IN­NO­VA­TION THAT'S GOOD FOR THE WORLD: A LOOK BACK AT TECHWEEK’S BIG­GEST YEAR ON RECORD

An­other year of Techweek has come and gone, with more than 470 events tak­ing place cel­e­brat­ing the tech sec­tor across New Zealand. This year’s fes­ti­val was the big­gest recorded and marked a push to get un­der­rep­re­sented com­mu­ni­ties in tech – such as women,

Idealog - - IDEALOG / ATEED -

Techweek orig­i­nally be­gan as part of ATEED’s In­no­va­tion Pro­gramme in Tech­weekAKL in 2016. That first year, 55 events held in Auck­land were at­tended by 10,000 peo­ple, prov­ing the de­mand was there for a week ded­i­cated to cel­e­brat­ing New Zealand’s tech prow­ess, as well as ed­u­cat­ing New Zealan­ders on new tech­nolo­gies.

In 2017, Tech­weekAKL be­came a na­tion­wide an­nual fes­ti­val called Tech­weekNZ, with 287 events spread­ing across the coun­try, at 24 lo­ca­tions, and more than 20,000 New Zealan­ders get­ting in­volved.

And in 2018, the fes­ti­val’s size was a tes­ta­ment to the tech­nol­ogy now

un­der­pin­ning all busi­ness sec­tors. In Auck­land alone, the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor con­trib­utes al­most $8 bil­lion a year in GDP and sup­ports more than 47,000 jobs.

With tech­nol­ogy be­ing a key driver in New Zealand's long-term eco­nomic growth, ATEED's goal is to help build on the strength of the tech sec­tor, as the re­gion works to­wards be­com­ing a ma­jor in­no­va­tion hub of the Asia-Pa­cific.

Tech­weekNZ’18 helped ce­ment that with a record-break­ing year, with more than 500 events across the coun­try in Auck­land, Welling­ton, Christchurch, Dunedin, Taranaki, Palmerston North, Tau­ranga, Gis­borne and fur­ther afield.

Gen­eral man­ager of eco­nomic devel­op­ment at ATEED, Pam Ford, says Techweek’18 at­tracted par­tic­i­pants from around New Zealand and fur­ther abroad, in­clud­ing in­flu­encers, in­no­va­tors, in­vestors and re­searchers.

She says the fes­ti­val suc­ceeded in am­pli­fy­ing the sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses that are com­ing up with in­spir­ing ways to shape our fu­ture for the bet­ter.

“Auck­land’s di­verse tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­i­ties were show­cased dur­ing the event through work­shops and pro­grammes cater­ing to chil­dren, women, Māori and Pa­cific peo­ple – all groups who have huge po­ten­tial to take ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy revo­lu­tion,” she says.

“Many other tech events are hap­pen­ing any­way – for peo­ple work­ing and want­ing to learn about bit­coin or blockchain or AR/ VR, through cor­po­rate or in­dus­try-type en­tre­pre­neur­ial events for in­stance – but be­ing able to in­tro­duce a pro­gramme that is cre­ated by and spe­cific to women, chil­dren, and Māori and Pa­cific peo­ple in tech is a tes­ta­ment to the ma­tu­rity of Techweek.”

Bet­ter in­clu­sion of these un­der­rep­re­sented groups also played into the fes­ti­val’s over­ar­ch­ing theme of ‘In­no­va­tion that's good for the world’.

Events cen­tred around this in­cluded the DIGMYIDEA Ideation Week­end, TECHqual­ity: Women at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy and Southtech­week18-XLR8, which aimed to in­crease the po­ten­tial of young Māori and Pa­cific peo­ple in the dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion space through work­shops and ac­ti­va­tions.

Southtech­week18-XLR8 was hosted by The South­ern Ini­tia­tive at the Voda­fone Events Cen­tre in South Auck­land, with project man­ager Michelle Wil­son say­ing it was im­por­tant to show Māori and Pa­cific youth the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties in the tech in­dus­try, as that un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion is cost­ing New Zealand’s tech in­dus­try di­verse view­points and new ways of in­no­vat­ing.

She says the or­gan­i­sa­tion is aware of the di­vide be­tween the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in these com­mu­ni­ties, so get­ting more Māori and Pa­cific tamariki into the dig­i­tal space through events like Techweek’18 will help bridge that di­vide and al­le­vi­ate so­cioe­co­nomic is­sues im­pact­ing them.

“Cre­at­ing these types of events shows young peo­ple a re­flec­tion of them­selves in re­gards to these Māori and Pa­cific dig­i­tal in­no­va­tors speak­ing, and that it isn’t a hard path­way to take,” Wil­son says.

