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Microsoft showcase highlights NZ's critical challenges

24 Jun 2019
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Microsoft presented its first ever parliamentary Showcase to New Zealand government ministers and MPs last week, as it showcased just how innovative New Zealanders can be.

Minister of Government Digital Services Megan Woods invited Microsoft to present its showcase to attendees including Ms Woods and MPs Nikki Kaye, Brett Hudson and Parmjeet Parmar.

Microsoft also acknowledged the important role partners play in New Zealand’s economy.

“New research by Capitalis shows Microsoft’s New Zealand partner ecosystem includes around 2,300 partners, nearly 90 per cent of which are small businesses. These businesses cover every region of New Zealand, employing more than 21,000 Kiwis,” says Sheers.

Microsoft showed attendees around five ‘hubs’ that showed projects that have potential to change the world.

“New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is facing an era of profoundly disruptive environmental, social and economic change. New technologies will play a critical role in driving these changes, but also open up opportunities,” says Microsoft New Zealand managing director Barrie Sheers. 

Education is a major focus for Microsoft and its partners. LinkedIn Learning senior public sector account executive explained how it is working with some public libraries to help increase access to learning, through online courses.

One project between the Ministry of Education and Unify Solutions. It provided secure online access for more than 70,000 members of the education sector.

Education games designer Joy Business Academy also explained how gaming can boost student engagement while building essential skills.

The showcase also looked at how Microsoft partners have brought agritech to new Zealand.

Aware Group chief technology officer explained how it brought Microsoft’s FarmBeats drone and sensor technology to New Zealand, enabling sustainable farming insights and increased yields. FarmBeats is also used in the US, Brazil, Kenya and India to help farmers and growers make the most of natural resources using less water, fertilisers or herbicides.

Enlighten Designs and Sustainable Coastlines cofounder Camden Howitt explained how artificial intelligence is boosting communities’ efforts to combat waste on New Zealand beaches. Their innovation was recognised by the award of an AI for Earth grant by Microsoft president Brad Smith, on his recent visit to New Zealand.

“We are all living through extraordinary times, of both incredible change and challenge. However, what’s astonishing to me is how adept our small nation is at navigating these changes,” says Sheers.

“The reason it’s so exciting to be invited to an event such as this is that collaboration is going to be the key to addressing these issues, harnessing that technology and unlocking our potential.”