper announcing the establishment of a CTO mentioned the option of an interim appointment filling the role, there is no indication this will happen. 

When applications for the position opened at the end of last year Curran said: “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 that I have already signalled I will be establishing.”

One of the challenges with finding the right person is the brief is wide. Few people who may have enough technical expertise and respect in their own technical field are likely to have the same recognition in other areas.