10 Jan 2018

Outspoken - Business Technology Threats

From Outspoken, 3:00 pm on 10 January 2018

In the past few months, the rise of digital currency bitcoin, artificial intelligence and robotic advice have captured tech commentators' imagination, while also prompting warnings of the risks they pose.

Robots

Robots Photo: RNZ

Already, New Zealand's biggest technology companies, such as accounting firm Xero and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, contributed around $10 billion in revenue to the economy in 2017.

Government-funded Callaghan Innovation's national technology network manager Jesse Keith said local companies were receiving a lot of money to research and develop.

"Obviously with Callaghan, we are the Government agency to help support New Zealand business and innovation, so there are grants that go out... there's $140 million a year that goes out in R & D grants to support businesses," he said.
 
But Mr Keith said one thing that went against New Zealand was its size. 

"We can obviously develop technology to increase our own productivity in New Zealand, but there's also the challenge of it's a really small market," he said.

"Companies need to be ambitious in going after global markets as well, they are the biggest scalable markets for us."

He said New Zealand businesses needed to be collaborating and looking to work with international tech leaders such as Apple and Google. 

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard Photo: Radio NZ / Jemma Brackebush

Technology commentator Ben Gracewood said there was a bit of experimenting going on in the New Zealand industry. 

"There's always the case where you do need to speculate and take a stab, so I suppose that is one area where it is a bit trickier in New Zealand where that sort of free-flow of venture capital is a bit harder to come by," he said.

"But still, it is going pretty well. There's a few good startups bubbling along, and the money is being directed fairly well," he said.

Mr Gracewood said one area to boost the country's reputation would be in exporting.

"If we can get our exports up ... we're third on exports for technology, so if we can get that higher then that's good because the inputs are fewer ... it is just a person and a computer, it's a lot less impact on the environment," he said. 

Federated Farmers technology spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said the rise in technology was unlikely to result in job losses in farming. 

"I think the labour component, the same number of people will still be required, on the plus side hopefully they won't have to work as long... so with technology we can make it less which would make the job more attractive," he said.

Mr Hoggard said there were plenty of opportunities, particularly with the so-called internet of things. 

Jessie Keith agreed, saying about 50 percent of jobs expected to change in the next decade, with a greater focus on technology. 

Outspoken is a series in which RNZ's experienced correspondents host debates on some of the top issues of the year - and the year ahead. Listen to episodes here.
 

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