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A Kiwi-developed digital, business and learning tech hub has been launched in New Zealand to bridge the digital divide and help combat poverty in the country. The tech hub was developed by a team that provides the locals in the area with training, employment, and business leadership. The team said that they had to step up and develop the tech hub to increase digital connectivity to mitigate high poverty in the area.

At the opening, Regional Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said the hub was vitally important, especially with the digital advances during the COVID-19 lockdowns. He added that it is not about the future, it is about the present, and if we do not get this right in our communities, they will fall behind.

The Te Kona tech hub offers meeting rooms for hire, 10 hot desks, video conferencing facilities, event spaces, and reliable Wi-Fi which is in high demand in the region. It also provides digital literacy training, coding classes, and a mobile hub, which will take a mobile version of these services to more remote parts of the region. The developers will offer their training courses in the hub, as well as offering job-focused education modules.

The developers said that citizens in the area have not had access to strong connectivity for some time, so they needed to develop a space that would allow businesses to flourish and for students’ educational needs. The development of Te Kona has been supported by the government’s Provincial Development Unit, as well as other private institutions and foundations.

Furthermore, reports say that New Zealand may be at the bottom of the world when it comes to geographic locale, but Kiwis are quickly approaching the top when it comes to lean start-ups and tech. The report added that historically speaking when faced with a problem, or a need, New Zealanders prefer to find or create, a solution themselves. This combined with the fact that New Zealand is a great place to do business as some investors may say makes for an exciting time ahead for the New Zealand tech industry. New Zealand’s economic quality, business environment, governance, education, health, personal freedom, and environment all helped to place it first on the 149-country list on the Prosperity Index for 2016.

Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the New Zealand government is taking steps to protect and encourage small businesses from a tech perspective. Small businesses will now benefit from a government-funded Digital Boost skills training and support initiative.

The Digital Boost skills training is the first initiative to be launched from the Digital Boost programme, a partnership between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the private sector to support thousands of small businesses in realising the benefits of using digital tools and technologies in their business. The Small Business Digital Boost initiative will support more small business owners to realise the benefits of digitising their business. The programme aims to ensure small businesses acquire the right digital skills and online tools to help their business survive and thrive.

To deliver the training and support, MBIE is collaborating with a market partner who has extensive experience in helping business owners develop the capabilities needed to take advantage of the rapidly changing digital environment.

The Digital Boost programme is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together for New Zealand small businesses. Industry Leaders, small business owners and MBIE have designed this programme to meet the needs of the country’s SMEs. This is more pertinent as New Zealand, and indeed, the world is looking to come out of the pandemic more resilient and future-focused. Adapting to a digital world that is increasingly going online, contactless, and remote will be key.

A new data analytics and automation platform has been launched in New Zealand. It aims to give better planning and forecasting capabilities to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the country.

The developers chose New Zealand for its new tech due to the country’s high level of uptake for cloud solutions. The relatively advanced adoption of technology in general and maturity of the digital market surged especially during the age of COVID-19.

In the past, capitalising on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning required specialists or in-house technical capabilities and the deployment of substantial resources. This effectively excluded most small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 97% of businesses in New Zealand and more than half of employment worldwide. The developers say that their technology puts powerful data modelling — ordinarily the preserve of the world’s largest corporations — within reach of every business.

The developers said that the tech brings the speed, simplicity, and convenience of consumer apps to business forecasting to make better, faster, more informed decisions. They also added that most financial software being used today focuses on measuring the past. But in growing a profitable, sustainable business should be based on understanding the future.

The new forecasting tool is a no-code technology that reveals patterns in business data that are usually hidden from view. The product allows SMBs to utilise enterprise-level data analytics to assess the future commercial impact of decisions, identify the best outcomes, and prioritise investment and resources.

The tech enables small business leaders to model a variety of future commercial scenarios based on their historical data. With it, users can automate data processes, from the source to report, and run forecasts powered by AI predictive analytics. The predictive analytics also help uncover new insights, after which teams can predict potential outcomes, create interactive report templates, and share and collaborate on industry-grade workspace tools.

Furthermore, growing businesses in New Zealand are at the head of the pack globally when it comes to adopting cloud business technology, and the platform effectively gives them access to a data scientist, said the developers.

The tech developers offer welcome assistance to often-stretched finance and operations departments. They aim to reduce the tedious, painstaking, time-consuming process of forecasting and planning into the digital age, giving business owners more time to focus on the tasks that grow the business.

Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, New Zealand has an established and clear data strategy and roadmap for the nation. The strategy and roadmap are intended to provide a shared direction and plan that organisations within and outside government can collectively work towards and align their efforts to generate maximum impact. It acknowledges that there is a need for greater alignment and coordination of effort across the system. The government understands that global data growth enables innovative data uses that are transforming the world and that In New Zealand is uniquely positioned to maximise the value of data.

The government agrees that it has a unique role to play in laying the groundwork for the future data system. The roadmap envisages a future where data is regarded as an essential part of New Zealand’s infrastructure and where data use is underpinned by public trust and confidence. As such, greater data use needs to be balanced with the protection of privacy rights and ethical use.

The strategy is designed to unlock the value of data for the benefit of New Zealanders. It will start by directing activity in focus areas to deliver the most impact:

Focus area 1: Invest in making the right data available at the right time

Focus area 2. Grow data capability and support good practice

Focus area 3. Build partnerships within and outside government

Focus area 4. Implement open and transparent practices

This strategy is an initiative designed to emphasise the value of data and information in the country.

New Zealand has already embraced cloud computing enthusiastically. Studies have identified the increasing importance of the public cloud as a platform for digital innovation, concluding that organisations cannot innovate without leveraging all cloud technologies.

Now, the country is about to experience a whole new dimension in cloud computing with the arrival of its first hyper-scale data centre region.
Developed by a multinational tech giant, the new hyper-scale data centre region will create massive opportunities for organisations to leverage the capabilities of cloud infrastructure in the country. It could open the floodgates to cloud migration for New Zealand organisations— those in the banking, financial services, insurance, and public sectors which are required to store data locally.

The banking, finance and insurance sector is already the largest user of public cloud services, followed by the public sector. Once the new data centre region opens, these sectors will be able to keep all their files, including backups, onshore in New Zealand.

Researchers found evidence of huge growth in the use of cloud technologies in New Zealand, where 38% of organisations already take a cloud-first approach to investment in new IT systems. The research also shows that the establishment of New Zealand’s first hyper-scale data centre region will produce a ‘cloud dividend’ that will spur innovation, create skilled jobs, and open new opportunities for the country to export its innovations. It also estimates spending on public cloud services will almost double over the next four years, with cloud deployment creating 102,000 new jobs, including 18,500 skilled IT roles, in the same period.

However, the shortage of cloud skills in New Zealand is already well known. Demand for skills to manage cloud environments has outstripped supply and the launch of the new data centre region will create additional demand. To address this, the multinational tech giant is offering free certifications and training to enable IT professionals, to gain cloud skills. Businesses wanting to take full advantage of the cloud should encourage and support workers to take up these opportunities. The tech giant has also launched a series of Innovation Workshops to get people exploring, and realising, the innovation possibilities offered by their platform.

Regarding security, there are considerable benefits to using public cloud services. The tech giant offers a range of security features as standard that would be expensive to obtain by other means. Despite this, some organisations are reticent to use the cloud because of perceived security issues, those considering using the cloud to support Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing deployments. These issues can all be addressed by cloud services with the right configuration, based on a holistic view of security across the cloud environment, said the tech company.

With these recent expansions of cloud services, the company believes that tech developers will increasingly turn to public cloud services to create new technology products and services to benefit businesses and consumers. The more people with cloud skills, the more the country will benefit.
Accordingly, reports say that New Zealand needs to open its arms when it comes to new technology, with one industry expert saying that the country is not coping with enough change.

Experts say that New Zealand needs to embrace technology and not treat it as a threat. More and faster technology adoption will open opportunities to improve New Zealanders’ living standards, they added. Embracing technology implies supporting people who are less able to adjust, preparing young people for the future and setting policies and institutions that encourage the entry and uptake of new knowledge, processes, goods, and services by firms. A growing number of organisations believe in the important role that technology will have to help create a prosperous, safe, and sustainable New Zealand for the future.

Robots take the guesswork out of doctors’ handwriting at some of New Zealand’s medical clinics. These medical institutions believe that their usage of robotic process automation has been key in digitising mundane processes and better engaging customers—all without costing human jobs.

To put things into perspective, a doctor’s handwriting is a notoriously difficult read and has become something of a truism, but robotic process automation (RPA) can make short work of even the most indecipherable writing. That is the experience of 13 clinics, where the technology is achieving 98% accuracy rates when processing clinical referrals.

