Wellington IT cluster builds business in Brazil

Von Stephen Bell

Wellington?s 400-company IT cluster has been turning its eyes to Brazil, as a potential market for software and services, and claims already to have set up NZ$4 million (US$2.9 million) of business for Wellington companies -- with a NZ$3 million side benefit to Auckland.

There is a huge telecommunications market in Brazil, particularly among mobile, says Phil Lewin, head of Wellington"s regional development agency Positively Wellington Business. New Zealand is respected as a country that has already been through the turmoil of telecommunications deregulation and has a wealth of experience to offer. It is a matter of building trust and fitting into the right niches, he says.

A significant stage in the evolution of the market was reached with a visit by a Wellington delegation to the Sao Paulo Telexpo exhibition last year.

It helps that William Wattie, New Zealand?s trade commissioner in Sao Paolo, is the brother of Wireless Forum leading light Scott Wattie.

This is not big-company market takeover stuff; but a matter of finding ways to make a contribution in partnership with major Brazilian telecommunications providers, Lewin says. According to Sharon O?Neil, who organizes the IT cluster, 75% of the cluster"s companies employ five people or less. Lewin and O?Neill were speaking at the Wireless Forum?s Convergence 05 conference in Wellington last week.

There are other vertical software markets in the cluster?s sights for Brazil, says O?Neill, but she declines to elaborate. The aim is to bring NZ$15 million of financial benefit to Wellington companies over the next three years.

Like New Zealand Trade and Enterprise on a national level, Positively Wellington Business invests public money and effort in helping private companies to succeed, says Lewin. ?It?s up to you [businesses] to use the help.?