The Idealog Tech Manifesto

The online revolution hit my little corner of the world in the late 90s, when my dad got us our first dial-up modem. Once my father had finished connecting it to that beige monstrosity we called a computer, I was allowed to flip the switch and turn it on. It was in that moment that I first heard the siren call of the internet, and in that symphony of screeching and cawing, life as I knew it changed forever.

Since then, the internet - and technology in general - has evolved at a rapid pace, and so has my love for it. I've seen the rise of mobile; the decline of PCs; billionaire college dropouts; Google; YouTube; Facebook; dotcom busts and even a busted Dotcom.

Technology was a big part of my childhood and now as the tech editor of Idealog, I actually get paid to write about it, which is pretty much the second best job I can think of after being Batman.

Today we're kicking off the Idealog Tech section in full earnest. We're starting small with the goal of full blown world domination in the future. This includes a new weekly technology-focused newsletter (which you should definitely sign up to here),  more coverage of New Zealand tech's up and comers, and reviews of the latest gadgets.

The upper ups at Idealog HQ asked me to write down exactly what I had in mind for the future of Idealog Tech (perhaps as a legal precaution?), and I wanted to share it with you.

Tech is the new black (and damn is it sexy)

Technology is New Zealand’s third largest industry after tourism and dairy. According to the TIN 100, the top 100 Kiwi tech companies alone had a combined revenue of $8 billion last year. The wider sector gainfully employs 40,000 people who would otherwise be ungainfully employed. 

Last year the country’s largest software exporter, Orion Health, posted annual results of almost $100 million. Orion is on track to become a billion-dollar entity by 2020, all the while adding hundreds of jobs to the New Zealand economy. On the other end of the scale, and featured in this issue of Idealog, is indie gaming studio Grinding Gear Games, which is developing a game that currently has hundreds of thousands of players – and it hasn’t even officially launched. 

Yet I would wager that outside of those in the technology filter bubble, very few people are aware of the impact these companies and the technology sector has on the New Zealand economy. I want to change this.

Idealog Tech will highlight and celebrate the successes of New Zealand’s technology community, point out its shortfalls along the way, and document the journey towards becoming a global technology hub. Content is king, but inspiration is kinglier, and we will endeavour to curate inspiration technology stories with the hope that the next Orion or Grinding Gear will come from one of our readers.

Addressing our weaknesses and becoming world class

To make New Zealand the Silicon Valley of the South Pacific, we need world-class infrastructure. Technology giants such as Google need three things to invest its billions into a country: good connectivity, good people and good laws.

The roll out of the government's Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network goes some way towards addressing the issue of connectivity, but without better international capacity we’re just creating a $1.5 billion intranet.

The roll out is a multi-year process, with residents in many regions unlikely to be connected until after 2017. However this frustration pales in comparison the plight of rural New Zealanders, who in many cases are on connections barely faster than the dial-up I was using more than a decade ago.

How do we level the disparity between urban and rural, and considering our small but scattered population, is it even possible to do so?

Infrastructure doesn’t end at ducts and fibre – it also needs people. Right now New Zealand is in the middle of a skills shortage affecting the full spectrum of the industry. Tertiary institutes across Australia and New Zealand are seeing a decline in graduates with technology-related degrees, putting at risk the supply of talented and skilled workers in future New Zealand startups. What are some ways we can encourage young people to take up an interest in the field from an early age, and what initiatives already exist but need a bigger spotlight?

Encouraging foreign investment in New Zealand’s tech scene requires intellectual property laws that protect, but also encourage, innovation. It means keeping our patent laws clear and unmuddied by the addition of vague clauses. And it means copyright laws that give fair and reasonable punishment for infringing the rights of artists, but at the same time limits their potential to be abused by corporations.

Being human readable

I consider myself technologically savvy. I can build an HTML website, pretty it up with CSS, and make it behave like an app using JavaScript. However, if you asked me about the inner workings of the PABX box at my office, I would just stare at you blankly.

It’s impossible to have an expertise in everything, and it’s unfair to expect that from our readers. Stories in the Idealog Tech section will aim to keep the barrier to entry low and as devoid of jargon as I can possibly help it. It doesn’t mean we’ll dumb down the content, but rather we’ll try to do a better job of exploring the topic so you come out the other side of the article just a bit more knowledgeable than when you started.\

This goes for gadget reviews too. Tech reviewers (myself included) often get bogged down by the specs, which more often than not are expensive marketing gimmicks (seriously, who really needs Beats by Dre for their phones?). The reviews in the new tech section will be about the experience, not just the numbers written on the box.

There you have it, a few simple goals for Idealog Tech in 2013. Once we’ve got that sorted, we’ll start making plans for world domination in 2014. If you’d like to add to the conversation about the New Zealand technology scene with your story or opinion, please get in touch with me at sim@idealog.co.nz or @simantics