At a time when the world can feel a little in turmoil, joining more than a thousand fellow New Zealanders to celebrate the best of the best in Kiwi tech innovation felt like a beacon of hope for our country.
At the recent New Zealand Hi Tech Awards, the kudos came in spades and rightfully so. The success story stats are well known – New Zealand’s fastest growing sector where each new tech sector job creates five others, and annual exports tally $8.6 billion.
But what is it that makes New Zealand’s technical thinking and design stand out?
Over the years, we’ve moved past the mindset of having to be resourceful to combat scarcity and our geographical isolation. That narrow view, rooted in our past, has evolved to focus on New Zealand’s care for people and place – a hunger to see and design for a better tomorrow.
We are a country that cares. Inspired by the Māori intergenerational value of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, we put emphasis on creating technology with purpose – ones that are a force for good for the world we want to leave for future generations.
More and more incredible Kiwi companies are creating software, hardware, machines and devices where these values show up consistently – and in turn, tangibly improve human health, solve for climate impact, tackle social issues and a myriad of other causes.
Three cases in point – amongst so many more: Seequent, the 2022 winner of Hi Tech Company of the Year award, are the brains behind geoscience analysis and modelling to enable deeper understanding of the earth for developers in over 100 countries. Another big winner, Alimetry embeds health-conscious values in its advanced clinical solutions for gastric disorders. Seaweed business AgriSea was crowned Hi Tech Māori company of the year, for its clever use of biostimulants that help Kiwi farmers carry out sustainable farming.
Despite what the pandemic has thrown at the world, New Zealand tech has clearly grown more purposeful and the world is noticing our stories. Our trading partners are buying our technology because they trust innovation that portrays a deep and genuine purpose: conceiving problem-solving technology for the sake of humanity.
This compelling proposition underpins an entire campaign led by the New Zealand Tech Alliance and supported by New Zealand Story. Known as the New Zealand Tech Story, this bespoke narrative champions the way
‘See Tomorrow First’ by partnering with the world to use technology that makes tomorrow better than today.
But this global thinking also poses a challenge; breeding solid skillsets on home soil. Attracting leading tech investors to set up innovation hubs here should also be in our sights so we can continue to upskill ourselves.
Our thriving tech sector has proven to be the silver lining from the pandemic by levelling the playing field for New Zealand businesses empowered to connect with the rest of the world. We used to have to travel across the world to meet investors but now we are just a Zoom call away. So where do we go from here?
The future of New Zealand’s economy is in diversification. Creating world-class, ingenious and weightless ideas, and selling them to overseas markets is a model that will continue to scale and have impact. And we have been wildly successful at this exercise to date. Xero practically changed the business of accounting forever, simplifying the financial operations for millions of small businesses around the world. Rocket Lab sent a big idea to space over and over again. Soul Machines put a face on AI and brought digital workforces to the world.
Further investments in digital infrastructure and cloud-based technologies such as data centres and a new submarine fibre-optic cable network connecting Southland to multiple continents from 2025 can further fuel New Zealand’s weightless export potential while attracting the likes of Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to partner and set up camp here.
That said, we too must do our part in nurturing talent from within. We do this with the belief of a better tomorrow where all of New Zealand can be part of the growth and enjoy the same successes.
In staying true to our ethos of care, we at the New Zealand Hi-Tech Trust are committed to making the tech sector even more successful, diverse and inclusive. The New Zealand Hi-Tech Foundation offers all New Zealanders regardless of backgrounds, ethnicities and diversities an equal opportunity to contribute to our vibrant tech sector by providing a forum for the career advancement of technology professionals and students.
We’re on a mission to build a multi-million-dollar endowment fund, focused on funding the great initiatives around the country to increase talent and diversity, and already we’ve funded a number of programmes and 12 direct scholarships.
New Zealand is conquering the world with innovative tech – we have a knack for solving problems in a creative way and increasingly, our solutions are world leading, which presents a huge export opportunity. The New Zealand Hi Tech Awards amplify our success stories to the world while recognising the country’s values-driven tech contributions. As a bonus, high-profile celebrations like these major awards are a phenomenal boost to the morale of the tech industry.
We may be famous for our wine, dairy and lamb but increasingly, technology is flying the silver fern too. By embracing a mindset of being a place where innovation and entrepreneurs can thrive, and where international talent can grow roots, our vibrant tech sector is well placed to foster a caring and diversified economy for a better tomorrow.