Friday Fry Up: Digital inclusion plan plea, Fibre to the home at last, Health tech’s unsung hero, Cybersecurity again

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

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Parties urged to sign digital inclusion plan

With just 23 days to go until polling day, there’s plenty of time surely to commit to digital inclusion. That’s the pitch to political parties from InternetNZ, which has 50 organisations signed up to its digital inclusion action plan—but just one minor party on board. The plan’s five points are:

  • affordable connectivity
  • getting devices to people who can’t afford them, and addressing accessibility barriers
  • wraparound support for the newly connected
  • digital skills for displaced workers and small businesses
  • longer term internet resilience

To date, the Greens are alone in signing up, just as last week they were the only ones with a tech policy (of sorts). But that all changed on Monday when the National Party released its tech policy, and its leader Judith Collins actually referred to it on the TVNZ leaders debate on Tuesday. Tech folk up and down the country were no doubt stunned to get a mention in prime time as the sector, despite being the country’s third largest exporter, barely rates a mention most days.

Tech interest groups we spoke to were united in welcoming National’s idea for establishing a Minister of Technology. Currently, that portfolio is spread across five ministers. This must make it difficult for a government to provide a cohesive approach to growing the sector, let alone address issues such as digital skills gaps.

Fibre to the home at last!

Trans-Tasman rivalry is all in good fun, but the laughs died long ago when it comes to the mess that is the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia. It kicked off about the same time as the Ultra Fast Broadband on this side of the ditch, but it seems to have been mired in controversy from the get-go.

The latest NBN announcement is that an additional A$3.5 billion will be spent on providing 2 million Australian homes access to faster broadband. The current NBN deployment is almost complete, but it is only required to provide 25Mbps peak speeds to all premises and 50Mbps to 90% of fixed-line connections. As we all know, that just isn’t enough in a data-hungry world.

Meanwhile the original UFB build here in New Zealand has been extended during the current government’s term. If National gets the chance rule on 17 October, it’s promising to spend $1 billion over the next ten years to expand the rollout to 90% of New Zealanders. Unlike what happened with the copper network, this is not an asset you can sweat for decades—rather like the roading network, its infrastructure that should be continually upgraded.

Health tech’s unsung hero

In the list of Kiwi tech greats, you don’t often see Colin Murdoch’s name mentioned. Inventor of disposable syringe (16 billion used globally every year) and the tranquiliser gun, the Timaru pharmacist changed the world. But unlike the inventor of the electric fence, he didn’t build a sustainable business, so that’s maybe why Murdoch isn’t a household name in the way that electric fence pioneer William Gallagher is. Apparently he lacked the commercialisation expertise and assistance—according to a profile by Radio NZ, Murdoch could only afford to take out patents in New Zealand and Australia.

So, it was good to see Murdoch mentioned on the Healthtech Activator website, the latest venture from Callaghan Innovator, especially as he might have found this kind of resource and information hub useful.

Health tech is defined as digital health, medical device technologies, therapeutics and pharmaceuticals. According to the Technology Investment Network, the sector’s vital stats are 22 health tech companies in the Top 200 tech exporters, earning a combined annual revenue of $1.9 billion, employing 7,636 people, and spending a combined $226 million in research and development.

Health tech is one of two sectors identified in the Global Start Up Report in 2020 (although it’s referred to as ‘life sciences’). The other is of course agritech.

Cybersecurity again

We couldn’t quite let a Fry Up go by without some mention of cybersecurity. Those NZX attacks have well and truly destroyed the notion that New Zealand is out of sight from the bad guys.

This has led to all kinds of security surveys, and the latest from Barracuda hasn’t made for reassuring reading. More than 1,000 businesses were surveyed across Asia-Pacific, with more than a third (38%) of those in New Zealand and Australia noting they’ve had at least one data breach or cybersecurity incident since moving to remote working. While 42% said their employees aren’t properly trained in the cyberrisks associated with remote working.

In the CERT report for the first half of 2020, most incidents were to do with phishing. While not as spectacular as the new breed of DDoS attacks, it appears the biggest cybersecurity risk is that a staff member is going to get distracted, click on a link, and import some nasty into your network.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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