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​Why isolation is now irrelevant for NZ’s burgeoning tech success

​Why isolation is now irrelevant for NZ’s burgeoning tech success

“The world doesn’t give a hoot about our size or location on the map."

Bennett Medary - Chair, NZTech

Bennett Medary - Chair, NZTech

New Zealand’s tech sector is taking off as innovation, global connectedness and bandwidth obviate the country’s small size and global isolation.

That’s the view of NZTech chair Bennett Medary, speaking as the industry clocks up over 29,000 tech firms with nearly 100,000 employees, collectively contributing $16.2 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) and producing $6.3 billion in exports as the country’s third biggest revenuer earner.

“The world doesn’t give a hoot about our size or location on the map,” Medary says.

“They recognise our innovation and quality, our ease of doing business, our trustworthiness, and frankly still, the beauty of our country and its people.

“We’ll know we’ve made it when we’re recognised for being the world’s most tech savvy country, as well as being the most beautiful to visit and best source of food, wine, human talent, natural pharmaceuticals and many other things that we can sustain as best in the world.

“Small and clean is beautiful and we are no longer isolated from markets in the way we once were. Actually our relative insignificance and neutrality in geopolitical terms makes us an attractive host nation.”

For Medary, isolation now is more about connectivity and bandwidth as opposed to freight distances.

“If we are cohesive as well as small, we can then also be both agile and decisive,” Medary adds.

“That’s a huge competitive advantage and the Government’s recent actions in support of our budding commercial space industry with Rocket Lab is a great example.”

After six years at the helm of NZTech, Medary is stepping down as chair, alluding that “it’s very important to bring freshness to the chair role as well.”

Despite departing, Medary says the tech sector is New Zealand’s fastest growing industry, with a desire to see tech, tourism and dairying all growing concurrently.

“Some industries, like dairy, are in a world market down cycle after some liquid gold glory years,” Medary says.

“Tourism is booming. Technology will most likely continue to outstrip other sector growth rates, which is in part double counting, as the most important aspect of growth in this sector is through its digital enablement of the rest of the economy, including government.

“Can New Zealand become, per capita, the high tech capital of the world within five years? Maybe not five, but that would be my fervent wish, particularly in terms of how we make best use technology as a digital nation.”

In short, Medary believes the economic and social benefit potential is almost surreal.

“If we were to truly commit to this as an explicit core national strategy and engage with global partners, for example as a global incubator or proof of concept nation, we could achieve an astonishing amount in five to 10 years,” he adds.

“The Government needs to be bold and proud about our strategic direction as a digital nation. We need to add that to our national culture and psyche.

Read more: Graeme Muller sets agenda for the NZ technology sector

“That requires leadership. Industry has to continue to mature in collaborating at a strategic level. Government will support industry led initiatives and partner on aspects of execution and funding.”

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