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COVID-19 means New Zealand's tech sector is more important than ever - NZTech

The New Zealand's digital future is happening now, thanks to COVID-19, says NZTech chair Mitchell Pham.

According to NZTech's annual report, "It is difficult for most Kiwis to think about the world before the COVID-19 pandemic but the nation's digital future is no longer a conversation about what the future may hold, because it is happening now – thanks to COVID-19." 

Pham says the past 12-month period, particularly since March this year, has been the most unusual for him in nearly three decades in the tech sector, both in New Zealand and overseas. 

“Despite the overall challenging situation, it has been incredibly positive to see how fast tech businesses have shifted activities online, taking prudent recessionary actions and keeping business going and growing," Pham says.

“Many companies have been shifting gears, pivoting directions, even developing entirely new products or commercial models. All these ideas will help in the current crisis situation, which is the new-normal’; as well as when we all make it through to the other side which will be the new-world-order," he says.

“Even though we are naturally hi-tech, the New Zealand technology industry is still impacted by the combined triple challenge of the public health crisis, overnight digital transformation of our entire country and the associated economic recessionary effects that will likely continue to play out well into next year.”

Pham says a tech highlight of the year was the Government launching the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand. Under Pham’s leadership as chair, the council has been researching, and providing advice for Ministers on the ways tech can benefit society.

“The world continues to accelerate its digital transformation and NZTech is stimulating an environment where tech provides both economic and social benefits for all Kiwis as well as opportunities for New Zealand to make a difference and be more relevant to the rest of the world,” he says.

Also in the annual report, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says when COVID-19 struck, New Zealand immediately experienced a digital tipping point.  

"Almost overnight, born of necessity, the government, businesses and people gained first-hand experience of a more digital world," he says.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic response, we worked tirelessly to assist the government in better understanding the economic impact on the tech ecosystem."

Muller says the sector has more than 21,000 companies and employs 114,450 people in New Zealand.

“We have been constantly collecting feedback on how COVID-19 has been impacting tech business and we have seen some positive support from the government, such as additional funding for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) to help tech exporters and funding to support technology uptake by small and medium businesses," he says.

“As the world continues to respond to COVID-19, New Zealand can take advantage of being one of the most digital countries in the world. New Zealand’s large collaborative tech ecosystem is providing the foundation for a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy and society."

The New Zealand Tech Alliance, including NZTech and 20 other tech industry associations, will hold its annual general meeting in Auckland on August 13.