Inspired by the New Zealand Tech Sector

Blog | 2020-08-27 | By: Mitchell Pham, chair of the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners of this year’s New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards — it was an honour to be among the many outstanding Kiwis and Kiwi businesses in the running for awards.

I’m a big supporter of the annual event.

As such, I would like to warmly thank the Hi-Tech Trust, sponsors and judges for not cancelling the gala event despite the obvious difficulties posed by COVID-19.

MC’s Greg Ward, Bonita Nuttall and Cat Coluccio did a great job keeping us all engaged online. So too did the chair of the New Zealand Hi-Tech Trust, Erin Wansbrough who introduced the awards.

It was a magic night.

To me, the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards has always been more than just a fun night out with a great crowd.

I see it as a vital date in the calendar to celebrate the industry, while recognising the positive impact we have on New Zealand’s economy, society and place in the world.

As the organisers put it on Friday: our industry is poised to be at the forefront of New Zealand’s post COVID-19 recovery — as well as its transformation as a nation.

Perhaps, though, the latter has always been the case.

On Friday, we were reminded that technology is possibly humanity’s greatest enabler.

For centuries, cultures have used technology to move from continent to continent, to develop much-needed tools and to innovate to solve difficult problems.

Used wisely, technology has the potential to create long term positive impact, reduce inequities and increase opportunities to learn and progress.

This truth is one of the primary reasons I’m proud to be a New Zealand tech entrepreneur and to front talented teams like the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand.

You only need to look at the many examples of technological advance showcased on Friday to see why the industry is an inspiration to so many.

The Xero Hi-Tech Young Achiever of the Year, Craig Piggott, for example, aged 21, founded agritech company Halter.

Inspired by his dairy farm upbringing, Craig developed a device that allows farmers to virtually fence, physically shift and monitor their herds remotely, making farming simpler and more sustainable.

Already Craig’s company has raised more than $10 million in funding from the world’s top venture capitalists.

Dr Michelle Dickinson won the IBM Hi-Tech Most Inspiring Individual of the Year for her incredible work inspiring young minds to take an interest in science and technology as Nanogirl.

With a PhD in Biomedical and Materials Engineering and as co-founder of Nanogirl Labs, Michelle has authored books, hosted TV shows and created live shows and podcasts as part of her mission to make science and engineering fun and accessible for everyone, no matter their age or education level.

Personally, it was humbling to (virtually) stand alongside Michelle, Jenene Crossan, Bruce Gordon and Serge Van Dam as nominees for the award.

IBM Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year winner finalists pictured.
Finalists of this year’s IBM Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year.
The winner of the IBM Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year, Dr Michelle Dickinson pictured
The winner of the IBM Hi-Tech Inspiring Individual of the Year, Dr Michelle Dickinson

My congratulations goes to all the award winners.

A particular shout-out to Emergency Q, who were deserving winners of the Callaghan Innovation Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau — Māori Company of the Year.

It was also wonderful to see SERKO take out the PwC Hi-Tech Company of the Year.

This awards, the 25th awards, was special for other reasons.

Not only was it possible to gain a view of some of the country’s most talented people and their achievements.

It was proof that despite the huge impact of a global epidemic we — as an industry — remain inspired and undeterred by the challenges ahead.