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Mac Planet: NZ developer-ments

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Photo / AP
Photo / AP

New Zealand has produced some stellar successes in app development, with interesting and rewarding (for the developers, a well as for users) apps emerging from those who have done courses such as those offered by the department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury, courses from places like Natcoll and the Media Design School, the Auckland University of Technology's Creative Technologies Interdisciplinary courses and other places, but no one institution has a singular focus on the field of developing apps, whether Apple or Android.

But initiatives across the country are changing the picture. Auckland's Unitec is the largest Institute of Technology in New Zealand, with 23,000 students enrolled across 165 courses.

A closer working relationship between Industrial Research Ltd and Unitec aims to deliver more and better work-ready high-tech workers to New Zealand industry.

IRL and Unitec Institute of Technology has signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the two organisations collaborating to link New Zealand industry with a greater level of training, and give students skill-sets for project work.

IRL has been undertaking a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring the effective deployment and growth of Research and Development services. R&D has been seen as a problem area for New Zealand industry with the National Government controversially scrapping a Labour-initiated program of R&D tax credits, but as a counter to that, National has recently announced 'co-funding agreements' which aim to push research along.

Another interesting - and much more app-focussed - development is New Zealand's first professional training programme for would-be App developers. It will soon be starting in Hamilton.

Probably NZ's most prolific apps company, MEA Mobile, has partnered with Prima Learning Ltd to open the country's first school entirely dedicated to app development.

MEA is best known globally for developing the iSupr8 retro video app for iOS and Android. MEA Mobile Director Rodney MacFarlane says the rationale comes from MEA Mobile not being able to find enough experienced people to fill the roles available, a problem it shares with other potential employers around the country.

Our unemployment rates are at record highs yet companies simply cannot find enough proficient app programmers to fill excellent roles in their ranks.

Prima is 100% owned by the Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology) Foundation, a charitable trust.

To register go to the website and complete the enrolment details or call 0508 532 764.

Local app developers rely on events and conferences to broaden their skills, and Prima's General Manager Wayne Lim says app developers working in New Zealand sometimes take time off work and go overseas to get skills. But on the conference front, NZiDev was set up by Jade Corporation as a conference run in the BarCamp style by '(un)conference guru' Nathan Torkington. Basically, attendees of the iDev event set the agenda, then run the show.

Driven by the passionate iOS developers last year, NZiDev covered everything from security and encryption to start-up myths, and marketing and interface design. I have attended one - it was informative and, most of all, loads of fun.

iDev adds two pre-planned sessions this year; one from NZ marketing guru Ian Scherger on Rapid Fire Branding, and the other on the use of iOS for the blind in Let Your Apps Voice Be Heard from Jonathon Mosen, an avid, yet blind, user of all things Apple.

Find out more and sign up here.

Of course, some 'apps' are fairly simple and actually lead to web apps, which depend on internet connections to supply their utility. It's also an important sphere, with many NZ agencies (in particular, banks) putting out apps that tap mobile-tailored web apps. In Wellington, over 400 attendees are anticipated for Wellington's WDCNZ 2013 web developer conference, for which pre-registrations have just opened. The conference will be held on Thursday 25th July 2013.

This is the third year of the conference and WDCNZ 2013 will be held at a larger venue (Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre).

WDCNZ provides a community and support for web developers to share their experience of cutting code and delivering software, regardless of the languages and tools they use.

Conference founder Owen Evans says the web developer community in NZ continues to grow, reflecting the opportunity in business.

The core theme for WDCNZ will be front-end development (CSS, JavaScript, HTML), with a strong focus on gender diversity and minority, and a panel session discussing how the web can be made more accessible.

You can check out the video of content from WDCNZ 2012 online.

Finally, a developer is haring off on an African bicycle ride which you may be able to assist, as Daniel Wood from Digital Fusion will also be raising money for The Heart Foundation. He's riding his bike from Cairo in Egypt all the way to Cape Town in South Africa. That's a 12,000km trip that takes around five months to complete, from January. The Tour d'Afrique includes around 50 other like-minded nutters (I mean 'individuals') on the 11th year for the Tour.

Daniel says "Any amount is greatly appreciated! For companies who choose to donate, your logo and site link will go up on my site for the world to see."

You can follow the adventure through the website set up for the trip.

Good luck, mate. I will be thinking of you on my little 12km daily fitness bike trip around Auckland's inner suburbs. Anyway, altogether, NZ's strong presence in the world of app development is due a good push, with more opportunities arising to get yourself the skills you need to prosper - and, more importantly, for you make some cool stuff we can use ... but it can all do with our investment in time, money and energy.

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