It may seem from the outside that NZRise has been quiet during 2020 – in fact this is far from the case. We have chosen not to wade into debate, not to offer opinions on political decisions publicly to date – instead opting to provide a supportive community for our members and work behind the scenes on how to improve the lives of our staff, the health of our businesses and the safety of everyone in Aotearoa.

As the country establishes a new norm living in level 2 (and 2.5 for Auckland) it seems a fitting time for us to find our voices again and share the thoughts, feelings, trials and tribulations of the New Zealand owned Digital Technology sector.


Last week I checked in with members on how we are feeling about the economy  and plan to continue these check-ins fortnightly to understand how levels of certainty and confidence are tracking over time.

The overwhelmingly key message was understanding and compassion. Understanding the need for lockdown, the need for boarder protections and compassion for fellow New Zealanders – our whānau, our staff, our neighbours and strangers we are yet to meet.

One member summed the sentiment up perfectly “You can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy population.”

Many of our members find themselves at odds, as business owners, with some of the recent headline grabbing comments from “business leaders”. Many of our businesses are struggling while others are thriving, yet the overarching key messaging from our membership is the importance of our people, their health and wellbeing – while we all tackle strengthening our economy under new trading conditions.

COVID recovery doesn’t mean things will return to the way they were before

As we all learn to live in a world with this terrible virus changes like working flexibly, remotely and wearing face masks are rapidly becoming new norms for the foreseeable future. Equally new ways of supporting businesses are also emerging.

Both local and central government have done an excellent job of reminding kiwi’s to support their local retailers and hospitality providers with strong buy local messaging. That buy local messaging needs to extend to all industries as part of the effort to help businesses navigate new ways of trading both domestically and internationally.

While my heart breaks for tourism businesses and the impact closing borders has had on them – and it seems will continue to have for some time. It is important for us to collectively look for alternative mechanisms for bringing dearly needed export dollars to Aotearoa. Helping the tourism industry embrace digital technologies, turning their expertise into solutions for tourism on a global stage is just one example of how we can leverage experience and the light weight export nature of digital tech.

The key here is we need a chorus of different voices and diversity of thinking as we collectively work through the challenges living with COVID-19 has brought. Not just the big business leaders of old, we also need to hear from Māori and Pasifika led businesses, small and niche businesses, female led businesses, disability focused businesses, aged focused businesses – there is a long list of others who can contribute to the thinking and helping us find innovative ways to move forward. Right now all I hear is a chorus of voices who are trying to return us as quickly as possible to the way things were before COVID hit our shores.

Time for diversity of voices

Over the coming weeks we will be expressing a range of views and sharing diversity of voices. Examples include – The unfortunate timing of the election falling in a fraught 2020; the absence of digital technology manifestos from most political parties; the labour market focus of “shovel ready” projects and absence of lightweight economy support; Digital Equity and Inclusion; and an extensive piece on business transformation.

So watch this space, our members have a great deal to share and it’s time to provide some alternative voices from those of other business leaders the media love to quote.

Kia Kaha Aotearoa, Vic.

Victoria MacLennan is passionate about many things – growing great companies, raising digital literacy, growing New Zealand’s economy, and equality for women. Her day jobs include Managing Director of data and information specialists OptimalBI, plus investing in and advising a range a great Kiwi startups as they grow.

Victoria is Co-Chair of NZRise, and these opinions are her own.

This is an opinion piece and does not represent the thoughts of NZRise.  For more information please contact [email protected]

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