15 Sep 2019

Silicon Valley company met with several govt agencies

9:09 am on 15 September 2019

Several government agencies met with an American video game maker proposing to create a huge data channel for New Zealand.

Department of Internal Affairs

DIA chief executive in 2015, Colin MacDonald, met with Machine Zone. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Silicon Valley firm Machine Zone went on to win some lucrative contracts here but these did not work out as the bureaucrats had hoped.

New information from the Department of Internal Affairs shows its chief executive at that time, Colin MacDonald, met with Machine Zone (MZ) in late 2015.

Mr MacDonald was also the government's chief information officer (now chief digital officer) at the time.

The State Services Commission, Auckland Transport and Transport Agency were also involved.

Other meetings took place in 2017.

RNZ understands an investment of $10m a year for three years was on the table, but it remains unclear exactly what resulted.

Between 2016 and 2018, Machine Zone was claiming it was "transforming" New Zealand with its data platform, Satori.

"MZ's goal is to eventually place enough devices to track all activities in New Zealand so that they are mirrored in a virtual world," a report from California said in 2016.

MZ's aim was to tap what is known as the "smart cities" market, that early estimates said would be worth $US1.4 trillion by 2020. It has since pulled back from that.

The Transport Agency in late 2018 pulled the plug on a poorly-run transport-information pilot based on Satori, and trials of highway cameras using Satori petered out.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it had no involvement in the Transport Agency's partnership with Machine Zone, and was checking if it had involvement outside of that.

Internal Affairs Department and Government Chief Digital Officer engagement with Machine Zone:

  • 30 November - 2 Dec 2015: MZ chief executive Gabriel Leydon, its chief operating officer and engineer meet DIA chief executive and head of commercial strategy, plus State Services Commission. They discuss the Auckland Transport work.
  • Feb 2017: MZ meets DIA chief executive and Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie. Briefing on potential NZTA/MZ collaboration.
  • June 2017: MZ makes technology presentation to DIA and NZTA.

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