NZ Fry Up: Addressing the NZ tech diversity gap; Better IT for Pacific auditors; TAIAO data science platform

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our editor in Auckland.

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Addressing the diversity gap in New Zealand tech sector

In recent years the New Zealand tech sector has been upfront in acknowledging it can do better when it comes to diversity and inclusion. An area of particular focus is Māori and Pacific peoples’ participation, who according to a recent digital skills report represent just 4% and 2.8% ,respectively, of the IT workforce.

The Hi-Tech Trust is working with Perpetual Guardian, New Zealand’s largest statutory trust company, to address this issue through the Hi-Tech Foundation. It has awarded six scholarships as part of He Whetū Mārama Ngā Karahipi (Leading Light Scholarship) programme.

“From an 18-year-old with 11 siblings to a solo mother retraining after two decades in a different field, the winners are receiving a total of $30,000 in financial assistance to support their journeys into tech, consistent with Hi-Tech Foundation’s mission to reduce barriers and inequities within the tech sector,” notes the foundation.

Ka pai.

Better IT for Pacific auditors

Often it’s not the worker but the tools that need fixing. This appears to be the case for the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI), the official organisation for the supreme audit institutions in 27 countries across the Pacific, of which 20 are developing nations. Its purpose is to promote transparent, accountable, effective, and efficient use of public sector resources in the Pacific—and it needs help with its IT.

“PASAI has previously focused on providing training to [supreme audit institutions] staff to improve their auditing skills. Increasingly PASAI and supporting development partners are recognising that underlying weaknesses in IT infrastructure impacts the [institutions’] ability to succeed in many areas,” says tender documents for a consultant to assess the state of IT in the Pacific states.

The successful provider will be expected to investigate everything from technology and procurement policies to connectivity and user devices, as well as information security. The assessment will proceed at pace, with the chosen provider expected to start the project in May 2021 and end it in July.

The New Zealand auditor general acts as the secretary general for PASAI, so the Office of the Auditor General is running the tender, which will cover the 20 members considered developing nations (some of which are US territories): American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (including its national office and the offices for Chuuk State, Kosrae State, Pohnpei State, and Yap State), Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

$13m TAIAO data science platform looks at its projects

Acronyms proliferate in tech, but they come in handy when the full name stretches to 11 words. So let’s all embrace TAIAO; otherwise, we’d have to say Time-Evolving Data Science/Artificial Intelligence for Advanced Open Environmental Science. TAIAO is Māori for the natural world.

But enough about its name—what does TAIAO do?

It is software platform that brings together massive amounts of environmental data. Launched in March 2020, it is part of a $13 million programme funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and is a collaboration of the Waikato, Auckland, and Canterbury universities, MetService, and Beca.

A year on from its inception, Waikato University has hosted a workshop to discuss TAIAO projects, which include using big data and machine learning to address predator management, map Kahikatea stands using aerial images, predict flooding hazards on Coromandel rivers, and detect cyanobacterial blooms on Lake Waikare.

“I think we are on the brink of something really transformational,” says Karin Bryan, director of the University of Waikato Environmental Research Institute. “This project will allow us new ways of analysing the environmental data and sharing knowledge through a platform that allows researchers and scientists to work collaboratively with all available data sets we have, far more efficiently.”

TAIAO is built on an open source framework, and New Zealand AI developers won’t be surprised to see that software on the site includes WEKA (Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis), an open source machine learning software in Java, and its relation MOA, Machine Learning for Data Streams, which is also written in Java.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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