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NZTech Update – Urgent call for tech advisory!

Why does something that should be so simple turn out to be so hard?  Four years is a long time to wait for a New Zealand Government to establish a high level technology advisory role.  A lot happens in the tech world in four years; New Zealand firms have sent rockets to space, developed autonomous vehicles and put faces to artificial intelligence.  The pace of technology change presents enormous opportunities for New Zealand’s future, yet the Government lacks a trusted advisor to help them navigate the path.

During NZTech’s 2017 AGM panel discussion with MP’s, the idea of a CTO or tech advisor for the Government was first mooted by Rod Drury.   NZTech’s then CEO, Candace Kinser, picked up the idea and developed it into a core pillar of NZTech’s 2014 Technology Policy Platforms.  The recommendation was for, ‘the creation of a Chief Technology Advisor reporting directly to the Prime Minister to provide advice on the strategic use of technology across government and throughout society’.  Unfortunately, no party backed the concept in 2014.

However, great ideas don’t just roll over and disappear.  During the early months of 2017 NZTech, IT Professionals and InternetNZ brought together a collective of 20 leading technology groups to develop the Tech Manifesto for the 2017 election.  The call was put out for a Ministry of the Future, a pseudo-agency bringing Government and the private sector together, led by a Chief Technology Advisor.  The proposed focus, positioning New Zealand and all Government agencies and society to take the best advantage of a technologically enabled future.

Both parties eventually indicated support for some form of CTO role.  Labour’s ICT manifesto stated that they ‘recognise the strategic importance of digitisation and will appoint a CTO to ensure that digital development is planned to achieve the best national outcomes’.  It looked like things would rocket along as the Cabinet approved the role by early December 2017.  The two aborted recruitment processes have been well blogged about by tech leaders who all have something to contribute to helping define New Zealand’s digital strategy.  Check out the personal experiences of Vaughan Rowsell and Dan Khan.

Last week, the speculation was finally over when we found out what was happening with the New Zealand Chief Technology Officer role when Derek Handley shared an update on LinkedIn.  Having been offered the role, signed the contract and relocated his family from the US, he arrived back in New Zealand to find out that the role had been canned.  What a shocker!  My sympathy goes out to Derek, who is the victim of an incredibly poor process.

Now, I don’t think we should wait for the Government anymore.  Let’s just get on with it!  In the past three years, NZTech has managed to bring together a national Tech Alliance and support 21 tech communities without any Government funding to do so.  Now representing over 800 organisations throughout New Zealand, from tech firms, startups and high tech manufacturers to universities, Government agencies and large corporations like banks, insurance companies, agri-businesses and an airline.   Across these 21 tech associations many are already starting work on national strategies.  The AI Forum has over 100 people voluntarily helping drive working groups, including the development of a national AI strategy.

So guess what I am pitching at the NZTech strategy and planning day this Thursday?  Let’s bring together the people who cared enough to apply to be New Zealand’s CTO.  Let’s develop our own Ministry of the Future and collectively start developing a national digital/tech strategy for New Zealand.

Let me know what you think and are you up for it?

Nga mihi
Graeme Muller

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Join Tech Marketers in Auckland and Christchurch on 19 September.  Tech Marketers next meet in Wellington on 27 September.  Please register to attend.

Attend SIBA’s AGM on 27 September and the 2018 New Zealand Spatial Awards on 17 October in Wellington.
Attend the New Zealand FinTech Summit on 29 November in Auckland.

The American Chamber of Commerce presents Networking Global Ambition with Sunny Bates on 16 October in Auckland.  Join the IoT Waikato Meetup on 23 October, featuring Agritech New Zealand.


Attend Helping Women Thrive in the Digital Ecosystem on 25 September in Wellington.  How inclusive do New Zealand workplaces feel?  Read the 2018 report.

Make the most of Expo 2020 Dubai, with NZTE’s Gulf Opportunities Showcase in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch in October.

The New Zealand Transport Authority’s All Access Hackathon is 21-23 September in Auckland.  Join NeSI on 25 September for Machine Learning and Supercomputing in Science in Auckland.


Callaghan are leading a Kiwi delegation to SaaStr Annual 2019 in San Jose.  Register by 8 October.  Applications for NASA internships and New Zealand Space Agency scholarships close 12 October.  Early bird tickets are available for evokeAG , 19-20 February, 2019 in Melbourne.

Is your company ready to scale up with international growth? Enter the inaugural #TechRocketshipANZ Awards.  Entries close 23 November.  CERT’s Cyber Smart Week is 8-12 October.  Check out the new resources and be involved as an official partner.

Complete BusinessNZ’s Mood of the Boardroom survey.  Save these 2019 event dates; Tech Marketers conference on 28 February, AI-Day on 28 March and Techweek 20-26 May.

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