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Tech not a threat: NZ must embrace change

New Zealand needs to open up its arms when it comes to new technology, with one industry expert saying we are not coping with enough change. 

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says New Zealand needs to embrace technology and not treat it as a threat. His comments come following the release of the Productivity Commission's latest report, which says New Zealand needs more technology.

In its draft report, New Zealand, technology and productivity, the commission looks at the impact of technology on jobs.

Muller says New Zealand is not coping with enough tech change and the current tech changes are too slow and too few.

"More and faster technology adoption will open up opportunities to improve New Zealanders living standards," he says.

"Embracing technology implies supporting people who are less able to adjust, preparing young people for the future and setting policies and institutions that encourage the entry and uptake of new knowledge, processes, goods and services by firms," Muller explains.

Muller says there are things New Zealand can do now to support smoother transitions and to seize these opportunities.

"It is pleasing to see this in-depth research by the productivity commission, validating the focus and strategy of the NZTech Alliance for the past few years," he says.

"A growing number of organisations believe in the important role that technology will have to help create a prosperous, safe and sustainable New Zealand for the future, so they have been working together within NZTech to help improve tech education, help grow tech exports and support policy development," explains Muller.

"The NZTech alliance continues to grow, now with more than 1000 member organisations who employ more than 10 percent of New Zealand's workforce, from startups and local IT firms to universities, financial service providers, government agencies and large corporation, working together to help improve tech adoption," he says.

"As the productivity commission says, tech disruption wont happen overnight, but we can't be complacent," says Muller. 

"Now is actually a time of opportunity - if we work on improving tech adoption, we will reduce impacts on the future of work and we will improve productivity."

Muller says the rapid growth in artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation is already starting to have an impact on Kiwi's jobs.

"Traditional port jobs are being replaced by robotic machines and New Zealand tech firms like Robotics Plus are developing robotic solutions to fruit picking and forestry work," he says.

"Even white-collar jobs are changing as more business process automation reduces the need for some skills, such as book-keepers."

Muller says tech and digital skills have been the fastest growing and most in-demand skills across the economy for several years now. The tech sector already employs 100,000 people with another 72,000 IT workers employed in other sectors.

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