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A quick online search about the potential for growth in gaming technology will throw up some astonishing figures. That search will also show how that technology is being transferred into the health sector to improve patient outcomes. 


Murray Strong is the Chair of the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CoDE) based in Dunedin. CoDE is a hub for games development providing funding and support to the city’s digital games ecosystem and part of an industry-wide drive towards a NZ$1billion interactive media industry in Aotearoa New Zealand. Strong has a background in governance and leadership across sectors including tertiary education and tourism, and is also Chair of Destination Southern Lakes and the new Dunedin Hospital Digital Transformation Board 


Fraser Liggett is the Economic Development Manager for Enterprise Dunedin which led the development of the CODE business case with city stakeholders and industry and also which has responsibility for the city’s Economic Development Strategy. Liggett has policy and investment experience from the New Zealand Treasury and has led economic development activities in the United Kingdom and Europe. 


“CoDE has a very clear remit – build the sector’s capacity in start-up businesses to driven innovation, revenue and jobs. That means nurturing studios and people, improving skills and pathways, and supporting diversity and equity,” says Liggett. “CODE directly funds activities across the studio lifecycle, helping creators and studios to develop digital game prototypes, found new studios or expand existing companies’ ambitions.” 


Both knew that gaming technology and the very smart people behind it could transfer into other sectors – specifically digital health. “We had developed a business case for using games for health but COVID-19 put a halt to everything. Post-Covid, and with the new Dunedin Hospital approved for the old Cadbury site, we saw the opportunity to re-start,” says Strong. 


“I took on the role of chairing the Dunedin Digital Transformation Programme based on a business case targeting a 30 per cent reduction in demand for tertiary health services. Gaming technology applied to health will enable greater-patient centric care and more interaction with service providers.” 


Strong says digitising health offers a continuum of benefits, from the patient through to rehabilitation. “Does that patient need in-hospital rehab or can it be done at home? If it can be done at home, then the patient can be anywhere. That has the potential to reduce the need for resource-heavy services, enabling staff to deliver more targeted support.” 


Digitisation will also help with health service planning and delivery. “We can feed real-time data into the system and that will help Te Whatu Ora identify where services are needed. And, because the apps and programmes we’re developing are digital, they are scalable and able to be replicated,” says Strong. 


“There was an appetite for Dunedin to be the testbed for this approach and given the industry here is so well connected, we have all the moving parts we need. Now, we put them together. And, because it’s digital, we can try something quickly and change it just as quickly, making apps and programmes highly responsive to real-time needs.” 


Liggett says the feedback we are getting is to start with the need or problem. “It is better to be involved in a problem requiring a solution rather than a solution looking for a problem. In an ecosystem, you have a problem, so you put a clever researcher, a clever clinician and a clever developer in a room and you come up with solutions for public good and economic development.” 


As Liggett says, there are a lot of very smart and innovative people in Dunedin who are at the centre of what we do whether in the gaming ecosystem or digital health. 


CoDE is funded by Kānoa, Dunedin’s Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funding its nationwide expansion, with an explicit remit to build the capacity of start-up businesses to drive innovation, revenue and jobs in the game development sector.   


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