Tech in NZ: Are we adapting quickly enough?

Tech in NZ: Are we adapting quickly enough?

Our Chief Information Officer, Dawie Olivier, stopped by Duncan Garner’s RadioLive Drive Time show to talk about how we will be living our lives in 10-20 years, and what we should be teaching our kids in order to stay ahead of the global tech curve.

They discussed artificial intelligence, the most in demand future skills, and if we are adapting quickly enough.

Congratulations also to Dawie and his team for winning Best ICT Team Culture at CIO Awards at the 2016 CIO Awards.


Listen to the audio of the interview, or read the transcript below.

Duncan Garner: What would you tell your teenager about tomorrow’s work? As in, what’s going to happen in 10-20 years, are we adapting enough? Are we versatile? Do we know what the future of work looks like? And what should our kids be training for? And what’s happening in businesses now?  We need to make sure we’re ahead of the curve. Otherwise this is how so many other species become extinct in the world, and we don’t want to be one of them, do we now?

I’m joined by Dawie Olivier who is the Chief Information Officer with Westpac, nice to see you, welcome to the studio.

Dawie Olivier: Thank you Duncan, it’s great to be here.

Dawie Olivier, Westpac CIO

Westpac CIO Dawie Olivier

DG: Are you concerned about our children now, what they are going into in the next 20-30 years?

DO: Yeah absolutely, it’s a really personal concept for me, my daughter is 8 years old, turning 9 in a week or so. It’s a very hard question to answer because my first inclination is to steer her towards technical style, programming style careers. But actually the higher order of ability to collaborate and solve problems is where the future of mankind is going to go.

When we have artificial intelligence style engines that are driving the more mundane of the interpretation of the masses of data that we’re creating, then the ability to actually take that and make solutions with other humans is going to be a very high order of skill to have.

DG: As humans, and you would see this in banking, are we adapting quickly enough to survive?

DO: Elon Musk actually positioned this as being the greatest threat to human kind is the rise of artificial intelligence and thinking machines. And he should know, he’ the man sending us to Mars quite soon.

Are we adapting quick enough? I think that in New Zealand I've seen some very positive signs in the education system certainly starting to focus on those next generation skills.

On the whole, my home country is South Africa and Johannesburg and certainly there are some very large gaps in setting people up in being able to handle these technologies.

DG: What do you see in New Zealand? Are we setting our kids up for the future?

DO: There are some really amazing things happening. I look at the various code clubs around and these are all very positive first signs. Certainly the focus and emphasis on collaboration and problem solving that my daughter is experiencing at her school to me is fantastic.

DG: We're now teaching our kids coding, aren’t we? That’s really important now, isn’t it?

DO: Yeah my 8 year old wrote over 1,000 lines of code in the December holidays, and all in a visual manner. The most amazing thing is actually watching the logic that she’s learnt from the various structures being used in her day to day life.

DG: You may not want to answer this, but the problem is this growing gap or divide between skilled workers and unskilled workers. We need to get the unskilled workers into this sort of territory, don’t we?

DO: Yes that’s absolutely right. In the short run, robotics is at the point where there are many very dexterous jobs that they don’t do well yet, but they are certainly going to catch up really quickly. So the focus is going to have to be worldwide, to understand how do we lift that level of education so that the concept of unskilled labour actually starts fading out.

DG: So if you were training again now, let's say you’re a teenager, and you’re heading into university or some form or training, what would you pick now?

DO: I’d probably be a real estate agent in Auckland.

DG: Haha, that may blow up in your face too. But seriously, what would you tell your kids to train for?

DO: I’d certainly be looking into some of the softer skills, the interpersonal skills; what does negotiation look like, what does collaboration look like, communication. Because the other things are just going to become hygiene factors. Technology won’t be a differentiator as a skill anymore, it will be the ability to actually drive those technologies to the outcomes that you need.

DG: What sort of course would you take?

DO: Probably something in the humanities.

DG: Really?

DO: Yeah, absolutely. Maybe getting into a little bit of philosophy, some English, very much the kind of stuff you would have studied to get into the media.

DG: What about computers and things like that?

DO: Yeah but remember I said those things become hygiene factors, it will be like learning math. Everybody’s learning computers nowadays.

DG: Well 3, 4, 5 year olds, they are growing up with computers, iPhones, iPads, not books.

DO: That’s right.

DG: Is it not still important to have books? Still important to do some of the old fashioned things?

DO: I love books, my daughter hates them. My daughter loves coding with me in bed at night, which puts me to sleep instantaneously.

DG: So you code with your daughter?

DO: Yeah there are some amazing things. There’s a fantastic site called, which is a visual coding language that starts the kids off at age 3 and upwards, and takes you all the way through to high school.

DG: So you’d recommend that parents sit down and code with their kids?

DO: Oh definitely.

DG: This is the future?

DO: Look, amazingly it’s also very good for your own logic, because there are some programmatic structures that help with problem solving, repetitive tasks like if/then loops.

DG: What would you not do? What would you say, one last bit of advice to people, do not do this particular area because it’s going to be defunct, it will be extinct if you like, in 20 years?

DO: Hmm that is a very tough question. I don’t want to offend any particular profession. What I’m going to do is turn that around and say which profession I think will be the most affected by the rise of artificial intelligence the soonest. I believe the medical profession is benefitting greatly right now, in that many of the diagnoses being provided today by robots, if you will, are in fact more predictable and more accurate and repeatable.

DG: So doctors are under threat?

DO: I think doctors if they play their cards right will be well supported; the future is going to be entirely in their hands.

DG: Interesting. Dawie, appreciate your time, thank you for coming into the studio.


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