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Rod Drury: NZTech report a beacon to future growth for IT sector

Divina Paredes | June 27, 2016
The founder and CEO of Xero has long believed there is a need for a clear technology plan unique to New Zealand, and a chief technology officer who can pull it off together across government and the private sector.

Rod Drury welcomes the latest NZTech report confirming the growing contribution of the technology sector to the country's economy, and has two suggestions on how we can "outperform" these figures.

'Digital Nation New Zealand' says the sector produced $32.2 billion total output last year and contributed $16.2 billion to the country's GDP. It also generated $6.3 billion or 9 per cent of the country's exports in 2015, according to the report that was released last week 

"We are doing lots of good stuff, the normal incubators and having funding available for all parts of the lifecycle," observes Drury. 

"What we haven't got is a technology plan, which is unique or something that is specific to New Zealand that allows us as a team to compete [globally] and play to our strengths."

Linked to this is his belief that the country needs a chief technology officer or chief digital officer - the title could be "either way", he says - who will pull all of this together.

This CTO could then say, "Here is a technology plan where the private sector and government work together to substantially outperform what we are doing at the moment".

"We have been harping about this for many years, there seems to be no appetite at all [for an appointment to the role]."

"There is no co-ordination of the industry working together and there are key projects we are not taking advantage of," says Drury.

These include the domestic payments network ("We used to be the best in the world.") to working with global technology firms on R and D projects.

For instance, "How do we play in this transport revolution to electric and autonomous cars? Should we be pitching to Google to use New Zealand as a test lab for autonomous cars?"

After the Volkswagen emission scandal, all big manufacturers are bringing forward billions of dollars of investments on electric and autonomous vehicle technology, he says. New Zealand should be "doing cool stuff" in this area. "How are we getting our share of that?"

He says there are many senior executives who have served in global posts who would be candidates for this role.

"There are senior people who are winding their career up, have operated on a global level and have those networks,'' to take on a high-profile role like this.

Rod Drury at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington DC (Source: Xero)

Drury, meanwhile, spoke last week at a panel discussion on trans-Pacific innovation at the the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington.

He says one of the themes that came through in President Obama's speech at the Summit, was that the United States was open for business.


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