NZ Fry Up: Cybersecurity skills shortage; Data on NIWA’s mind; Growing NZ IT talent

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

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Cybersecurity skills shortages on NZ IT minds

It’s on consumers’ minds, it’s on the government’s mind, it’s on the CEO’s mind. What is it? Security. And yet it seems there just aren’t enough people out there who get it. In ISACA’s annual State of Cybersecurity 2021 survey, New Zealand and Australian respondents continually surpass the global percentage in all the questions related to a lack of cybersecurity skills and capability. That’s not good.

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association survey found:

  • 66% of respondents say their cybersecurity teams are understaffed (compared to 55% globally).
  • 59% have unfulfilled cybersecurity positions (versus 55% globally).
  • 52% say their cybersecurity applicants are not well qualified (versus 50% globally).

But perhaps the most troubling stat of all is that only about a third (35%) of ANZ respondents say that our friends in human resources—the people hiring for cybersecurity skills—understand what is required.

ISACA notes that organisations are forced to plug the skills gaps through a range of initiatives, including training nonsecurity staff interested in moving to security roles, using contractors, and increasing reliance on AI and automation.

The survey also highlights that the pandemic has seen not only a rise in the cybercrime but a corresponding rise in staff churn: 59% of Australian and New Zealand respondents have difficulty retaining top talent. Reasons cited are that talent is poached by another company, or they can’t provide cybersecurity staff with the money, promotion, or development opportunity that would entice them to stay.

Makes you wonder if those on the other side of cybercrime—the so-called ‘bad actors’—are experiencing the same problems.

Security and data on consumer minds

It’s not just IT concerned about cybersecurity. Consumers are too. Who is looking after their data is becoming more and more important to them. But do not take our word for it; the Harvard Business Review Analytics people say so in their latest Become 2021 report, created with Mastercard:

With an increased focus on customer experience comes the risk of a privacy and data security pandemic. Businesses cannot overestimate the importance of privacy and security to consumers. In fact, 80% of ANZ consumers agree it is important that the companies they buy from are using secure technology to make their privacy ironclad. Yet, among ANZ organisations, only 35% have or will invest in data privacy and cyber security management to improve customer experience in the next 12 months.

It’s time to get HR into the room and have a chat about cybersecurity skills. While you’re at it, haul in the other divisions too, because it turns out ANZ is a bit of laggard when it comes to measuring innovation, Harvard Business Review Analytics also found: “Local organisations lag in a few critical areas, such as measuring the impact of innovation on business performance (55% of ANZ organisations versus 66% globally) and in acquiring at least one business for its innovation capabilities in the last three years (41% of ANZ, 55% global).”

But maybe it’s the A letting the NZ down in this survey—according to Steve Vamos, CEO at accounting software provider Xero, New Zealand is doing just fine. “I think New Zealand is a more competitive environment and a more internationally connected environment. Kiwis typically travel a lot when they’re younger and they look overseas sooner. New Zealand has had to look at doing things differently, more intensely than Australia, and that’s because it’s a smaller market, a smaller country,” he says.

Data on NIWA’s mind

Whether cybersecurity skills are more or less in demand than data science skills is perhaps a debate to be had. But, it’s fair to say that when you’re in the market for one, either, or—heaven help you—both, it doesn’t hurt to cast the net globally. That’s what the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Taihoro Nukurangi is doing in its search for eight new data scientists.

The crown research institute is ramping up its data capability because that’s the way you do science these days, says general manager of research Rob Murdoch. “Data science will change the way we do research in the future. New technologies are enabling our scientists to collect enormous data sets that can now be analysed using AI and machine learning at unprecedented speeds and details. It is revolutionising the type of science we can do to address issues such as adapting to climate change, improving water quality, and managing our fisheries,” he says.

Machine learning, for example, is used widely in NIWA’s climate science to enhance forecasting abilities and was “key to the sophisticated high-resolution forecasting provided to Emirates Team New Zealand for their successful defence of the America’s Cup.”

Always good if you can claim some of the credit for a national sporting win.

Growing NZ IT talent

It would be just perfect if we didn’t have to always import talent but instead grow our own and in doing so provide great career options for our kids. Over the years, there have been plenty of initiatives in this direction, but there’s always room for more.

The latest is that Samsung is bringing its Solve for Tomorrow competition to New Zealand, a nationwide competition in partnership with the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. It’s open to students in Years 7-10, who will compete to create new technology that helps solve societal problems. The competition’s profile will be boosted by the addition of judge Siouxsie Wiles, an award-winning scientist, this year’s recipient of New Zealander of the Year, and a Lego enthusiast (check out her TedX talk on Lego and gender bias).

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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