Connections, knowledge sharing and inspiration – what a week!

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In November I was thrilled to be asked to lead the Techweek 2018 initiative for the Waikato region. It has been a lot of work pulling it together, with a great team of people and loads of support, and I think we can all say that it’s been a great success.

Techweek’18 Waikato started on Saturday May 19 with a robotics and coding workshop for girls at the University of Waikato and ended with a Social Media workshop hosted by Social Listening and a technology themed TEDx Ruakura Salon event at Waikato Innovation Park on Friday May 25.

It has been fantastic to witness the programme of events running thanks to the support of sponsors, participants and attendees as well as all the hard work of the organisers and many volunteers. I remember someone saying earlier this year “If we can pull this off, it will be amazing!” and based on all the feedback we have received “We did it!”.

There were more than 1300 attendees over the week – our youngest an infant and our oldest a 90 year old grandmother. Attendees came from business, technology companies, start-ups, local schools, tertiary organisations, community groups, councils, and everywhere in between. Many came to more than one event, which added a sense of community and connectiveness. We had people joining the IoT tour from outside Waikato, excited to be on a technology inspired “road trip”, as well as others that were appreciative of events held during the day that enabled them to attend during normal office hours, plus many that found it useful to be able to find out more about speakers and exhibitors and connect with participants and attendees with the Techweek Waikato App (developed specifically for the festival in collaboration with Room 9 and LayerX).

A highlight for me was having school students not only attend but in many cases contribute to the success of events including the girls’ coding and robotics workshop, all the youth at the Maori Tech Showcase, Ngaruawahia High School students exhibiting and speaking about their EVolocity electronic vehicle projects and participating in the future of work and education panel discussion, the mostly female digital technologies class that made the trip to the Thames technology breakfast from Whangamata Area School, and Paeroa College students presenting the IoT project they are working on with Agrisea for the Waikato wide Young Innovators Challenge. 

For me although Techweek is a nationwide initiative it is about how a festival celebrating technology innovation can benefit local people and businesses, and the Waikato region. I think the Maori Tech Showcase really brought that together and someone summed it up nicely on the night by describing the event as having a “real soul”.

This year was partly about seeing what works and what doesn’t and the approach we took in asking for wider input into planning is an example of something that I think worked well. We wanted to find out about as many things people were working on and planning or wanting to do and achieve that were technology-driven and good for the world and pull them altogether. We wanted to provide an opportunity for as many people and organisations as possible to participate and contribute to the week-long celebration. There was also an element of trying to reduce duplication and wanting to illustrate how much capacity we had in the region, to encourage more of us to work together and use resources effectively, plus we wanted to consider themes that were not only relevant regionally but a focus for government and globally.

Techweek’18 Waikato has resulted in a great deal of knowledge sharing and generated plenty of discussion as well as connecting those who would otherwise have continued to work away unaware of the opportunity to produce considerably more value for themselves, the Waikato and the New Zealand economy.

Planning for next year will commence in August and, now that we have all had a taste of what is possible, we should be able to pull together a real showstopper for Techweek’19. Please contact me on Jannat.maqbool@wipltd.co.nz if you have any ideas for next year.

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