Auckland technology firm Orion Healthcare has launched an initiative aimed at changing the perception of computer science in schools and building the pool of talent the ICT industry needs.

Named Codeworx, the initiative gathers industry experts, teachers and secondary school students in an online forum where "tools and incentives" aim to encourage students to take on the subject, the company announced today.

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae said coding was the platform that teaches interactive computer science.

"We believe if more students are bitten by the coding bug then they will ultimately become the engine room of a revitalised New Zealand economy and Codeworx is an enabler for this," McCrae said.


Codeworx will be kick-started by the 2013 Codeworx Challenge, which runs from the end of this month until late September and is open to every secondary school student in the country and offers prizes and incentives, including an internship at Orion Health.

The competition will require entrants - either as individuals or in teams of up to four - to come up with an innovative programming solution using a Raspberry Pi computer, a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a television.

Orion Health, which has developed systems that allow doctors and specialists to store and look up patient records online, said it was also providing 100 Raspberry Pi computers to a number of New Zealand schools.

According to a Business Herald report last week, a chronic shortage of ICT skills is forcing software companies to carry out development overseas because they can't find local programmers to do the work.

One website was showing 1300 ICT vacancies in Auckland alone with pay rates of up to $1500 a day being offered for some roles.

Orion Health announced last month that it was investing $100,000 to provide five university scholarships to information science students.