Are we doing enough to ensure the future prosperity of New Zealand’s technology industry?
For New Zealand to have a flourishing tech sector, which could become a leading source of export revenues, we need to focus on developing the next generation of computer scientists and tech entrepreneurs from a young age.
To achieve this, we need to ignite an interest in creating and working with technology among Kiwi kids as early as possible. This can be done by introducing both basic programming and business studies at primary school level.
The earlier we get kids involved and interested in computer science and running their own ventures, the more likely they are to pursue a career in technology or become tech entrepreneurs.
I believe this is particularly true of girls – the sooner they can get excited about technology, the more immune they will be to the perception that this is the sole domain of boys.
While primary schools do provide technology classes, these tend to focus on teaching kids how to use computers and programs like Microsoft Word or Excel, rather than actual programming or getting into the guts of computers to understand how they work.
Kids these days are already familiar with how to use computers and smart devices, so there is far greater potential in teaching them how to program and create their own websites, games and applications.
Equally, we should try and ignite kids’ entrepreneurial spirit at a young age.
There are definitely opportunities for kids at primary school level to develop small scale businesses, such as creating and selling apps or games. They would begin to understand and appreciate how business and commerce work – and earn some pocket money in the process.
Nurturing the next generation of computer scientists and tech entrepreneurs will serve to develop much needed technical talent and create opportunities for economic growth.
We currently do not have enough technical people coming through our education system and relying on importing these resources from an increasingly competitive international market is not viable in the long-term.
We need to train more computer scientists to develop a sustainable local pool of technical talent, while fostering entrepreneurship can create a vibrant tech industry to drive future growth.
And it’s here where girls in particular can play a leading role.
Many young Kiwi men who go overseas never return, but young women more often do. Also, businesses started and run by women tend to be more focussed on long-term growth, while their male counterparts are more likely to jump onto an idea, run with it for a while and then move onto the next thing.
I believe encouraging more girls to become tech entrepreneurs will help New Zealand generate a more diverse technology sector that will retain and develop more local talent.
This would go a long way to changing the IT industry from being the male dominated place it is today, which will further help encourage more girls to consider a career in technology.
But it is also important for New Zealand’s future economic growth.
Traditionally, our exports have been dominated by primary industries, but how long can we rely on one sector for our export earnings?
Over time it will become more expensive to export these goods as the cost of fuel and offsetting the carbon footprint of producing these products rises, while competition from overseas markets will only intensify.
For New Zealand to stay competitive in the international marketplace, we will have to start exporting something else. If we don’t build an export-focussed technology industry, what are we going to rely on in the future?
And how will we build such an industry without a serious focus on developing the next generation of both computer scientists and tech entrepreneurs?
How do we do this? I have a few ideas of my own and will share those in my next post…
By Bruce Aylward, CEO, Psoda