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Living with COVID-19 has become our new reality. It shouldn’t matter how many cases New Zealand has, as long as they are all being detected at the border and well managed, New Zealanders can continue to go about their business. However, as we saw with the recently announced GDP results for the first quarter of 2020, where the economy recorded the largest GDP decline in almost 30 years, it is going to take more than just going about our business to get through this economic crisis.

That is why international trade is critical for New Zealand and why a well-managed border is critical. While management at the border is the obvious first line of defence, we’ve got to expect there will be times COVID-19 re-enters the community. To mitigate its impact we need rapid contact tracing to ensure those infected can be isolated from our communities.

Have you tried the Government’s recommended contact tracing app, NZ COVID Tracer? It is a Ministry of Health app that allows you to create a digital diary of places you visit by scanning official QR codes. If there are further outbreaks, this will help contact tracers quickly identify and isolate anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. So far, just over 500,000 (or about 10% of the population) have downloaded the app, with fewer than that using it. The app is unusable for the blind, relies on businesses displaying a QR code and members of the public to check in. This low uptake is concerning for several reasons.

Many countries have chosen a similar path of developing their “own” app, also with little success. Every other business seems to have their own sign in process and none of them are interoperable. Last week, the United Kingdom Government ditched their app in favour of working with Google and Apple who have been collaborating to embed the technology into their operating systems. A global interoperable system which will be deployed to every single iOS or android operating system makes sense. Hopefully, common sense will prevail in New Zealand as well.

Meanwhile, business as usual! I have just finished helping to edit detailed research undertaken by Agritech New Zealand, IDC and Sapere. The research reinforces the importance of technology, even for our amazing primary sector, which created $46.3 billion in GDP in 2018. There has been growing use of agritech to improve output, deliver more sustainable and healthy products and reduce environmental impact, however it is estimated that a further $17 billion could be added to output and exports with a concerted focus on increased use of technology across our primary sector. Peter Wren-Hilton from Agritech New Zealand is currently finalising this study, for release in July.

I hope you have a productive and successful week. 

Ngā mihi

Graeme Muller


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