Can Digital Transformation soften the pandemic effects…

Josh hosted the first pandemic Tech Cluster Meeting on 5. August 2020 at Whangarei Boys and Nathan, a very smart young Whangarei Boy, MCed us competently through the evening.

First up we had JL talking about his amazing experience advising not for profit, non governmental organisations (NGO) all around the world from Kauri. His company Nethope is supported by some of the biggest companies in the world to help with responsible digital transformation for NGO’s like Doctors without Borders, Red Cross. JL talked about projects like digital medical records for immigrants travelling from South Sudan through Africa, crossing the Mediterranean Sea, moving through many European countries before arriving in Sweden, their destination. His job is to understand the problem which needs solving and then co-design smart, innovative solutions. These principles could also be applied to some of the opportunities we are seeing in Northland.

The second part of the evening was an open discussion on opportunities for Northland to leverage the pandemic crisis in a positively impacting way.

To kick this discussion off, the vision of the late Sir Paul Callaghan, that “Aotearoa is the place where talent wants to live” was shared. We agreed that innovation is critical to work our way out of the post-lockdown crisis.

March 2011 – Sir Paul’s memorable speech at StrategyNZ

Nathan guided the discussion on what the current challenges and possible solutions are. He invited several interesting speakers to share their views on what is most critical. Emily Henderson, Labour’s candidate for Whangarei, kicked off and explained how grassroots coffee meetings helped her to bring upon big changes in family court proceedings nationwide. Point being that little initiatives can grow and achieve big positive impact. Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn, business tutor at NorthTec and activist with Extinction Rebellion, explained that now maybe the time to bring upon radical change in the way we operate as a nation. Including focusing on basic principles and key values, as well as moving away from a purely monetary driven economy. Nathan reminded us that often big corporate influence the way we act and decide. Massive marketing influence seem to be omnipresent. Kevin Waugh, who runs the Questionable Research Lab, TechnoHackers and other youth initiatives, suggested that we can use the marketing tools of big corporate to defend ourselves. His idea is to click on all the non-wanted advertising, say the Daimler Mercedes company. By doing this, the company has to pay the Google, Facebooks and other advertising companies each time you click on their ads, thereby negatively impacting on their messaging. Simple guerrilla strategies like this may be quite useful. Peter Bruce, also a business tutor at Northtec, explained to us that regenerative farming is gaining a lot of momentum around the country and that the hydrology thinking of Walter Jehne. The group suggested few projects for implementation: run regular markets in the inner city of Whangarei like they do in many Pacific Islands, Cambridge, UK and other European towns, build decentralized water tanks by community groups and advertise the water & energy consumption per person in the household by signage in front of your house, sell local produce directly from the producer to the consumer including fresh milk via a smart app combined with existing cooling & hygiene technology. Kevin & Hemi Ruka from the N-Gen Room suggested participation in the upcoming gov hack event. This is an event which encourages local talent to use publicly available government data and add value to the local community. It was also suggested to soon run a Northland innovation startup weekend and invite as diverse audience as possible. If you like to be part of this intiative please contact Martin, Kevin, JL and we get something started in September. Vince Cocurullo, Councillor at the Whangarei District Council, highlighted that actions of determined individuals can make a big impact. He said that Joe Camuso who for over 14 years is promoting to decarbonize our vehicle fleets. At his organisation, the Northland Regional Council, Joe has implemented solar cell arrays which power over 500km of sun powered electric vehicle travel every day. On the back of Joe’s initiative with Russell Watson from Northpower, Whangarei became the most EV friendly city in the country with the highest percentage of EV per capita. There is more to be done. But all starts with the first step. Rumi, a 13th century philosopher said “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” Let us start to walk together …

As a first action item, the Developers Institute will be hosting an ideas & solution hack-a-thon from 25.-27. September. Many thanks for stepping up so fast. We will publish more information on this in due course. Any suggestions are very welcome.

Again many thanks to all participants of the discussion yesterday, in particularly to Nathan, who very competently managed the grown ups to come up with realistic suggestions to tackle the identified local challenges.

Enjoy your day …

Martin & Team

Here some links you may find useful


Peter & Walter Jehne



Kevin’s Questionable Research Lab

Gov Hack

Martin’s Tai Tokerau – 2025 vision

Whangarei – EV capital of NZ

Climate Change Emergency – what now …