Interview with Mitchell Pham: “Presence + Engagement = Relevance”

Image Credit: Digital Council New Zealand Gov.

Mitchell is a Cofounder and Director of CodeHQ (formerly Augen Software Group) and has been serving as the Chair of the Digital Council for Aotearoa NZ and the New Zealand Technology Association (NZTech). He will be delivering the Principle Keynote for New Zealand Cloud & Data Centre Convention 2022 at the Grand Millennium Hotel, Auckland on Thursday 3rd November. Here he speaks about the current and future impacts of digitalisation on New Zealand’s economy, society and on its place in the world.

Mitchell describes himself as “a tech entrepreneur” operating in New Zealand for 30 years and in South East Asia for nearly twenty. He has been involved with numerous aspects  of the New Zealand tech industry over that period, from the perspectives of both industry boards and government advisory panels. Amongst his many roles Mitchell has been chairing the Digital Council for Aotearoa NZ for the past three years, and NZTech for the past six.

His wide range of interests across technology, society and business give Mitchell a keen sense of domestic and international trends, challenges and opportunities. In his own words: “I’m always interested in connecting the dots between different domains that may not cross paths. When I speak to audiences, the insights I share often come from making such connections across diverse areas of interest”.

Mitchell is positive about the increasing activities in New Zealand’s technology industry and about its impact on other industries:

“ We set up FinTechNZ which brought a very traditional non-tech industry – financial services – together [with the technology sector] and as a consequence, we see new opportunities for both to grow faster”.

He also applauds the tech industry for engaging with New Zealand’s conversations and advances towards diversity, inclusion and environmental sustainability. This industry has an important role to play, since around 20% of the population are “digitally excluded”. Accelerating digitalization, if not done inclusively, could further marginalise these groups as more services are delivered online.

In part, this situation is due to New Zealand’s relatively late start on digitalisation: “The country’s recent digital acceleration … was a reaction to COVID lockdowns, rather than part of a previously planned strategic move”.

This has put pressure on New Zealand to reach the same level as other countries which had already established digital platforms and digital engagement with their population and businesses.

Mitchell has little doubt that digital infrastructure is a “key foundation” for progress towards becoming more prosperous, equitable and sustainable as a nation. He describes the path for digital infrastructure in terms of the formula: “presence plus engagement equals relevance”.  This means supporting the development of data centers (“presence”) with conversations about some of the key issues facing Aotearoa New Zealand in relation to the three pillars of the country’s digital strategy – maintaining trust with the population, ensuring that no individuals or businesses are left behind, and accelerating digitalisation with growth and innovation. This engagement benefits the infrastructure providers through understanding local challenges and being relevant in this country.

Mitchell sees the CDC Auckland convention as an opportunity to connect and share his own thoughts and observations learned from other parts of the ecosystem as well as learning from New Zealand’s datacenter and cloud community about things that are important to them.

“I believe that the digital infrastructure sector has a lot to offer, more than just its physical data centers and services. That it can be part of how we shape our collective future together.”

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