#NZCIO, #NetHui and #nzcsITS: Innovation on the Agenda|
by Paul Matthews, NZCS CEO
It certainly has been a busy week of collaboration with a huge hive of activity up in Auckland with a definite "Innovation" flavour.
CIO Summit #NZCIO
Things kicked off on Monday with the excellent CIO Summit up with a range of presenters on all things CIO.
Amongst other things, NZCS had a major stand at the Summit and it was great catching up with a heap of NZCS members from the CIO community plus getting to know a bunch of others.
As you can see we didn't lack exposure, with the largest stand and placement in the main foyer. A big ups to Lillian, Jo, Ben, Brett, Hazel and others who hung out and helped out at the NZCS stand - great to have such a committed team helping get the professionalism message out there.
It was an excellent event, however one thing that bothered me a little was the apparent big focus in the CIO community at the moment on what a CIO's role actually was.
It worries me on two levels.
Firstly, if we can't agree on this ourselves as a community it makes it very difficult to convey this to others outside the sector, especially at a time when CIO positions seem to be dropping like flies and more and more organisations seem to lack understanding of the strategic importance of ICT. That really is a worry.
And secondly, whenever we spend time and effort considering such things that's less time and effort actually doing.
Having said that some of the discussion was of a transformational nature - trying to get CIOs into the strategic mindset and considering themselves as "Chief Innovation Officers" rather than "Chief Information Officers" but all in all, I couldn't help thinking that the focus on the "what is a CIO?" was a bit of an opportunity lost in a summit attended by so many of New Zealand's top ICT professionals. YMMV.
Judging the CIO Awards
I had the great pleasure of judging the "Excellence in IT Recruitment" award at the CIO Awards (part of the Summit).
A big congratulations to all those that entered, but especially to Potentia who took away the top honours and Sead who were the first ever recipient of a special commendation for the huge work they've put into initiatives like the Getting IT Right website.
Big ups to Connon Daly from HairyLemon for taking out the Emerging ICT Talent award and Russell Jones from ASB Bank, 2011's CIO of the Year.
Another must-attend event in Auckland this week was InternetNZ's inaugural NetHui event, also held at Sky City.
The idea of NetHui was to bring together everyone involved with Internet issues in New Zealand. A bold objective, but despite the odd stone being thrown from the sidelines (such as whether content creators were represented) I think it absolutely lived up to the intention - the diverse and broad range of stakeholders was second-to-none in New Zealand.
What I love about that community is the absolute diversity of personalities. Some incredibly super-smart people were in attendance and the diverse and broad range of world views certainly led to some fascinating conversations.
I had the pleasure of running the "Innovation and Emerging Issues" stream and was joined by some of New Zealand's most innovative in these sessions debating everything from media convergence through to cloud and privacy issues.
If you're reading this before 5pm on Friday you can tune in to the NetHui site and watch a live stream of proceedings and I understand all video will be made available later as well.
All in all, bloody well done to Vikram, Richard, Campbell and the team who pulled it all together. Very worthwhile and we certainly look forward to helping make it a regular annual or biennial occurrence to bring together the Internet community.
Otago Technology Innovation Challenge 2011
I also had the pleasure of judging the Auckland leg of Otago University's Technology Innovation Challenge (OTIC) on Thursday.
OTIC is an annual competition for school students held in Dunedin, Auckland and Wellington and challenges New Zealand's emerging technology leaders to think outside the square while designing technology solutions to issues.
From their website:
Students teams will be presented with several new technologies and research ideas and, with the help of Information Science Department staff, they will be challenged to think of a problem and develop an innovative business idea around the use of these technologies. Anyone with a flair for entrepreneurial thinking is encouraged to take part.
I was genuinely blown away by the level of thought and quality that went into entries, especially as most went from concept to presentation in a single day. If this event was a representation of the quality of the intake into Otago's Info Science degree I have to say the future of our sector is looking very bright indeed.
The winner for the Auckland leg was Manurewa High School's Ctrl+Alt+M with the concept of using one atom thick Graphene body gloves connected to neural sensors to power muscles to control movement for those affected by motor neuron disease. Wow.
NZCS Auckland Innovation and Technology Summit (#nzcsITS)
Thursday evening brought the inaugural Auckland Innovation and Technology Summit, bringing together 200 technology people from across Auckland to look at how to make Auckland and New Zealand the technology and innovation hub of the south pacific
Panelists included a range of entrepreneurs and innovators from all corners of the tech sector across Auckland from serial entrepreneur Rod Drury through to Computerworld editor Sarah Putt and the passion and inspiration in the room was thick in the air.
There were a number of areas discussed, such as growing the opportunities that the great tertiary institutions in the Auckland region represent, infrastructure, culture, community and collaboration (to name a few). We'll be writing up notes from the discussion and taking some of the points raised to both central and local Government.
ICT-Connect - Opportunity lost?
What I found interesting was something that ALWAYS comes up at these types of events, being the need to get some of the messages and passionate IT people in front of the nation's kids in schools.
This is a bit of a bugbear of mine, purely because it is ABSOLUTELY true, agreed by just about everyone, a clearly deeply necessary programme and we actually have a proven solution - but when push comes to shove our sector simply doesn't get in behind it. Let me explain.
Back in 2009 NZCS put together a group of passionate professionals to design a programme of outreach from the IT profession into schools. This was a direct result of a message that came through loud and clearly from the schools we were working with on curriculum issues that they really, really, REALLY needed industry engagement.
We sent a request for expressions of interest to schools throughout New Zealand and from one email received over 400 enthusiastic replies from schools across the country wanting to get involved. From one email. Same with professionals - we had literally hundreds volunteer to take part with many unfortunately missing out on the Pilot.
Over several months the Working Group and Society put together a model for nationwide and regional involvement and rollout, a bunch of supporting videos and material (including info to take home to parents) and set to work on a Pilot in Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Christchurch. The Pilot was funded by NZCS and massively successful - the feedback and engagement of schools, students and the IT people who went was absolutely awesome.
However one thing we learnt very loud and clear from the Pilot was that if the programme was to be successful it needed to be coordinated professionally, meaning a fulltime national coordinator (as well as volunteer Boards on the ground etc). And that's where things became unstuck.
Ever since the Pilot we've spoken to Government agencies, funding bodies, other not-for-profits and companies about supporting the programme to enable us to hire a coordinator on behalf of the sector and roll it out. Everyone agrees it's necessary. We have a purpose-designed programme that is proven effective and the resource on the ground to make it happen. And it's been on the NZCS Work Programme every year since, but with those dreaded three words "Subject to Resources".
So here's my challenge to you. We will make this programme work if our sector will support it. We have the programme, we have the structure on the ground, we have a community desperate to be involved (including hopefully you!) and we have the supporting material ready. All we need is some partners prepared to contribute to the cost of running it so we can get it off the ground.
Drop me a note if you think you could help.
The take-home for the week?
Innovation. It's a somewhat overused term and one that clearly means different things to different people but one thing is very clear - it's alive and well in New Zealand in all sorts of different tech-related communities. From those still in school just starting to understand the potential of technology through to the CIO community and all stages in between, Innovation is what drives our sector.
And that's a Very Good Thing.
Paul Matthews is Chief Executive of NZCS, the professional body of the ICT sector.
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Contributed content is the opinion of the author only, and not necessarily the view of IITP.