“It’s show­ing them that this is ac­tu­ally a re­ally mean­ing­ful ca­reer jour­ney you could take, which in turn helps these tech teach­ers na­tion­ally, as what we’re see­ing is not enough young peo­ple com­ing into this in­dus­try, es­pe­cially from Māori and Pa­cific com­mu­ni­ties.”

An­other high­light of Techweek was the Chang­ing the World with Creativ­ity and In­no­va­tion event, which cel­e­brated Auck­land’s unique creative sec­tor.

Auck­land’s di­verse tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­i­ties were show­cased dur­ing the event through work­shops and pro­grammes cater­ing to chil­dren, women, peo­ple – all groups who have huge po­ten­tial to tech­nol­ogy revo­lu­tion.

It was the first time the event was held and was a great way of show­cas­ing that there’s no short­age of creativ­ity in Auck­land. Half of all peo­ple em­ployed in the creative sec­tor in New Zealand are based in Auck­land, and the sec­tor is made up of 10,000 busi­nesses – to­talling 5.4 per cent of to­tal busi­nesses in the city. It also gen­er­ates $2.8 bil­lion in GDP and em­ploys close to 31,000 peo­ple.

As­so­ciate di­rec­tor of Un­leash Space Darsel Keane said the event’s aim was to em­power and in­spire the stu­dent com­mu­nity to get their creative juices flow­ing.

“They hear lots of buzz­words like 3D print­ing, AR/VR and creativ­ity, but that link is hard to make in terms of what it means for them and how they har­ness it,” Keane says.

“We em­power them by giv­ing them ex­am­ples of peo­ple who are do­ing amaz­ing things.”

But she says more im­por­tantly, the di­ver­sity on dis­play on the panel sent a mes­sage to the stu­dents.

Speak­ers in­cluded Auck­land Bio­engi­neer­ing In­sti­tute as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the Aug­mented Hu­man Lab Su­ranga Nanayakkara, South­side Rise’s Dr Michelle Jo­hanns­son and Univer­sity of Auck­land Soul Cap­i­tal’s Dr Deb Shep­herd.

Nanayakkara was in­spired to cre­ate prod­ucts that en­able ac­ces­si­bil­ity be­cause he used to be un­able to read English, so when he learnt about com­put­ers, the tech­nol­ogy wasn’t ac­ces­si­ble to him.

This led him to found­ing the Aug­mented Hu­man Lab to ex­plore ways of cre­at­ing hu­man-com­puter in­ter­faces that are a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of peo­ple’s minds, bod­ies and be­hav­iour, as well as cre­ate sen­sory aug­men­ta­tion that en­hances hu­man per­cep­tion.

A lot of the work is fo­cused on in­no­vat­ing for those who suf­fer from hear­ing or vi­sion prob­lems, as Nanayakkara be­lieves while tech­nol­ogy has been great for most, it has ex­cluded those who are im­paired.

Keane says she hopes at­ten­dees iden­ti­fied with some of the panel and saw what they are ca­pa­ble of.

“Be­cause we’ve got a di­verse rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what creativ­ity and in­no­va­tion looks like, it em­pow­ers them to do some­thing with those skills.”

An­other one of Techweek’s events, the Sports Per­for­mance In­no­va­tion Fo­rum, show­cased how de­spite be­ing a small na­tion com­pet­ing on the world stage, in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy has helped New Zealand ex­cel when fund­ing falls short.

Key­note speaker, award-win­ning cy­clist and Amer­ica’s Cup win­ner Si­mon van Velthooven shared that us­ing the right tech­nol­ogy has given him an ad­van­tage over his com­peti­tors, even if it’s just a placebo ef­fect on his men­tal­ity.

“When you know you’ve got good gear un­der­neath you, you feel like you’ve got a bet­ter chance than what you had be­fore to get the re­sult you de­sire or de­serve,” he says.

“When you be­lieve in the kit you’ve got, you go that ex­tra one per­cent to win a race. If you don’t be­lieve in it and go in with a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude, that is the big­gest hur­dle.”

ATEED’s Ford says she hopes peo­ple have come away from Techweek ei­ther in­spired to do some­thing in tech­nol­ogy or with tech­nol­ogy, or to learn more about tech­nol­ogy.

“The key point is it’s so sat­is­fy­ing and en­cour­ag­ing to see how Techweek’s grown so rapidly in a very short space of time. It shows how tech ori­en­tated we are as a city and a na­tional com­mu­nity.”

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