- Ardent advocate for education as a tool for transformation
- Giving back to the community through community philanthropy
- Developed a COVID tracing app
Alan Chew often asks himself one question: “What can I do?”
Chew became a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand in 2018, and focuses on using his hard-won success to help others.
“I’m lucky in that I started the business in a discipline I really enjoyed, which is computers,” he says. “And it allows me to go back and do the thing I like, which is helping people in poverty.”
After stints at the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company (the precursor to Fonterra) and The Great Outdoors Company, he founded Houston Technology Group in 1986 and serves as its managing director.
Chew is an ardent advocate for education. His parents wanted better for their son than their life of struggle in Malaysia. They made monumental sacrifices to ensure Alan could seek education in New Zealand.
“Confucianism teaches you about education as a tool for transformation,” he says. “I was born into abject poverty and my parents, who were both totally illiterate, saw that education would be the answer to those problems.”
Chew made the most of his opportunity and gained a Management Studies (Hons) degree from the University of Waikato. His desire to give back to the country has led a to a life of philanthropy, serving on numerous trusts and groups aimed at helping communities.
As New Zealand began its battle with COVID-19, he asked himself what he could do to help.
“One of the best weapons to fight that enemy is to isolate and track it,” he says. “So what I did was design a contact tracing app.”
That app was eventually adopted by the New Zealand Government.
Away from public health, fighting poverty is his primary interest, and he says it cannot be achieved by social welfare alone.
“I’ve seen both sides…in Malaysia, where there’s no social welfare, and in New Zealand, where there is quite a lot,” he says. “I am not against welfare - what I am against is not giving people the means to come out of poverty.”
“I believe in giving out fishing rods rather than fish.”
Chew is exploring new avenues to advocate education. After eight years at Trust Waikato, he is stepping down as chair and is standing for election to the WEL Energy Trust in June 2020.
“I intend to go in there and do what I’ve done at Trust Waikato, which is to promote education.”