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  • Ian Wells

TPPA - brittle?

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

This is my 8 minute spoken submission to the TPPA subcommittee in Christchurch. The written submission is here. 


I appreciate the opportunity to address you. I am Ian Wells.  I speak to you, not as a TPPA trade expert, but as a regular family man living in Christchurch, as an immigrant who loves New Zealand, as someone  who has strong respect for New Zealand’s  democracy and  heritage, and as an IT professional.


My career has been  testing software to ensure it works.


As you know the software industry has atrocious record. Software industry has one of the highest failure rates of any product due primarily to poor quality.  Almost a third of the software engineers in NZ today are spending their time finding and fixing bugs. Think of Novotel.


The software industry has therefore invested heavily in ways to improve the quality of Information Systems.


I see TPPA is just another program, like a computer program. TPPA is an information system.

Although the  TPPA is a strategy against China, it also matters what is in the 5,000 pages. And it matters that it benefits New Zealanders.


Thinking about TPPA, I wondered how to test it and can we apply most recent software quality best practice to make sure it delivers best value to New Zealanders.


I see the TPPA is the “program”, then the “clients” or users are us - New Zealanders. The “sponsors” are the governments and corporations and lobbyists who designed it.  The “programmers” are the folks who wrote the TPPA over 10 years.


In my submission I list 7 new lessons learned from the software industry that can be applied to the TPPA “program”.


I notice you are only asking for input after the TPPA is frozen.  Unfortunately this makes it  too late to apply several of the most significant lessons learnt the hard way in the software industry.


For example, never build a program without early validating it with clients, use transparency to catch bugs early, build in testability from the start, build in small increments, test it, learn, release again - avoid like the plague building the whole program before running it.


The lesson the software industry has  learned about building information systems: change will happen, systems must be flexible and adapt to change, there will always be bugs, so design in the process to find and deal with bugs quickly.


If TPPA was  a computer program, no professional would sign it off, because it breaks almost every best practice for a successful information system project. Could you imagine if you had to run  unpatched Windows Vista on your computer today?


My submission is practical. Here are some suggestions that you could apply now, to ensure the TPPA does what it is promised for New Zealanders.


Set up a mechanism to define, identify, track bugs. Bugs are written in the language of the client, not the programmers.Continually monitor bugs caused by changes in  the externalities, where TPPA interacts with the world, which is guaranteed to change - and fast, ie environment, climate change, health, digital rights, free speech, fair use, biodiversity, robots, AI, jobs, Implement a mechanism, not ISDS, for NZ citizens to submit bugs in TPPA that affect us.Implement a system to allow bugs in TPPA to be fixed.


In any information system, if bugs are being raised faster than being fixed, the system has a problem. New Zealanders have a problem.


Please make TPPA work for us New Zealanders. To work, it must change and adapt to the world we are moving into. Learn from Tech.

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