Friday Fry Up: Parliament’s 2008 class of tech, New Zealand TikTok users subject of sale, delivery services no great shakes

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Parliament's 2008 class of tech leave the House

New Zealand politicians who take on tech issues are a small but determined breed, and somewhat endangered. Clare Curran (Labour), Nikki Kaye (National) and Gareth Hughes (Greens) were in the class of 2008 (well almost, Hughes joined in 2010), and they were three of a very select group of MPs who make ICT part of their parliamentary legacy.

When all three were backbenchers it seemed like they were at every tech event (and there were a lot of tech events), sitting alongside each other (Tracey Martin from NZ First joined them in 2011) on stage, debating tech issues. They actually did OK when you consider that tech issues are tricky, and tech people can be quite critical when non-tech people get stuff wrong.

Hughes, Kaye and Curran are leaving parliament and have just delivered their valedictory statements. What did they say about ICT?

New Zealand Parliament Beehive Thinkstock

The Beehive is the executive wing of New Zealand Parliament.

Hughes noted that together with Kaye and Curran he worked on getting select committees live-streamed. "I'm glad that it's just business as usual now. People no longer have to fly to Wellington to attend hearings. The public can see MPs working outside the theatre of the Chamber."

Kaye pointed out that she had helped ensure uncapped fast internet broadband connectivity to all New Zealand schools. "This was about unlimited learning. This was about ensuring that young people were not disadvantaged by geography in this country." She also signed off the Digital Technologies curriculum in all schools when she was Minister of Education.

Curran had the most to say about tech, and that is probably because she was, for a time, Minister for ICT-related portfolios: Communications, Digital Media for Government Digital Services, and Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government).

"Access to technology is a social necessity as well as a social good yet tech and digital is still seen as a portfolio on the edges. Worth around $10 billion to the economy with $2 billion in exports in 2019," Curran said. "There are some one-off successes – the massive replacement of the IRD system, ordering a new passport online, registering a business, but where are the initiatives that grow innovation within government? We have burgeoning agtech, biotech, and fintech sectors – where's our govtech? The methodologies and applications that enable fast, agile, adaptive solutions to our most pressing social and economic issues. Why aren't we building scale from our own IT talent through leveraging our $4 billion government IT spend locally and embedding better practices within and across government?"

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was sitting next to Curran during her statement so maybe he was taking note should Labour return after the General Election in September.

In the meantime, Fry Up wishes Kaye, Hughes and Curran all the best with their second act.

NZ TikTok users subject of sale to Microsoft

The latest twist in the China vs US trade war/digital divide is that Microsoft is going to buy TikTok, or at least negotiations for a possible sale have until 15 September to come to fruition. President Trump has approved it, Microsoft has blogged it.

Microsoft isn't looking for ALL of TikTok, just the business in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I'm sure it's fine company to keep, but why are we lumped in with these three? Why single out this ‘team of five million'?

An obvious answer could be the ‘Five Eyes' intelligence alliance. Given the fear that TikTok users' data has/might end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist party and Microsoft has vowed to bring all American users' data back to the US if the deal is successful.

What about that other member of the Five Eyes? Why not include the UK?

It may have something to do with the UK being in some way still bound to the European Union (don't ask us to unravel the intricacies of Brexit, this TikTok saga is convoluted enough). Europe takes a much more hands-on approach to regulating the internet, it isn't overtly scrapping with China and no one in charge over there wants to personally broker tech deals like the US President does. So, maybe TikTok's current owners can keep it in that region for now, and with it our Five Eyes' friend, the UK.

Delivery services no great shakes

Once tech had upended the taxis it went after the food delivery business. Uber is the most famous example - launching Uber Eats and making the point that pizza isn't the only meal you can get sent to your door. Local micro-mobility company Flamingo got in on the act, when it emerged from Lockdown with a food delivery business and has now signed up 200 restaurants. (By all means, check out the Flamingo story here).

But what about the other side of the equation? Seems that not all fast food joints are that keen on the move. In Burger Fuel's annual report to the NZX, the chairman and CEO's report notes the following: "At this stage Burger Fuel NZ will continue with our policy of not undertaking third-party, home delivery as over time we believe this will negatively affect both the brand and individual store profitability."

With 62 outlets in the country, BurgerFuel would be a good get for Flamingo, Uber and anyone else with an app to deliver food. But not now, maybe not ever.

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