NZ Fry Up: Is the internet more dangerous? Kiwis say yes; Google in (Auckland) town to stay; Create your own vendor ecosystem

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

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Is the internet more dangerous? Kiwis say yes

The internet. It gives and it takes. A Netsafe survey of 809 New Zealand adults by Colmar Brunton shows 71% of people think it has “positively impacted them”. But in that same survey 68% of respondents believe the internet is more dangerous than it was five years ago, and 52% reckon it will become even more dangerous by 2026.

We may therefore conclude the internet is seen by Kiwis as great for individuals, but not so good for society. As Netsafe is an nongovernmental organisation (NGO)  created to assist (and enforce under the Harmful Digital Communications Act) internet safety, it focusses on the latter. And it has let us know about all the horrible things people reported experiencing in the survey. From unwanted contact on social media (52%) to intimate images or videos being shared without consent (3%).

What can be done? Is it tougher laws, better public awareness, an internet filter? All three seem to be on the New Zealand government’s agenda at present. And judging from the survey, these measures are quite welcome by the public. For example, 60% believe a filter that blocks illegal content at a national level will be effective.

A filter is a big step in the wrong direction in a democracy, InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter has warned. “Filters will not work. They are a blunt tool that is a mile wide and an inch deep. In practice, anyone who wants to [can] bypass filters using common VPN tools, leaving ordinary people in New Zealand to suffer the filter’s side effects on connectivity,” he previously told Computerworld New Zealand.

When challenged on this stat and if it really shows that a majority of the New Zealand public want the internet filtered nationally, Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker told Computerworld New Zealand that respondents only indicated that a filter would be effective; they weren’t asked if they want it to be deployed. =

What might work is a code of practice. And as it happens, Netsafe is drafting one right now with all the big guns in the social media scene: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Tik Tok, and Twitch. Facebook and Twitter even popped up at a press conference in Auckland (via video due to the Sydney lockdown) to discuss the proposed New Zealand Online Safety Code of Practice, which is designed to address the dangerous web. The Australians are looking at bringing in a similar code, too.

But do voluntary codes work? Aren’t they just a way to avoid government regulation? Not always, says Cocker, who points out that signatories risk brand damage if they don’t comply and that voluntary codes can often smooth the way for better regulation.

The true test as to the effectiveness of this voluntary code might be five years away—when Colmar Brunton again surveys Kiwis to see if they are more, or less, afraid when they go online than they are now.

Google in (Auckland) town to stay

The big news about big tech in New Zealand this week is that Google is setting up a point of presence in Auckland, to enable its customers to connect directly to Google Cloud. Trade Me, Stuff, and Victoria University were all name-checked by Google senior vice president of cloud infrastructure Urs Holzle on the media call. Across the Tasman, the company is setting up another data region in Melbourne (the other one is in Sydney), while increasing their presence in New Zealand at the same time.

Holzle is also a new arrival in this neck of the woods, and with him comes a new engineering team. Yet to be recruited, it will be a mix of US engineers (immigration allowing) and local hires. Skills they are look for are in AI and machine learning, and this new team will work on a privacy project that will remain private to Google for the time being.

It’s another big announcement from a global cloud hyperscaler that is set to shake up our market, which according to IDC has to a large extent been dominated by local providers. IDC’s most recent public stats on the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market in New Zealand had Spark and Datacom with 43% of the market, Amazon Web Services with 23%, and Microsoft with 19%. Google has a measly 1%, so it’s probably time to boost the current Kiwi staff numbers from 50, give the sales folk some engineering company, and provide local CIOs with more reason to consider them.

Create your own vendor ecosystem

With so much choice on the market, should CIOs leave it to others to make the decisions? Perhaps they need to go direct to vendors—large and small, broad and niche—and create their own ‘vendor ecosystem’.

Over at CIO New Zealand, we examine the idea of a vendor ecosystem where IT acts as the integrator or general contractor, instead of an outsourcer, systems integrator, or major vendor providing that discovery, management, and integration function.

According to University of Auckland’s director of the Centre of Digital Enterprise, Ilan Oshri, a vendor ecosystem contains a mix of small and large companies led by IT that lets CIOs tap into the skills of both the specialists and the generalists. “What makes a collection of vendors an ecosystem is the joint effort expected from a number of vendors, some large and some small, some multiservice and some specialist, to work together to solve a business challenge a client firm faces,” he says.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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