So, how did Techweek go?
It exceeded expectations, not that we necessarily knew what the baseline would look like. We've wanted to do an event of some form about technology, innovation, and the digital economy for some time, something that would become a regular feature in the Auckland calendar that provided greater visibility around this whole space.
We've been quite deliberate to say this is the first time we've done it. We think it's the right thing to do to provide a platform and greater visibility to all those things that were already happening, things that are important parts of our economy, whether that's kids learning code through OMGTech!, to people thinking about entrepreneurship through Startup Weekend or showcasing new technologies and how they're transforming businesses, whether that's virtual reality, drones, all those types of things.
Did the umbrella of Techweek have a positive effect on those pre-existing events?
Yes – we're pleased that Techweek hit the right nerve in terms of providing a platform for a lot of stuff that's already happening. The current numbers from some of the events were higher than they might have otherwise been. The Hi-Tech Awards sold out with 100 on the wait list.
What did you discover through Techweek?
What we've uncovered is that there's a lot of activity which is quite diverse in its nature, there's demand for it. There were more things happening than we anticipated. I think there were nearly 60 different events happening, with 80 different speakers. That's brilliant but is that too much to manage in a single week because if you tried to go to everything, you'd never have a chance to do it all or take it all in.
So what now? Is it too early to say Techweek will be back next year?
We're engaging with partners to ask what we do with it now. We've developed an asset, we've proven there's demand. What are the ways we can move this forward? What does the community want from this? Is there someway we could work with partners to showcase and create investment interest in some of these technologies and what would that look like in future years. And while we had a number of different events of varying scales, is there something that can either be attracted through our business events programme or built which takes it to another level altogether? So, what's the Auckland equivalent of Vivid or something that could come out of it?
How else might it evolve?
Steven Joyce laid down a challenge to us, saying 'This is great, how do we have a national Techweek and what does it mean for other locations?' We know that the tech sector is growing within New Zealand at around nine percent a year, and it's not just about ICT companies but how technology transforms all businesses. So we're asking 'Did it meet expectations? Great! What else do we want to do with it?' There's an opportunity to build on the national level.
Also, we know we've got some significant challenges around tech skills. Elements of the Techweek programme spoke to that – particularly OMGTech! and some of the stuff around MOTAT – but you don't solve all of those issues with events. So what does the momentum created mean for how we work with industry partners like NZ Tech to actually improve skills so Techweek isn't just about celerbating the tech sector but it's part of a broader set of activity that helps unlock those opportunities, whether that's more skills, more jobs, more investment.