Christchurch Tech on Show

By 

Sector Leader – Technology at Canterbury Development Corporation

Christchurch has shown its best colours this last couple of weeks and the tech sector has shone brightly.

Last week was the 14th annual Canterbury Tech Summit (previously the Software Summit) and on Wednesday night we all put on our glad rags and celebrated success at the Champion Canterbury Awards.

The Tech Summit was the biggest yet – sold out with over 650 people. Mainly from Christchurch, but people flew in from other parts of NZ to hear local and global speakers, see businesses and community showcases in the exhibition area and to network, network, network! If anyone still clings on to the idea that tech people are all shy, introverted geeks, then come along to a tech event and see just what a social bunch most of us are!!

The Summit opened with Prime Minister John Key reiterating the importance of tech to New Zealand’s economy in terms of GDP and employment. A real drawcard was Sir Ray Avery who observed that New Zealanders view the

“impossible as just the beginning”

of our thinking and innovating. While other people say it can’t be done, we get on and make it happen. I particularly enjoyed the Fourth Industrial Revolution panel discussion with John Ascroft (CIO at Jade), Kaila Colbin (Singularity Uni convener), Rob Lindeman (Research lead at the HiT Lab) and Gabe Rijpma (Senior Director Health & Social Services Asia for Microsoft). Some very different views of how fast the technology landscape is changing and what this means to us in New Zealand.

A few more general highlights for me:

  • The Summit continues to highlight just what fantastic technology is created right here in Christchurch. We do however need to get better at telling people about our ‘world class‘ products and services – a message that was reiterated in a number of sessions. Sian Simpson from the Kiwi Landing Pad challenged us to stop saying our products were ‘quite good’ when the fact is they are simply fantastic!! People don’t want to buy ‘quite good’!
  • Welcoming new faces. With the renaming of Canterbury Software to Canterbury Tech we are starting to see non-software companies and more business people (sales, marketing, finance, HR) behind the technology join these events. We all learn from each other and it’s exciting to see the conversations that are starting to happen. Work in progress and the Cluster Committee (of which I am a member) would love to hear from people with suggestions of how to keep this happening
  • Gender diversity. Another work in progress, but as a Committee we had a deliberate policy to take a leadership role and proactively increase diversity in the Summit. This resulted in more female speakers, MCs and attendees. We know we still have some way to go, but I was really pleased to see the impact a decision by a small group of volunteers is able to have on our sector
  • Community Zone – Christchurch has a really vibrant and well connected technology sector and soooo much of the wheels of our community is oiled by good people who give their time for free, or for very little to help us connect, learn and grow – I wrote a blog about this some time ago in Be The Change…. This year for the first time the exhibition space had a Community Zone with representatives from Code Club Aotearoa, Canterbury Angels, Women in Tech Meetup, Fabriko, Ministry of Awesome, Ara Tech Girls and the University of Canterbury Computer Chicks and CompSoc. Thanks to Flick Electric for sponsoring this area and enabling it to happen…it was buzzing (oops, that wasn’t originally meant to be a deliberate pun!)

On Wednesday night the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Champion Canterbury Awards. Champagne corks popped as black ties and pretty frocks mixed with zebras and peacocks (don’t ask!). Finalists came from across Canterbury, from tourism and infrastructure to charity and marketing. I was thrilled to see the number of technology firms who were both finalists and winners of the awards, including Linewize, eStar, CCL, ARANZ Medical, Link Engine Management, Trineo, Foot Science and Invert Robotics. Or in other words, from school firewalls, e-commerce, software development and data centres to fast cars, orthotics and wound management, to little robot things that crawl over your dairy vat or aeroplane! All created and made here in Christchurch.

A particular shout-out to Bruce Davey from ARANZ Medical, who used his Champion Canterbury Medium/Large Enterprise Supreme Winner acceptance speech to call for more young people to join the tech industry. This was particularly sweet to me as a message I espouse on a not infrequent basis! The number of tech companies who participated in different categories as finalists and winners was quite impressive. On a side observation, I would suggest it is time the Champion Canterbury Awards has a dedicated tech award given the importance of technology companies to our economy….

Then it was time to dance the night away and celebrate all that is great about Christchurch.

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