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New technologies shaking up NZ, according to expert

By Shannon Williams, Mon 11 Jan 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Technology is increasingly having an affect on our everyday lives, and Kiwis are starting to take note.

That’s according to Graeme Muller, New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech) chief executive, who says New Zealanders are starting to question the impact of technology on their life, their jobs and their children’s futures.

Muller says Kiwis can expect to see more robotics, 3D printing, electronics and coding entering the school system, and parents are beginning to realise how important these technologies will be for their children’s future. 

“We expect to see an increasing public awareness and desire to engage in discussion about the role of technology throughout New Zealand in 2016, which will be an exciting year for technology,” he says.

“The introduction of fast broadband has been one of the biggest tech-digital advances in New Zealand this year,” he explains. “Ultra-fast broadband is essential for New Zealand's economy as without connectivity we would be unable to compete in a connected world.

“The fact that we are deploying it faster than any other country in the world means we will have an opportunity that other countries won't have for a little while,” Muller says.

However, Muller says cyber-security is a growing issue globally.

To coincide with the new national cyber security strategy, NZTech ran a Security Summit this year to bring together industry and government leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities. 

“The biggest concern is that global research shows that the incidence of cyber-attacks is increasing rapidly and that almost 50% are now malicious,” Muller explains. “This has become big business for criminals and a major cost for businesses.”

Muller says the chances of a business being attacked are now 22% within a 24-month period with the average costs in the hundreds of thousands.

“The NZTech Security Summit and the new cyber-security strategy both identify the need for strong public-private partnership in order to protect New Zealand citizens, businesses and national infrastructure from cyber-attack,” he says.

“As a country we are increasingly aware of the growth of our high tech sector and cool new tech firms like Xero. Yet the biggest impact from technology will come as other parts of the economy find better ways to use technologies such as cloud services, big data, mobility, robotics and 3D printing,” Muller explains.

Muller says NZTech is undertaking a detailed economic impact study to examine both the economic and social benefit that technology is bringing to the country in areas such as rural New Zealand, education, healthcare, small businesses and other sectors.

“Yet the recent OECD report on Students, Computers and Learning raised some alarm bells in New Zealand this year when it showed that even though New Zealand has relatively high levels of computer and internet use in schools it, along with many other advanced nations, is experiencing declines in reading and maths performance as measured by the OECD PISA tests,” he explains.

“Now the focus is on developing our curricula and teachers so they are able to prepare our children for a world where information is unlimited and change is constant.

“And like most of the world New Zealand is facing a shortage of people with tech skills,” Muller adds. “This problem is only going to get worse as this is a global issue and these skills are in demand everywhere. 

“NZTech's main concern is that while a lot of work is being done to address this issue in New Zealand, we are focusing on the wrong end of the problem,” he says.

“What we really need to see much faster is the introduction of tech skills into the curricula from year one.”

In 2015 the UK made computational thinking and computer science a compulsory part of the curricula, alongside English and maths, from year one, Muller says.

“What worries NZTech is that our education system is evolving too slow and a generation is at risk,” he says.

Muller says New Zealand is producing an increasing number of high growth tech firms that are competing on a world stage. The recent Deloitte Fast 500 report identified 54 New Zealand firms in the fastest 500 growing tech firms across Asia Pacific including India, China and Japan. 

“Kiwi firms such as TranscribeMe, GeoOp and Vend with growth rates of over 500% make up a vibrant and growing NZ tech sector that are taking their products to the world,” Muller says.

“Internationally technology is completely disrupting industries with the most famous examples being Uber and AirB&B,” he explains.

“NZTech's role, as the representative body for tech companies in New Zealand, is to help our companies connect and collaborate and to help promote New Zealand as a world-class digital nation,” says Muller.

“Throughout 2015 NZTech has coordinated over 50 events bringing together the tech sector with different parts of the economy, the government, investors and international markets.

“By stimulating collaboration NZTech is helping kiwi firms to ‘hunt as a pack’ and see the world as one big opportunity,” he says. “At the same time NZTech has been actively involved with various arms of government working together to address issues such as tech education, skills shortages and digital inclusion.”

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