Friday Fry Up: Cloud, collaboration, cybersecurity top of mind; Diversity programmes work; Small schools, big data

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

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Cloud, collaboration, cybersecurity top of mind

A renewed focus on industry compliance, security, and resiliency is putting cloud implementation and integration at the top of the to-do list for small to medium business. That’s according to IDC, whose definition of such businesses is those with fewer than 500 employees, which encompasses most New Zealand companies. Despite the pandemic exposing the digital shortcomings of many New Zealand small businesses, fewer than half (43%) intend to increase their IT spend in 2021. When they do splash the cash, IDC expects it to be on cloud, collaboration, and cybersecurity technologies, says IDC Asia-Pacific vice president Chris Morris.

“COVID-19 has challenged [small businesses’] digital transformation journey beyond their capabilities. With digitalisation being the focus for [Australian and New Zealander small businesses] in the next 24 months, these businesses will require tech and business professional services as much as the technology itself,” he says.

Diversity programmes are yielding results

For at least the past five years, there has been a major push in the New Zealand tech industry to grow diversity. Multiple organisations have sprung up, such as Technovation and TupuToa (to name just two we spoke to recently), to address the issue, and many companies have created their own programmes to encourage more young people—especially girls—to consider tech careers.

So, it was great to hear that all these efforts might be starting to pay off. Not via a survey or from the people who run these programmes, but from the most important part of the ecosystem: an IT professional who hires tech talent.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise chief digital officer Richard Kay noted this week that not only are graduates more attuned to the needs of employers, but there’s been a rise in the number of women applying for IT roles.

“Very recently, over the past two years, and particularly in 2020, we’ve seen a shift in the quality of people coming out [of training courses] now. They have really good critical thinking, are keen to think outside the box, and try different things—particularly in AI, machine learning, and data science. We are also seeing a lot more females come through; previously, it was dominated by males, so that’s been an awesome shift as well,” he says.

Kay says NZTE deliberately set out to ensure diversity is part of recruitment process. But you can’t hire what isn’t there, and so it’s great to see that the efforts of so many people right across the New Zealand tech sector may be starting to pay off.

Kay’s team is embarking on the third phase of NZTE’s digital transformation programme, which involves supercharging its data and analytics capability, as CIO New Zealand has covered.

Small schools are big data users

With schools about to open again after the Christmas holidays, Network for Learning (N4L) has released a report looking back at that troublesome Term 2 in 2020, when between April 15 and July 3 schools were for closed for 22 days due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Just why N4L chose, for their first data report, the term when everyone was absent for a large chunk of it, is not explained. But there are of plenty of interesting stats and facts to mull over nonetheless; here are a couple that caught our eye.

Secondary school students (299,000 using the N4L network) consume twice as much data per day per capita as primary school students (493,000 using the N4L network). Students attending West Coast schools (the region with the smallest number of students) consumed twice as much data—24.3GB per student—as their peers in Auckland (the most populous region)—10.7GB.

And there was a spike in DDoS attacks in the week of May 24, when students returned to school following the national lockdown. This contributed to a 45% rise in DDoS attacks in Term 2 compared to the previous school term.

The reasons for this increase weren’t commented on in the report, but in December 2020, Clayton Hubbard, N4L’s head of enterprise architecture, told CIO New Zealand that students sometimes try to bring down the school’s network by downloading a DDoS program from the web. He called it the modern equivalent of ringing the fire alarm when there is no emergency—the purpose being to cause major disruption in the school. Perhaps a few pupils were not too keen on heading back to school after the lockdown. It’s a fair bet schools will be on the lookout for similar disruption in the first few days back following the long summer break.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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