The medical practitioners say that it has often been difficult for their staff to transcribe clinician notes but giving the job to the robots resulted in fewer transcription errors and a process that has sped up remarkably. They said that the first robot, Matilda, was on-premises, but Matilda and their additional e-robot are now in the cloud, which has enabled more functionality, such as the use of optical character recognition technology to process referrals.

As robots can consume large amounts of data, they can scan all the clinic’s referrals and so it gives the AI all that data and it keeps learning and improving at a very rapid rate. So, when somebody writes an ‘I’ or an ‘E’ or an ‘R’, and the application has seen that several times, it is now well adept at recognising that that is the character that person has written down. It is the continuous learning loop and the ability to ingest huge amounts of data that makes it accurate, the medical practitioners say.

The Matilda robot now handles 98% of invoices automatically, and what previously took human workers eight to 10 hours, the robot completes it in two hours. This has allowed the medical institution to make invoices daily, instead of weekly, which has enhanced cash flow by NZ$200,000 per month.

However, the introduction of RPA originally caused some disquiet among staff, who were concerned that robots would replace them. The medical leaders say this is something all business leaders need to consider when introducing automation into the workflow. In the case of these clinics, there was a push to ensure people could be freed from mundane jobs to embark on more interesting high-value tasks. The tech adopters also said that they have not made anybody redundant, instead, they just repurposed and repackaged their team’s roles to make them evolve into a digital experienced team, that is focused on utilising technologies like RPA.

The clinics using the AI tech now consider themselves as a “bionic organisation”, by getting the best of people and digital technology. The clinics also see plenty of applications of RPA for the public healthcare sector — including with the COVID-19 response in the country. They added that the medical profession needs to recognise the commonalities, and in doing so embrace areas where automation can be used to make efficiencies and focus on the care of people, at the end of the day.

Accordingly, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has developed a Health Technology Innovation Framework to provide direction to health technology innovators and guide the use of emerging health technologies in supporting a strong and equitable public health and disability system. This is a key part of the Digital Health Strategic Framework and the role of the Ministry.

For the Ministry, identifying a problem that needs solving is often the first step in health innovation. Some problems will be investigated by New Zealand’s many research institutes and universities. This then may result in solutions that use new health technology or services, that could influence change within the country’s current health practices.

Scientists in New Zealand have designed a smart sleeve they say could help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the country’s border – and now aim to test it in MIQ facilities. The smart garment, created by a University of Auckland spin-out, aims to tackle an important hygiene issue – face-touching. The developers realised that this was a gap in the public health measures, so well publicised by the government, right from the beginning of the pandemic.

While wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and sneezing or coughing into our sleeves were all vital steps to stop spread, the tech developer said that face-touching remained a difficult problem to address. That is because it is almost always an unconscious or involuntary act and it occurs 15 to 30 times per hour.

The day before last year’s nationwide lockdown, the team mocked up a prototype for a comfortable, washable, “mini sleeve” that is worn on one elbow and under clothes. Over the next few weeks, they filed for IP on their invention, secured funding from a donor and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) therefore forming the tech company.

The key to the design is a programmable sensor that detects elbow flexion and when the hand approaches the face. It uses the well-known principle of haptic feedback to give a vibration alert – like a smartphone or smartwatch – when the hand approaches the face. This makes the user aware that they are about to touch their faces. Thus, the unconscious act becomes conscious, said the developers.

As for the design itself, the team is currently building Bluetooth functionality. It is not necessary but will add real value by allowing remote collection of anonymous data, software updates, push messaging, and incentivisation through graphics to show reduced face touching, they added.

Trials carried out with hospital junior doctors and supermarket staff have proven promising, they said, with 80% of wearers feeling they touched their faces less. The results have both encouraged and allowed developers to further improve the product. They added that they are now at the point where they are ready to work with targeted groups to ensure that the product is optimised to various at-risk settings.

Further trials were planned in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, an emergency department and at a large medical sales and distribution company. Beyond that, the team is seeking funding to conduct trials amongst the elderly, in rest homes, and with Maori/Pasifika people in their communities. The developers are also exploring the opportunities for airlines and airports and other public transport workers, such as bus drivers.

The team was concentrating initially on the New Zealand market, then aimed to enter the Australian markets when a travel bubble opened. They began discussions about the Asian market and have identified offshore manufacturing. They will also be working with NZ Trade and Enterprise to open these and other markets, such as Europe and the US.

For the developers, there is significant potential to develop the sleeve further with imaging, messaging, and fashion, including co-ordination with re-usable masks. Ultimately, the team hoped their smart sleeve might come to be an addition to personal protective equipment – as well as to counter other infectious diseases, or even some repetitive behaviour disorders.

