Ministers and MPs attend inaugural Microsoft Parliamentary Showcase
New Zealand’s political leaders were treated to a showcase of Kiwi tech innovation at Parliament on Wednesday 19 June, after the Minister of Government Digital Services, the Hon Dr Megan Woods, invited Microsoft to present its first ever Parliamentary Showcase. Aiming to demonstrate the achievements of local innovators and inspire policymakers to explore new ideas, Microsoft also revealed research that shows its partners alone generate billions of dollars for the local economy.
“New research by Capitalis shows Microsoft’s New Zealand partner ecosystem includes around 2,300 partners, nearly 90 per cent of which are small businesses. These businesses cover every region of New Zealand, employing more than 21,000 Kiwis,” said Barrie Sheers, Managing Director of Microsoft New Zealand.
“New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is facing an era of profoundly disruptive environmental, social and economic change. New technologies will play a critical role in driving these changes, but also open up opportunities.”
Attendees including event sponsor Hon Dr Megan Woods, Hon Nikki Kaye and MPs Brett Hudson and Parmjeet Parmar, were shown around five “hubs” demonstrating outstanding projects with potential to change our planet and transform education.
Reflecting the Government’s increased focus on carbon-neutrality, sustainability was a major focus of the event. Camden Howitt, co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines, joined software developers Enlighten Designs to show how artificial intelligence is boosting communities’ efforts to combat waste on our beaches. Their innovation was recognised by the award of an AI for Earth grant by Microsoft President Brad Smith, on his recent visit to New Zealand.
Rising concern about the environment and population pressures is also behind new technology finding ways to grow food more efficiently as well as more sustainably. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations predicts food production requirements will need to increase by almost 50% (other estimates say 70%) from 2012 production levels.
Head of Operations Jeff Brown and Chief Technology Officer Jourdan Templeton of Aware Group demonstrated how Microsoft’s FarmBeats drone and sensor technology combined with Artificial Intelligence provides sustainable farming insights and increased yields. Aware Group have brought the FarmBeats technology to New Zealand, and it is also being used in the US, Brazil, Kenya and India, helping farmers and growers make the most of natural resources using less water, fertilisers or herbicides.
Education was the other strong theme of the event. Ross McHugh, Senior Public Sector Account Executive from LinkedIn Learning, highlighted how the organisation is helping increase access to learning via online courses available free through participating public libraries.
Representatives from Unify Solutions and the Ministry of Education detailed an award-winning project that provided secure online access for more than 70,000 members of the education sector, with educational games designer Joy Business Academy rounding out the line-up with a demonstration of how gaming can boost student engagement while building essential skills.
“We are all living through extraordinary times, of both incredible change and challenge. However, what’s astonishing to me is how adept our small nation is at navigating these changes,” said Sheers.
“The reason it’s so exciting to be invited to an event such as this is that collaboration is going to be the key to addressing these issues, harnessing that technology and unlocking our potential.”