Tech test lab: New Zealand
WHEN Google chose New Zealand to unveil secret plans for a balloon-driven Wi-Fi network last weekend, it cemented the country's reputation as a test bed for global tech companies looking to trial their latest innovations, industry experts said.
They said New Zealand, tucked away deep in the Southern Hemisphere, offers a tech-savvy, English-speaking population where firms such as Google and Facebook can quietly test new products without risking major fallout if anything goes wrong.
"We tend to be early adopters," said Mr Malcolm Fraser, chief executive of the Auckland-based Future Cities Institute.
"We're a small market, which means it doesn't cost that much to test something here, and if anything screws up, we're far enough from major markets for it not to have a spillover effect."
Facebook has enthusiastically used New Zealanders as guinea pigs, trialling a scheme where users can pay to make their posts more prominent on friends' newsfeeds last year.
It also rolled out its timeline feature first in New Zealand in 2011, saying at the time: "As a global company, we need to gain perspective and insights from outside the United States."
"It comes down to the fact that (New Zealand) is a perfect microcosm of a global community," said Ms Candace Kinser from technology industry group NZITC.
"Auckland has immigrants as more than 50 per cent of its population, from nearly every country in the world."