Friday Fry Up: IT election concerns, IT election silence, Mobile matters, Spark goes all-in on mobile, What you do in a recession

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

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IT election concerns

Misinformation is the biggest threat, but don’t rule out the prospect that hacking could rear its ugly head.

We’re talking about the New Zealand general election in October and sobering research from ISACA, the global organisation on IT governance. It’s survey of 8,500 IT professionals internationally highlighted that 72% of New Zealand and Australian respondents ranked misinformation as the biggest threat, followed by hacking or tampering with voter registration rolls (49%).

“Interestingly, while just under half of ANZ respondents believe there is appropriate funding in place to prevent non-technological threats (i.e., human interference or unauthorised polling place access), only 28% believe adequate funding exists to prevent hacking. This signals that either more funding may need to be budgeted for this in future elections or that participants are unaware of the current levels of funding in place to secure elections,” ISACA notes.

Of course, it could be worse. In the US, which will hold its election in November, 63% of US IT professionals are not confident in the resilience of election infrastructure, and 57% believe funding isn’t sufficient to prevent hacking of election, according to the ISACA survey.

IT election silence

Tech policies have never been front and centre of any political campaign, but in past elections the main parties have at least tried to make an effort to include some ICT-related promises. Last election, a manifesto created by all the tech groups helped ensure most political parties were united in the need for things like a national chief technology officer (which turned into a bit of a disaster). But a search by Techblog’s Paul Brislen last week turned up very little, although honourable mention must go to the Greens. Another search done by yours truly a week later has found the situation unchanged (and please do let us know if we’ve missed anything).

COVID-19 and the uncertain economy is understandably on everyone’s minds, but tech is critical to enabling a recovery that is fair and equitable to all New Zealanders.

This silence isn’t all down to the politicians. What about the tech groups—where is their advocacy? No collective manifesto from them this time around. With just 29 days to go, we’ll be watching with interest.

Mobile matters

Comparing mobile pricing plans is not a job for the faint-hearted, so hats off to the Commerce Commission for its new approach to assessing competition in the market: reviewing nearly 80,000 consumer mobile bills over a 12-month period.

In short, the commission concludes there is not enough consumer churn—with 64% not changing plans in 12 months, claiming many would have been better off if they had. Vodafone counters that Kiwis pay less than the OECD average for mobile services, and Spark says the study didn’t take into account add-ons like Spotify and Netflix subscriptions. 2degrees meanwhile says it’s a fan of switching, noting it pushed for regulatory reforms such as number portability and mobile termination access.

Actually, all four companies said a whole bunch of other stuff but, you know, we aren’t writing a multi-season online streaming epic here. We’ve just given you the highlights.

One very interesting aspect to all this is that the commission wants the industry body, the NZ Telecommunications Forum, to work on a consumer data right for mobile users. “In the telecommunications context, a consumer data right can be thought of as a “data portability” right, which would enable consumers to share their transaction, usage and product information with competitors and comparison services if they choose to do so,” the commission notes in its open letter to the telcos.

If it comes to pass—and nothing in telco land is ever simple—it could mean that consumers might one day be able to a website and compare plans. How electric.

Spark goes all-in on mobile

In last week’s Fry Up we pondered out loud if Spark would put the pedal to the metal on its 5G strategy. This week, the telco announced that it will be doubling down on a mobile future, when it announced of its three-year strategy to investors. The telco’s “ambition for FY23” includes the following KPIs:

  • The PSTN (public switched telephone network) is decommissioned and 90% of its broadband copper base is migrated off copper.
  • 30% to 40% of broadband base is connected via wireless broadband services.
  • 200% increase in network capacity.
  • 1 million IoT connected devices.

What do you do in a recession?

It’s official: New Zealand is now in a recession. And as everybody knows that’s the very best time to start a new business. Actually, not always, but we’ll go along with it for the sake of our narrative. This week, we have sort-of encouraging news from the start-up front lines.

Former Pushpay CEO Chris Heaslip is investing in anti-money-laundering tech start-up First AML, proving that the virtual circle of founder-turned-VC-investor is a real thing. Heaslip is part of an NZ$8 million Series A funding round led by US-based Bedrock Capital, with support from Icehouse Ventures.

Meanwhile 20 women-led Kiwi start-ups, many with tech at their heart, have benefitted as part of an oversubscribed $2 million ArcAngels fund. This is New Zealand’s first and only fund investing exclusively in early-stage companies founded by women. The typical investment in each company ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. It’s not nothing, but it’s not exactly overwhelming.

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