Some of the first shots in the election were fired last night, when the four main parties fronted up to a debate broadcast live over the internet and TV to discuss four of the key ICT-related issues; broadband, cyber-safety, copyright and the convergence of traditional and digital media channels.
From a technical perspective, the debate, organized by internetNZ, could hardly have gone smoother (although I had to leave after the first hour).
Bringing together multiple communication channels Skype, chat, text, online voting, streaming video and TV, the presentation was slick and professional, and was further boosted by the lack of ads in the breaks.
Journalists Fran O'Sullivan and Russell Brown asked good questions and demonstrated a refreshing lack of sycophancy to the pollies.
Unfortunately, with the topics being as broad as they were, it was difficult for the issues to surface and be discussed in the time available.
For the most part, discussions in the areas of broadband, cybersafety and convergence involved little more than the re-iteration of existing policy or idealogy; David Cunliffe pitched the government's recently released Digital Strategy and dissed National's Fibreco concept at every opportunity, Rodney Hide talked a lot about "choice", "competition" and "investment", Maurice Williamson doubted that regulation would or could be effective in most areas, and Metiria Turei from the Green Party talked about protecting New Zealanders from foreign interests.
The most interesting discussions were in the area of copyright, particularly in relation to the recently announced free trade talks with the US.
Without doubt, intellectual property rights will be critical, and to get a deal with the US, to quote IT journalist Russell Brown "the Aussies had to roll over on the issue and have their copyright law written for them by the US."
So, it'll be interesting to see the debate shape up; how will the parties balance their support for New Zealand's digital future, and the concomitant protection of the intellectual property rights of local businesses, with the desire for a free trade agreement, and the apparently non-negotiable requirement from the US for protection of its companies' interests, while appearing to have New Zealand's interests in mind. Watch this space.
Michael Cranna is managing director of broadband benchmarking specialist Epitiro Technologies.