However, they do not see it displacing any of the important public health measures, but rather they see it as a valuable adjunctive measure. They added that it is important that the government is doing all that it can to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, especially in MIQ facilities and the border.

The experience that COVID-19 brought, remote/online transactions and the ease of doing business and the risk of falling behind others in their industry have driven an increased uptake of digital tools by New Zealand SMEs, according to the latest research by a business management platform.

The research revealed that three out of five SMEs are conducting more than 50% of their business using digital tools, technology, and software, while just 18% have less than a quarter of their business digitised. The key operational areas being digitised include accounting and finances (66%), staff communication (52%), and administration and customer services (45%).

The business management platform says it is promising to see local SMEs recognise the positive impact digital adoption can have on their business operations and that many are moving rapidly to take advantage of the latest digital solutions. Across a broad spectrum of business. From productivity and efficiency to improved communication with customers and employees, they know first-hand that digitisation can have a profound and positive impact on New Zealand’s SMEs. If the past 12 months have shown us anything, it is that technology plays a critical role in the survival and success of a business.

Now, more SMEs are moving to digitise operations after recognising benefits like the ability to reduce business complexity (41%) or having had the experience of falling behind industry peers who had digitised (26%). Aside from the pandemic, competition is also a massive catalyst for change and these insights prove just how strong-a push this can be.

Furthermore, these findings revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of SMEs have an internal team dedicated to running regular digital training sessions for employees, while almost the same number (23%) use external providers to help upskill their teams.

However, more than a third (38%) of those who did not plan to improve the digitalisation of their business would be incentivised to do so by the availability of free support and training, and a similar proportion (37%) of this group said the same of Government subsidies or rebates covering a portion of the cost of new digital solutions.

While many of the changes made by local SMEs have been borne out of necessity, what is extremely positive is that the country is seeing an increased urge to digitise and this will certainly result in more New Zealand small businesses becoming more efficient, more productive, and more resilient. Thus, setting them up for much more competitive performance in the future, said the report.

Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, The New Zealand government is taking steps to protect and encourage small businesses from a tech perspective. Small businesses will now benefit from a government-funded Digital Boost skills training and support initiative.

This programme is delivering on the Government’s vision for New Zealand small businesses to be the most digitally-enabled in the world. 2021 will be the year of digital transformation for thousands of Kiwi small businesses, said the General Manager for Small Business and Strategic Programmes.

The Digital Boost skills training is the first initiative to be launched from the Digital Boost programme, a partnership between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the private sector to support thousands of small businesses in realising the benefits of using digital tools and technologies in their business.

The Small Business Digital Boost initiative will support more small business owners to realise the benefits of digitising their business. The programme aims to ensure small businesses acquire the right digital skills and online tools to help their business survive and thrive. To deliver the training and support, MBIE collaborated with a market partner who has extensive experience in helping business owners develop the capabilities needed to take advantage of the rapidly changing digital environment.

A New Zealand-based telecommunications company has opened the doors to its newly launched Innovation Studio, which the company hopes will help New Zealand businesses to test the latest technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things.

The company says the studio aims to demystify emerging technologies by placing them in real-world examples that businesses can relate to. They claim to know the New Zealanders and the business community understand the value of digitisation but often struggle to move from insight to action. That is where the Innovation Studio comes in – it is hands-on, practical, and collaborative and a place where businesses can learn how to become more productive, resilient, and sustainable through technology.

In partnership with a multinational tech company that provides cloud services, the Innovation Studio supports technologies across networks including 4G, 5G, Cat M1, LoRaWAN, and NB IoT.

The Innovation Studio comprises four interactive zones that cater to different business applications: The Asset Management Zone, the Emerging Tech Zone, the Smart Environments Zone, and the Utilities Zone.

The Asset Management Zone concentrates on how IoT asset tracking devices can be used across different verticals, such as retail, manufacturing, transport, healthcare, and the public sector. The zone features three organisations: Blackhawk and Digital Matter created end-to-end asset management; and Zebra, which maintains asset visibility through RFID tagging.

The Emerging Tech Zone showcases how 5G and IoT can help create solutions that may have been previously thought impossible. From intelligent lighting to augmented reality, these technologies can make businesses more autonomous. The zone features a VR experience for customers’ buying journeys.

The Smart Environments Zone is all about how IoT sensors can improve utilities and services operations in both urban and rural environments – for example, farmers can leverage real-time data from IoT sensors to reduce their environmental impact. The zone features Qrious and Auckland Transport, to create a pilot project for urban street maintenance.

