ATEED chief executive Brett O'Riley has articulated a five-year vision for a new Auckland that's better connected and poised to thrive in the 21st century.
The key components include:
- Businesses co-located on all the major tertiary campuses in Auckland
- A continuation of initiatives like co-working space the BizDojo, Mindhive (featured in the last issue of Idealog) and Takapuna's push to create a 'Silicon Beach' style area
- An "innovation corridor" (our version of Silicon Valley) dotted with precincts in industries like technology and food/beverages
Speaking at the ng Connect Smarter Cities forum at AUT yesterday, he said changes had to be led by demand, and public transport must be top of the list for ease of movement and to encourage population growth.
Auckland's a small place and so we tend to all know (or know of) each other, but collaboration remains a struggle. O'Riley points out that one barrier is the fact that it's somewhat physically difficult to move around Auckland, hence the need to connect businesses and people electronically (online) and physically (through hubs and better transport).
Key to achieving this will be two factors: equity and access. “Without access, how can you participate?” he asked. “We can do some really bright shiny things … but this has got to be a really purposeful movement that means engaging with all our citizens.”
O'Riley acknowledged that the majority of land is still rural and remains important to our overall quality of life, and that maintaining this in a sustainable way needs to be part of future strategies.
A city to test technology
There are many reasons why tech companies like Facebook and LinkedIn test out new features in New Zealand first – O'Riley lists our “benign” legal environment, diverse population, high internet penetration and percentage of early adopters. And that's something we should be doing more of, he says – engaging tech companies both here and abroad about trialling ideas in Auckland.
A poster child for tech testing grounds here is Pt England School, which in conjunction with new venture Hapara, has been praised by Google as the best example of smart technology harnessed for educational transformation anywhere in the world.
Pupils at this low-decile primary school generally start school two years behind on literacy and numeracy skills, principal Russell Burt says, but an innovative new approach to learning in which every student uses Chromebooks (which parents pay a small amount toward weekly) has reaped dividends.