Friday Fry Up: Resilience then recovery in NZ IT, Smartphone sales rise, Contact tracing boosted, University and insurer align in data partnership

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

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Resilience, then recovery, in IT and business services market

There were few surprises in IDC’s half-year report on the IT and business services market in this part of the world. In New Zealand and Australia, the market grew by just 1.7% in the period January to June 2020, compared to growth of 4.4% for the same period in 2019.

Associate market analyst Emily Lynch says IDC divides the IT service market into three primary markets—project-orientated, managed services, and support services—and it is managed services that was the most resilient during the downturn caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Within this market, hosted infrastructure, hosted application and network management services experienced heightened activity. This comes as businesses are forced to adjust to new ways of working during COVID-19, with significant reliance on network, connectivity, and endpoint solutions to ensure business resiliency,” she says.

While growth was suppressed due to the pandemic, things are looking up, with IDC expecting “a robust market recovery in 2021.” As market activity gathers momentum through 2021, IDC predicts 2.8% year-on-year growth, to $37 billion across Australian and New Zealand.

Smartphone sales rise

During the lockdowns, the big story was the PC shortage and the fall of smartphone sales. But the latter appears to be on the rise again, with our friends at IDC once again supplying the numbers.

The IDC Asia-Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker says in July-September 2020, New Zealand’s smartphone market increased 35% quarter-on-quarter to more than 384,000 units, down just 0.1% year-on-year. Following on from the strong pent-up demand in crucial devices such as PCs, laptops, and tablets, for working and studying from home, we are starting to see demand flow into the smartphone space,” says associate market analyst Maxim Wilson.

He puts the surge in sales down to a collective desire to go shopping after the lockdowns, as bricks-and-mortar stores were favoured over online ones.

Being stuck in New Zealand also meant people spent their holiday money on items like smartphones. “A lack of international tourism has freed up extra income and consumers have increasingly looked at the consumer device markets to allocate their spend,” Wilson says.

The IDC tracker shows that the mid-range price band, $300 to $600, was the most popular. But the stats don’t take into account the release of Apple’s first 5G iPhone in October and November, which starts at a pricey $1,349 for the iPhone 12 Mini and rises to a super-pricey $2,299 for the 256GB iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Contact tracing boosted

Smartphones are becoming valuable tools in the fight against COVID-19, specifically the government’s contact-tracing app that is available through the Google Play and Apple App stores. There are about 2.4 million registered New Zealand users of the app.

But not enough people are actively scanning every time they enter a new premise. Complacency is setting in, as the nation looks forward to a (fingers crossed) COVID-free Christmas (outside of managed isolation facilities). The announcement this week that Bluetooth tracing capability, developed using the Apple/Google Exposure Notification Framework, has been added to the app’s functionality, is a good reminder to all to remember to scan when out and about.

The contact tracing app is another example of how health IT professionals are collaborating in new ways to provide innovative and timely solutions in response the crisis. The cultural shift forced by COVID-19 is a silver lining in a very dark cloud, as Auckland District Health Board Chief Digital Officer Shayne Tong told CIO New Zealand this week: “It was just incredible, the mindset change we had to do to survive, and it was all about organising around a common enemy, which was COVID,” he says.

University and insurance company align in data partnership

Collaboration is also the name of the game for the University of Auckland and Tower, the New Zealand insurance company, which this week announced a data partnership brokered by the university’s commercial arm Uniservices. Basically, the students will do the work and Tower will supply the data, says Sebastian Link, director of the data science programme at the University of Auckland.

“Students will not only develop solutions for technical problems, but also attempt to quantify what the solutions to such problems might imply for Tower’s operations. They will also look into how those solutions flow through to the customer experience, he says.

Tower head of data and customer platforms Miles Fordyce says the first project is analysing fire trends in New Zealand residential property so that Tower can “give more tailored pricing to customers”. The project will also involve “geocoding residential locations in the Pacific Islands and optimising insurance survey design. … Long-term, these pieces of work will be extended with a focus on making data available to customers, helping to increase education around risks like climate change and severe weather,” he says.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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