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Apple's Steve Wozniak: A connected world can drive recovery

Northern Ireland's technology sector can help revive the economy by grasping hold of export opportunities provided by worldwide interconnectivity, the co-founder of Apple has said.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from Silicon Valley, Steve Wozniak said there's nothing to stop our indigenous hi-tech companies from working in partnership with those around the world, even those in the Californian hub.

"The technology sector is looked to as the revival asset of Ireland and I know you've got a lot of great technology companies there," he said.

"There's a lot going on and there's a lot that could be done, especially in this modern age of the internet where you don't have to be so concentrated and can be helping out other technology companies like the ones here in Silicon Valley."

Mr Wozniak was speaking ahead of his appearance as guest speaker in Londonderry in May at The European Business Network Congress (EBN), a gathering which attracts international investors and business angels.

He said Apple, the company he co-founded with Steve Jobs, was started with angel investment funding and said it, along with the likes of venture capital, is essential when it comes to getting hi-tech companies off the ground.

In a wide-ranging interview, the man who invented both the Apple I and Apple II computers in the Seventies, said Northern Ireland's burgeoning hi-tech sector should not try to emulate Silicon Valley but rather create its own community of technology experts, much like the other US regions of southern Florida and northern Carolina.

To get that, he advocated creating an environment that allows creativity to flow.

"You need an environment, especially for engineers, where people have a lot of freedom to experiment and play with things that may not seem worth anything in terms of economic terms but which will create trains of thoughts and ideas.

"That's what young people do; they don't need money so they play with things and then accidentally stumble on the next big thing that could change our lives."

And although advocating that students are taught basic computing skills such as programming, he was adamant that learning needs to be enjoyable.

"It's got to be fun, and kids have got to see the value in what they're doing. They want to type programs on a screen to see instant results.

"If you get excited when you're young, then you're going to be the masters of building things your whole life."

And he wasn't afraid to stick his neck out in predicting the next revolution in the industry.

He added: "I see the next big thing as artificial intelligence, in terms of computers understanding speech and the way a human brain works.

"That will lead up eventually to machines which have what we call feelings."

Belfast Telegraph