I’m no expert in economics, but I can see the numbers and it looks good, but what about the future? As much as an economist can look at all economic indicators, I look at it from my frame of reference, how will technology contribute to the Regions growth from 2020 and beyond?
The World Economic Forum has identified five areas technology can help economic growth, they are
- Direct job creation
- Contribution to GDP Growth
- Emergence of new services and Industry
- Workforce Transformation
- Business Innovation
Let’s explore those further
Technology can play a direct part in job creation by employing and attracting good talent from outside the region. With the initiative like Tech-Collective in Ahuriri, which houses Xero, Re-Leased, Now and others, Hawkes Bay can leverage this success because of strong infrastructure and lifestyle to attract further investment.
Technology can and does contribute to GDP growth through innovation and efficiency gain.
Ultra-Fast Broadband for example will continue to drive growth. And as the governments UFB program comes to an end in 2022 (87% of NZ homes with fibre to the door) the region is well place to increase productivity through further up take of high-speed internet.
Chorus (the Governments major partner for UFB) have claimed a 10 percent increase
in productivity for small and medium businesses through internet usage further, small and medium companies that use web technologies grow and export twice as much as their peers.
Research from Sapere Research Group also “estimate that an additional 10% of employees gaining access to UFB in the workplace would result in a gain of 1.62% of gross domestic product (GDP)”.
That number is not insignificant and if we add in the possibility of a 5G network we can assume a positive outcome for growth to the region.
With good infrastructure comes the emergence of new services and industries. Cloud computing will continue to drive efficiency for small business and as mentioned before Hawkes Bay is well placed to accommodate new businesses.
For my mind, Internet of Things (IoT) is likely to create new services in our region. For example the management and ongoing analytics of data captured will create new services, particularly in our horticultural base, although not in any way limited to that.
Using data analytics for Ag and Hort companies by collaboration are likely to be at the forefront of these new entities. The ability to measure data all the way along the chain, from plant selection and orchard management through to harvesting, sorting, transporting and point-of-sale will be the key driver for any new business.
Workforce Transformation is one of the most exciting for our region. Shortages of pickers continues to be a serious issue for the growth of the pip fruit industry, and this inevitably will drive technology into the field. Although still in infancy prototypes of picking machines are hitting the orchards but aren’t likely to have too much impact in the short term as they require orchards that are designed for robotic pickers.
Although we are seeing automation in packhouses and this will continue as industry replaces existing plant. The advantages will be in efficiency, reduced wastage and technology that will compliment existing workforces. For example, stacking or loading pallets is a physical and tiresome job but a robot can easily do this thereby redirecting labour to more value add positions.
Business Innovation is something I think we do quite well in this region, sometimes out of necessity. Sometime it doesn’t have to be a huge innovations. As the roll out of fibre extends to the more regional parts of the region, simply moving to an online presence can mean growth for the region.
Towns like Wairoa, Takapau to name just two will benefit from faster broadband and unrestricted plans.
Having a tight labour market encourages innovation and uptake of technology. The challenge is being able to fund the transition to some of this technology, like robotic pickers. They are extremely expensive to build and deploy and also require orchards to be redesigned to enable access for the robot.
Clearly embracing technology in our business has real tangible benefit and the challenge is to make sure you have the right technology partner that understands your business. As I mention the completion of the Governments UFB roll out will continue to have a positive impact of our economic growth.
Also, I can’t overstate the power of collaboration of data sets, particularly in the Ag and Hort sectors. This will have a significant impact on the sectors performance, yield and workforce cost. The challenge like always is what do I need to do to prepare my business for this.