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TechEd LIVE: “Welcome to the first world of computing, NZ”

11 Sep 2014

“Welcome to the first world of computing, we’re here.”

Dressed in the colours of the country’s most successful team, the All Blacks, Microsoft Technical Evangelist James Whittaker sat in awe of New Zealand.

“The sheer quality of thought processes put into computing in this country is phenomenal,” said Whittaker, speaking at the TechEd NZ 2014 conference in Auckland.

“I visited ASB Bank. Wow. I haven’t been impressed by a bank in a very long time. The amount of thought those guys are putting into interactions is awesome.

“It was wonderful to hear them questioning themselves out loud and I haven’t heard that for years.

“And you know what, even their building is damn cool. I worked at Google and even those offices don’t compare.”

Visiting the country for the first time, Whittaker said he “likes what he sees” when it comes to the Kiwi approach to technology, citing the way start-ups across the country grow at such great speeds as evidence of the country’s refreshing attitude to business.

“Another thing I love about New Zealand is that you guys think globally from the start,” he added. “This doesn’t happen in America. Kiwis think internationalisation immediately and that’s a really cool thought process.”

Whittaker believes there is a “real opportunity” for New Zealand to take the lead in the technology space, likening the market to the industrial revolution.

“After the industrial revolution all the economies were in free fall and every single country had the opportunity to lead,” he said. “All they had to do was see it coming and act on it quickly.

“Each country now has the opportunity to be a leader in this new data economy and it will be interesting to see how New Zealand approach this.

“From what I’ve seen so far I like. I haven’t dug into a lot into the New Zealand eco-system, such as how prevalent the teaching of computing is in schools, or universities but education is crucial.

“The winners of the industrial revolution were very proactive in making sure they trained workers and prepared for the future so they could succeed in this new world.”

Following the recent technology debate among political parties, during which National, Labour, Green Party and the Internet Party discussed the digital future of the country, Whittaker’s views are clear.

“Schools need to teach code, period,” he added. “My kids both learned Spanish in school and promptly forgot it. I took Russian and have forgotten it and it seems we spend an inordinate amount of time teaching our children things they will forget - maybe it does their little brains good I don’t know, but to me it seems very impractical.

“But it’s encouraging that you guys are even having this conversation because we aren’t in our political realm in America, so at least that’s a start.”

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