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NZTech Inform – revisiting our origin story

Last week, I was collating background information for the upcoming annual strategy planning for NZTech.  Next month, we are beginning a process of refreshing the vision for NZTech and the Tech Alliance.  For the past ten years we have been working to “create a more prosperous New Zealand underpinned by technology”.  The time is right to consider the next decade.  What sort of country do we want to live in and how should the tech ecosystem evolve to create the future we all want?  Some initial work was done during the development of the Digital Technology Industry Transformation Plan (ITP), but we’d like to be more aspirational and inclusive so watch this space.

While preparing, I captured the genesis of NZTech, our origin story;

1990 – The Government asks Michael Porter of Harvard University to analyse New Zealand to identify potential areas of competitive advantage.  The research team recommended the software sector.

1992 – The first IT Industry Body, ITANZ is created to create a voice for the tech sector.

1996 – The first sizing of the tech sector is published.  It is worth $3.2 billion in revenues and contributes $292 million in exports.

2000 – The Government holds the Knowledge Wave conference. Some good things emerge like Kea New Zealand, New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and New Zealand Story. The Government invested $1.3 million in the creation of an ICT sector umbrella group, ICT-NZ.

2004 – When ICT-NZ is launched, unfortunately this drives fragmentation as no one can agree on a single purpose. Instead, new groups began to form and by late 2005 there were over 140 small groups representing sector interests.

2005 – The Government publishes its first Digital Strategy.

2006 – ITANZ and the New Zealand Software Association (NZSA) fail to attract enough membership funding to survive and dissolve.  NZSA repeats this process three more times before closing again in 2021.

2007 – The Government stops funding ICT-NZ, noting that it had gathered insufficient industry support due to a lack of member benefits.

2008 – The Government publishes its second Digital Strategy 2.0 and announces that they would create and fund a new ‘digital sector super group’ and commit $825K establishment and $400K annual support funding.  This idea was later scrapped with a change of Government. 

2008 – Following the ‘digital super group’ announcement, 30 CEO’s of ICT firms decide to launch NZICT, without Government funding. The aim is to provide an industry funded umbrella group.

2013 – Suffering the same fate as ITANZ before it, the NZICT is perceived solely as the voice of big tech in New Zealand.  Members voted to change the New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTIA) to attract a broader member base. The organisation reaches a representation of 90.

2016 – following a strategy deep dive, the organisation repositions its focus on supporting other associations.  NZTech was created and the Tech Alliance soon after.  NZTech is redesigned as an NGO, providing the voice of the tech ecosystem and bringing together communities, organisations and people that wish to work together to create a more socially and economically prosperous New Zealand.

2016 – NZTech works with the Government to analyse the size of the economic contribution of tech for New Zealand.  Twenty years after the first market sizing of the New Zealand tech sector it has grown to produce $16.2 billion in GDP and $6.3 billion in exports, becoming the third largest export sector.

2021 – NZTech and the Tech Alliance now connect and coordinate 22 tech associations representing over 1,600 members who collectively employ more than 10 percent of the New Zealand workforce. Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export contributor and the New Zealand Government is working on a Digital Strategy.

I’m sure you will agree it has been an interesting journey and I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years may bring.  No doubt the tech sector will create many more jobs for all New Zealanders and potentially have grown to be the largest export contributor, lifting New Zealand’s productivity and every Kiwi’s quality of life.

Ngā mihi

Graeme Muller

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NZTech We connect, promote and advance the New Zealand Technology ecosystem to help the tech sector and the economy grow.