As I See It: Mitchell Pham

What’s New Zealand’s next major challenge?

If we want to build prosperous New Zealand, the majority of our economic development work will have to be done overseas. One of our most significant challenges as country is that, offshore, we’re still recognised mainly for our strengths in tourism, agriculture and other primary industries.
We’re not yet seen as having strengths in technology innovation, hi-tech or clean/green tech industries. Nor are we recognised for our ability to provide high-end services, such as banking, finance or insurance, which involve in-depth domain knowledge.
The bigger challenge is that New Zealand is currently not seen as country of high relevance to the rest of the world. This is partly because of our geographic location and the size of our country, our population and our economy. But, more significantly, it’s because of our low level of presence and engagement in what’s going on in the main hubs of activity around the world, especially Asia.
Many Kiwis only visit Asian countries as tourists, so we’re commonly perceived as friendly but transient visitors rather than long-term citizens (presence) who are fully involved (engagement) in the affairs of the region. This perception of low relevance presents many challenges as Kiwi companies attempt to utilise their New Zealand identity to differentiate themselves in foreign markets.

What do we need to do about this?

Presence + engagement = relevance. We could have more presence and involvement in dealing with the major challenges that many countries in the region are facing: clean air, water, food and energy; clean shelter and environment; healthcare and education; safety and security; climate change and natural disasters.
We can address many of these issues and challenges through advances in technology and innovation and in the process generate more goodwill as well as economic returns for New Zealand.

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