5 minutes with Carolyn Tremain

Meet our principal sponsor: the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

After getting on board with Techweek’17, the government’s lead business-facing agency MBIE is back this year as our principal sponsor. We caught up with MBIE’s chief executive Carolyn Tremain to talk about how MBIE is working to grow New Zealand’s tech sector and boost our country’s international reputation as a tech-savvy hub where world-leading solutions are born.

What does the Techweek’18 theme ‘innovation that’s good for the world’ mean to you?

I like that it’s bold, and inclusive. MBIE’s goal is to grow New Zealand for all and it’s a good fit with the Techweek theme. We are here to grow the New Zealand economy to provide a better standard of living for all New Zealanders. We work with others to help business to be more competitive, improve job opportunities and ensure quality housing is more affordable.

As our third largest export, which employs close to 100,000 people and contributes about $16.2 billion to the economy, the tech sector is key to helping us achieve our goal. Technology helps both large and small businesses to grow, to be more productive, to innovate and to connect with each other and with the rest of the world, ultimately positioning them to be more resilient and internationally competitive.

Technology helps both large and small businesses to grow, to be more productive...ultimately positioning them to be more resilient and internationally competitive.

Techweek’18 is an exciting opportunity to celebrate and promote the benefits of innovation and technology to businesses and people right across New Zealand.

To grow our international profile as a hub for innovation, R&D and technology, New Zealand will need to support the continued growth of sectors such as high-tech manufacturing and ICT. We’ll also need to increase the uptake of new technologies across all sectors so that our firms can reach wider markets, improve productivity and remain globally competitive. To support this, we’ll need to ensure we are helping our citizens become digitally capable and equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace.

What excites you most about New Zealand’s tech sector and what the future holds?

Digital technology is changing business models, the way New Zealanders live their lives, and how government makes decisions and interacts with society. While the digital economy is not new, the pace of change is greater now than in the past and this is likely to bring a range of challenges as well as opportunities. Harnessing digital advantages means that New Zealand businesses can continue to compete on the world stage.

The excitement for us lies in the possibilities – we’re preparing for a world we could once only imagine.  We’re already seeing impacts on society, business, communities and our economy. For example, using digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate is increasingly the norm, and businesses such as Airbnb and Uber are using technology to disrupt traditional business models and change how they deliver products and services.

We’re preparing for a world we could once only imagine.

The challenge for all regulators and policy makers is to ensure we stay ahead of the game, by undertaking research, by working across government and with industry to better understand the opportunities and challenges, and by ensuring that legislation and rules keep pace with, and where possible ahead of, this changing landscape.

What do you think makes New Zealand’s tech sector unique from a global perspective?

New Zealand is known for its pioneering spirit and for encouraging innovation. With our size, we can adapt quickly and we can collaborate to share information, identify opportunities and address challenges. I think this is a unique characteristic, and a major strength. It means we often work together – across the private and public sectors – to deliver for New Zealanders.

An example of this is MBIE’s digital economy work programme, where many of the initiatives involve working in partnership between government agencies and New Zealand’s digital community. While the Ministry has some of the levers to help grow our digital economy, such as our work on ensuring people and businesses can access fast, affordable and reliable broadband, or by using immigration levers to bring digital skills into New Zealand, we need to work with others.

On the topic of broadband – that’s also an area where New Zealand is standing out on the world stage. For population covered by fibre we’ve advanced in the OECD country rankings from 14th in 2015 to 11th in 2016, and once the UFB programme is complete New Zealand should be well into the top five in the OECD for having access to fibre, alongside Japan, South Korea and Spain.

New Zealand should soon be well into the top five in the OECD for having access to fibre broadband. 

Access to faster internet allows people, businesses and communities to connect across New Zealand and with the rest of the world. Through this focus on connectivity, we’re developing a competitive advantage by ensuring the infrastructure is in place that will allow New Zealand businesses to grow, while boosting our country’s international reputation as a high-tech hub for tech start-ups, entrepreneurs and investors.

What is MBIE most looking forward to about Techweek’18?

Techweek provides a great opportunity to bring people together and celebrate the positive impact technology and innovation can have, through sharing our success stories with each other and with the rest of the world. We’re especially excited about the nationwide focus of the event – it’s going to be fantastic to see so many events taking place right across the country, tapping into some of the talent and innovative ideas that are happening in both our regions and bigger centres.

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