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Brislen on Tech: TIN200 - what a year

Paul Brislen, Editor. 20 November 2020, 12:58 pm

An unprecedented year, full of shock and possibly the most boring crisis on record.

COVID struck in February and knocked the entire world on its butt. Economically, we're yet to see the full impact but socially and medically this has been a nightmare of a year. A global pandemic that coincided with an anti-science, big man political wave has seen the health professionals scrambling to convince people of the need for everything from social isolation to masks to hand washing, only to be rebuffed constantly all around the world.

Robust Tech

And if we did do what we were told, that was to stay home, to isolate, not to go out, not to socialise and not to go to work. Offices and their shared surfaces are suddenly no-man's land to be avoided at all costs.

Instead of fighting off zombie hordes we've become generational teenagers, forced to sit on the couch and binge on box-set television.

Here in New Zealand we have done well. We've avoided the worst of the medical chaos and we've been able to react sensibly in ways many countries have found alien.

But one other sector has also done well through all of this, and that's the tech sector. This week has seen the launch of the annual TIN report into just what the year has been like and frankly the word for it is "robust".

You can see why of course. Even if your company isn't a "tech" company, you use and need a lot of tech gear to operate. Whether it's an EFTPOS terminal or a laptop, a website or an ERP system, most companies and organisations require at least some kind of kit if they're to order parts, build products, entertain their audiences or keep the tax system moving.

For many of us it was simply a case of picking up the laptop and not going into the office. Instead, we made ourselves at home at home, and became experts at Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts and all the rest.

But for some companies, getting to that point was quite a journey in and of itself. Organisations quickly found that having a payroll system on a server in the office is fine if you're all at work but when you're at home that becomes a bit of a problem come payday. Others found that on-site storage and systems really should have been moved into the cloud some time ago, and yet more found that when their retail outlets were closed down, shoppers wanted to buy stuff online and were quite happy to have it shipped to them. If only they'd built an e-commerce platform when they had the chance.

This year saw the TIN200 reach$12.7 billion in annual revenue, up more than 8% of the previous year. That figure includes $9.4 billion worth of exports which amply demonstrates how strong the tech sector is becoming.

We're also the place to go for a good job. Last year we added more than 4000 of them, up 8% but even better than that, the average salary in New Zealand is more than $80,000 - around 21% higher than the average.

Growth, wages, opportunity, diversity - the tech sector stretches from the manufacturing end with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (suddenly a boom stock) right through to game development or cloud services, accounting software or ERP systems. Whether you want to make movies or money, the tech sector has a role for you and the potential to take you out to the world.

It's also a story of regional economic opportunity. Sure, Auckland and the other main centres have the lion's share of jobs and prospects, but you don't have to be on Queen Street to be in the tech industry. Canterbury accounts for 7% of the industry, nearly 8% are in the Waikato and Otago has another 3.5%. You can and often do work from anywhere and that's great for our prospects as we come out of lockdown and emerge blinking into the future.

The trick now is to focus, to harness this opportunity and turn potential into factual. Next year and 2022 will be the real crunch in terms of economic pressure. While we wait for the rest of the world to open up we have to find new ways to earn a crust, and high value tourists with money to burn really is only one tiny fraction of what we need.

Tech can be the answer, and if this year's TIN report is anything to go by, it's worth getting off the couch for.


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