Spark chief executive Jolie Hodson says Auckland faces a unique set of challenges.
"We're recovering from the impact of Covid. It has meant significant disruption for businesses, industries and individuals.
"While that is not over yet, we are more on the side of recovery than some other nations.
"Then are other tests in front of us: Climate change, poverty and the way our productivity continues to lag other OECD countries. Technology has to play a critical, enabling role as we find solutions to these questions."
Hodson says the city has been through a huge technology shift in the last 12 months or so with individuals needing to be able to work from anywhere.
It means access to connectivity is important, providing that connectivity and the support needed to make it productive remains Spark's core business.
Yet there's more.
"We're operating in an environment where the cyber security risks are increasing exponentially both locally and globally," she says. " People need to be able to remote connect with all sorts of different devices. Increasingly they are on the move. Which means you have to think about how to secure end those points."
The Government has moved to recognise the importance of online security risks and worked to raise awareness with individuals and industry.
When the Labour Government was elected at the end of last year, it expanded the communications minister's role to include a brief for the digital economy. This focus is important as it emphasises what communications can deliver as well as the means of delivery.
It also means developing a future game plan for New Zealand in the broader sense that pulse the various components together.
Spark has a significant role to play in building that future digital economy. Although it has a broad scope, there are two specific areas where the company's expertise can contribute to a post-Covid economy: smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). Both rely on network infrastructure.
Says Hodson: "We're an enabling organisation. Smart infrastructure is a key enabling factor for any modern economy. There are two ways to participate in a digital economy.
First, you need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services and other forms of technology infrastructure."
New Zealand has been served well in terms of the Government's investment in a fibre network and the investments made by the industry. Spark and other companies in the telecommunications sector spent billions building fibre, mobile networks and IoT networks.
That's not letting up. Now they are building 5G mobile networks which will increase wireless capacity.
"When it comes to building smart infrastructure and smart cities in the broader sense, we have to embed these features into our public and civic infrastructure; that's where the IoT comes into play.
"It's an opportunity to improve our quality of life and to improve how we use natural resources.
"Imagine a world where you can monitor your own energy and water usage in real time then adjust and plan accordingly. Where your rubbish bins tell the council when they are full and then optimise the time trucks are on the road to empty them. Where lights switch on when needed because they detect movement, which also improves security. These are really futuristic examples but they're all things that can happen now."
Spark has worked on projects like these with Auckland Transport and the Council at the company's innovation hub in the Wynyard Quarter. In that neighbourhood there are smart lights, rubbish bins with sensors and benches that offer phone or e-bike charging along with yet more sensors to measure traffic levels and air quality.
The area is criss-crossed with extensive Wi-Fi coverage. Spark is using this to showcase what may soon be available across Auckland.
"At Spark, we are well placed to be investing for a wider change and moving these projects forward," Hodson says. "Now we're thinking about the next level of infrastructure investment we need to create a city where people want to be.
"Over time this will include mass transit, other forms of transport.
"These are being laid down now. We may not have all the answers yet, but we have to start thinking about the way you might design things differently if you are operating in that connected world a decade from now.
"There's a transformation already going on in the city. We want people in and around the CBD. We want businesses to thrive. Transformation sometimes comes with some pain, but you have to have a vision of where you want to go."
Smart infrastructure is one of five areas Spark has identified where technology has the capacity to transform Auckland's economy and eventually the rest of the nation. The second area is helping small to medium businesses go digital. The overwhelming majority of companies fall into this category and they need handholding if they are to reap the benefits.
Says Hodson: "Once we have created the foundation and put the tools in place, we need to help these companies go more digital so they get productivity improvements and can start competing in different ways. A lot of these businesses don't have IT departments ready to work on integration and other projects.
"We will do this by helping to stimulate or to subsidise some of the up-front costs of their digital transformation. At Spark we are doing some of our own work on this with Google where we offer digital education programmes to our SME customers. A similar approach is the Digital Boost programme that Francis Valentine and MBIE have been working on.
Digital equity is the third area that needs attention. This addresses the areas that don't already have ready access to the internet.
"Access is an important enabling factor; without it you don't have the ability to participate in society. Spark has addressed this with Skinny Jump which we run through our not-for-profit foundation. It's how we provide very low-cost internet to families that couldn't afford it. Over the last year there's around 11,000 homes now connected through Skinny Jump.
"Late last year we announced with Ciena, a Spark partner, that we will support home broadband for all decile 1 high schools."
The fourth area involves building the digital skills needed to make everything work. The emphasis is around SMES, but there's need to spread the knowledge more broadly. "We need to work with education to make sure graduates leaving university have the skills to build emerging industries in areas like artificial intelligence or cyber security," Hodson says.
"We need government and industry to work together to better align on the skills we will need." Creating a digital trust network is the fifth area that needs attention. "As more of our lives move online, New Zealanders and businesses to be able to work and live safely. There have been cases where information has been leaked. We're working with the Department of Internal Affairs on a digital trust framework, which allows individuals and businesses to have trust in their personal identity information.
"Being able to trust data is an essential part of moving to a digital economy."