The Utilities Zone provides an overview of end-to-end connectivity for utility businesses. Applications include water or power management, right down to cleaner waterways. The zone features a data buoy named ‘Murray’ that monitors water quality.

The tech developers view New Zealand as a hub of innovation, and they are excited to work and explore their shared vision of IoT and its role in driving the digital transformation in the country. They also hope to give local businesses a hands-on opportunity to explore the uses and benefits of IoT within a cloud environment, in a way that is easy, accessible, and efficient.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment believes that the Internet of Things is one of the most disruptive technologies to emerge in decades, and the possibilities for New Zealand are significant. It is vital to better understand and take advantage of the benefits that IoT promises across sectors as diverse as agriculture, utilities, manufacturing, logistics and smart city services. The Ministry has welcomed the opportunity to work with industry to support this research and the New Zealand IoT Alliance.

Moreover, joining up across the public sector and with industry is critical to seize the opportunities and address the challenges of disruptive technology and the changing digital world. The New Zealand IoT Alliance was formed to promote and advance IoT for the economic and social benefit of New Zealand. It brings together a community of digital technology innovators, investors, researchers, educators, social entrepreneurs, and government, all working towards a common goal. Emerging technologies also bring new challenges.

The mission is to ensure that the focus is on the right areas that enable New Zealand to become a leading digital nation – a nation with a thriving digital sector, where businesses, people and government are all using digital technology to drive innovation, improve productivity and enhance the quality of life for all New Zealanders.

Disruptive technologies have been revolutionising traditional financial services for some time now, providing opportunities for digital innovators and e-commerce entrepreneurs.  Online offerings allow wider coverage and access to underbanked demographics and ensure remote transactions in general.

Beyond a doubt, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the role of fintech in the banking landscape. The coronavirus has also significantly affected the New Zealand financial sector and the economy accordingly to New Zealand fintech experts. While the impact has started to be felt, it is not known in what way and for how long these effects will last. There are a plethora of ways the virus could change the fintech landscape across industries.

Some sectors are fairly obvious – like insurance. The pandemic has generated a keener awareness of the need for insurance, increasing demand for health and life coverage, business interruption and cancellations of sport, music, conference and events.

But the main transition is the way the financial sector is going to be affected by fintech and online offerings. Companies with digital products are already doing well during this time and online banking is likely to be the new normal. Traditional banks transform as well as be prepared to support their customers that may not be familiar with digital products and procedures – and, in some cases, not even have the right devices, like smartphones.

Disruptive technology has given rise to new avenues of funding and access to resources that traditional banks did not offer and may not have encouraged. New Zealand’s peer-to-peer lending (P2P) and equity crowdfunding sectors experienced steady growth in the last year, according to data from the Financial Markets Authority (FMA).

In its fourth statistical report on the sectors for the latest fiscal year, there are now more than 34,000 registered investors on P2P platforms. While the number of investors with open investments increased slightly to 12,800, the total amount of outstanding loans on the lending platforms books was A$ 624 million, up 8% over the year from 2019-20. These numbers have increased substantially since 2017 when there were 8,000 open investments and approximately $360 million in outstanding loans.

Meanwhile, equity crowdfunding providers raised $16.5 million from retail investors in the year to June 2020, a 20% increase from 2019. Licensed crowdfunding platforms introduced 25 successful offers, compared to 19 in the previous year. About 5,300 investors used licensed service in 2020. The total money raised by crowdfunding platforms was $34 million, including from retail and other wholesale investors.

With such trends and growth, the question is should the Financial Markets Authority think about removing regulations to help drive and scale fintechs? One of the main intentions of the Financial Markets Conduct Act is to promote innovation and flexibility in New Zealand’s capital markets. Peer-to-peer lending services provide an alternative form of borrowing and fixed-income investment, while equity crowdfunding services provide an alternative pathway for companies to raise capital in a cost-effective manner.

According to FintechNZ, fintech investment in New Zealand quadrupled to NZ$ 4.3 billion , making the sector the second biggest in the region for growth. Instead of its physical remoteness acting as a deterrent, it has created conducive conditions for the nation to serve as a tech incubator. Combined with the government’s investment in infrastructure, incubators and its investment funds, fintech has been able to flourish. With one of the earliest fintechs that started in growing to a bn NZ$ 8.15 billion company, many other fintechs are looking to take the reins in New Zealand.

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