Embracing technology to overcome economic challenge

01 Mar 09

With the doom and gloom of recession having now well and truly settled in here in Godzone it is easy to be cautious about new technologies, to sit back and ‘stick to your knitting’. However, if you want to do more than just survive and are aiming to prosper in the coming months, I believe this is the last thing businesses should be doing.

The backdrop of challenging economic conditions offers small New Zealand businesses a wealth of opportunities, particularly those that can embrace new models and paradigms, be they commercial or organisational. The businesses that move quickly to employ technology in new and innovative ways will be those that emerge in a strong position as the dark clouds begin to lift.

We need only cast our minds back to the last economic crisis that gripped the world as technology stocks stumbled and people panicked. Companies that continued to innovate not only by embracing technology during this time, but also forging new business models (like Amazon, Apple and Skype), have since thrived and are today celebrated as some of the most successful business stories in recent history. Granted, what we are in the middle of right now potentially goes much deeper, and has much farther reaching implications, but the basic principles are the same.

In times like these, often the first thought is to use technology to reduce costs. Innovative technology, such as voice calling via SIP trunks, can save companies money both on infrastructure and ongoing calling costs. Furthermore, utilising some of the excellent Software as a Service (SaaS) applicatons now available can substantially reduce businesses’ capital investments, while at the same time ensuring they have the latest tools at their fingertips.

However, it would be a mistake to look at technology simply as a way to squeeze a few extra cents out of your operating budget. The web 2.0 revolution has created enormous opportunities for companies willing to embrace new models. The web can help companies get closer to their customers and suppliers, creating networks that make engagement far more effective and efficient. Those businesses with great ideas they are prepared to share will be the ones to thrive during this difficult economic period.

This is all well and good, but ensuring that New Zealand businesses are able to take advantage of these innovations necessitates continued investment in broadband infrastructure. To date we have seen dramatic improvement through the unbundling process, but it is time to press ahead. The new government has powered into office on the back of an ambitious plan to connect the country to the world. We cannot allow this to be forgotten or dropped in favour of tackling short-term challenges.

The plan to deliver fibre closer to New Zealand doorsteps alone will not, however, deliver the broadband that the future New Zealand will need. Connectivity within the country is useless without thinking about our link to the world. It is imperative that competition is introduced in the international connectivity market to bring down the cost of reaching the rest of the world.

None of these things will be the silver bullet to ensure New Zealand weathers the current tough economic times in good shape. The country, however, needs to come out at the other side ready to make the most of the good times when they return, and return they will. Survival will require both public and private organisations to work together to deliver the infrastructure New Zealand businesses need to release the creativity we know they have.

David Joyce is Orcon’s recently appointed Head of Sales and Marketing. A qualified accountant with an MBA from the University of NSW, David has substantial experience in telecommunications, including his most recent role with Vodafone where he was GM of Marketing at iHug.


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