The largest annual national festival of tech and innovation events, Techweek2021 has something for everyone. Kicking off on 22 May, the weeklong technology festival is themed ‘Connecting for a Better Future’, and, more than showcasing the country’s hotbed of innovation and achievement, it seeks solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues.
That’s according to Graeme Muller, NZTech CEO. “This year, we have over 300 events all over the country. We’ve also forged a new relationship with TEDxAuckland, which kicks off the week with 15+ amazing talks to inspire, educate and share. But more than that, Techweek and our partners are showing how and why technology is the answer to the biggest problems the world faces right now.”
Muller says a beneficial side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it threw technology’s remarkable capacity for facilitating human flexibility and resilience into stark relief. “The minute lockdown hit, we all knew it: coping with sudden change depended on technology. We saw a mad rush to video conferencing, working in the cloud, mobile technologies and more. When the question was how do we keep the country running in extraordinary circumstances, the answer was loud-and-clear, technology.”
While New Zealand is practically back to ‘business-as-usual’ – hence Techweek taking place as physical, digital and hybrid events - the pandemic lingers on all over the world. But our nation isn’t immune, despite vaccine rollouts. “Skills shortages have long plagued the tech ecosystem. With freezes on travel and immigration, the situation is exacerbated – but, once again, answers can be found in technology.”
Whether that is through digital learning, outreach programmes, or productivity improvements using remote access and communication tools which enable trained professionals to spend more time doing and less time commuting, Muller says it is a reality that companies are now compelled to look inwards for their human resource requirements.
He points to a recently released report from NZTech, ‘Digital Skills For Our Digital Future’, which found systemic challenges requiring urgent national attention. “Specifically, there is an absence of coordinated effort to upskill locally. This results in dramatic skills challenges, driving a heavy reliance on immigration and under-investment in developing the existing workforce.”
With the immigration pipeline at least temporarily restricted, technology itself must address the dearth of technology skills, Muller points out. “A further effect is that organisations must look for opportunities for efficiency gains through automation, robotics (whether software or hardware), and process optimisation,” he adds. “All these initiatives have something in common: they rest on technology.”
Even climate change, widely recognised as humanity’s greatest challenge and described by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as ‘our generation’s nuclear moment’, is only addressable by the judicious application of technology. This ranges from improved methods for food production, to more efficient transport including electric self-driving vehicles, ride sharing, and even the battery powered scooters and their associated smartphone apps.
This, stresses Muller, is the crux of Techweek. “The programme of events is about inclusion and participation. We want every Kiwi to get involved, get thinking and get motivated. When we have problems as a society or species, the answers are found with technology – and more often than not, the answer doesn’t depend on inventing something entirely new, but instead comes from a novel combination of existing technologies.”
He therefore extends an invitation to Techweek to every New Zealander. “Opportunity is knocking. This is your chance to plug in, learn and get inspired. And that’s especially important for younger people, many of whom will be doing work in the future which doesn’t yet exist today. Come along and play your part in shaping tomorrow.”
Techweek2021 is a national celebration of tech and innovation presented by NZTech. During 22 – 30 May 2021, physical, hybrid and digital events that showcase the use of technology in Aotearoa New Zealand will take place across the country. Techweek2021 is supported by the Auckland University of Technology; Callaghan Innovation; IBM; Auckland Unlimited; Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Ministry of Education; New Zealand Trade and Enterprise; ANZ; Chorus; Media Design School; NZ Growth Capital Partners; ASX; Beca; CENNZnet, Datacom; Tower; Access Advisors; The Icehouse.