NZ Fry Up: What CFOs think about digital transformation; Waikato Uni’s AI institute; Google earthquake alerts; Telco marketing, good and bad

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

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What CFOs think about digital transformation

They are the ‘numbers people’; you have to take them seriously. So, when a survey of 100 CFOs in New Zealand and Australia representing companies of at least US$200 million in annual revenue shows that 83% put digital transformation as a Top 5 corporate priority, it’s good news for CIOs.

The kicker is that new investment has to directly impact the bottom line. Sure, that’s always been the case, but more so now, according to Dimensional Research, whose survey is sponsored by enterprise support provider Rimini Street.

“CIOs who continually optimise their IT operations are in a solid position to create and secure new funding and resourcing options for strategic IT investments aligned with business priorities. Resources—budget, staff, and time—that become available from strategic savings can be adeptly reallocated to critical new revenue-generating initiatives to help navigate the organisation through a survive or stabilise mode or accelerate through a thrive mode,” the report says.

Meanwhile 92% of respondents agree that a successful CFO has a great relationship with their CIO counterpart, prompting the question “What were the other eight thinking?”.

Maybe they think the CIO lacks proactive engagement, the CIO lacks expertise in key areas, and the CIO’s plans have no demonstrable ROI. Those were the top three reasons provided by CFOs in the survey who said their relationship with the CIO had worsened in 2020. That’s was the year of COVID-19 lockdowns, when IT saved organisations by enabling work-from-home for staff within days, sometimes hours. If your IT team didn’t get any runs on the board last year, it might be too late to convince the ‘numbers people’ to pay you more attention in this one.

Waikato University launches AI Institute

When it comes to data science, Waikato University can claim a few firsts. Not least of which is WEKA, the open-source machine learning Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis library that has been downloaded 10 million times. And last year it announced it had installed New Zealand’s “most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence” (an Nvidia DGX A100, for those who care such things).

So, it is no surprise that this week the university launched a new artificial intelligence research institute. Te Ipu o te Mahara, which translates to ‘A Receptacle of Consciousness’, aims to be the conduit between academic research and commercial applications for AI, big data, and machine learning.

The institute’s director, Albert Bifet, notes that AI, along with Māori tech, are “identified as enabled growth engines for New Zealand. Research into real-time analytics for big data offers huge opportunities to create new businesses and transform existing businesses in New Zealand. It offers a step-change in computer performance, the efficiency and effectiveness of processing the huge data sets behind deep learning, machine learning, and AI,” he says.

Among the research projects listed on its website is the Time-Evolving Data Science and Artificial Intelligence for Advanced Open Environmental Science—or TAIAO (small wonder they put that moniker into an acronym). The $13 million government-funded environment project consists of bringing massive amounts of environment data together onto one open-source platform.

Google earthquake alerts

Google is name-checked in the Te Ipu o te Mahara announcement as benefitting from research at the Waikato University. But as New Zealand gives, so does it take. Google has expanded its earthquake alert system on Android devices to two countries outside the US: New Zealand and Greece.

In a blog post this week, Android product manager Boone Spooner says the system uses accelerometer sensors in Android smartphones to detect seismic waves that may indicate an earthquake and send alerts to smartphone users.

“If the phone detects shaking that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then takes this information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening, where it is and what its magnitude is,” Spooner writes.

The system will likely complement early warning alerts put out by Geonet, a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science, through its app and on social media.

Telco marketing: bad, ugly, and okay

It turns out that a hybrid fibre/coaxial (HFC) network is not the same as a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network, and that marketing it that way gets you in trouble. Vodafone has been found guilty in the Auckland District Court on nine charges under Section 11 of the Fair Trading Act relating to branding its HFC network in Wellington, Kapiti, and Christchurch as FibreX between October 2016 and March 2018. Vodafone hasn’t said if it will appeal the decision. Meanwhile, for the past two years or so the network has been rebranded to UltraFast HFC.

The entire episode joins a long line of marketing fails in telco, although Vodafone’s old foe Telecom (now Spark) is still tops of the list for its “Abstain for the Game” advert. This is when the telco sought to capitalise on its All Blacks sponsorship in the run up to a World Cup by asking fans to abstain from sex. That campaign never went live—after it was previewed in the media, common sense took over, and although it was more than decade ago, some things just live on in infamy.

An example of an okay marketing campaign is maybe the one Enable Networks—that quiet fibre achiever in Canterbury—ran to distinguish its network from Vodafone’s HFC. Its CEO Steve Fuller pops up in the Vodafone FibreX judgement explaining how it combatted customer confusion in promotional materials emphasising ‘’fibre to the door”. “Once such example related to a campaign in 2014 featuring a Weet-Bix box. Following completion of the work in the street, a small Weet-Bix box was delivered to the householder. The title on the wrapper was ‘fibre to your door’,” the judgement reads.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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