NZ Fry Up: Broadband in the latest lockdown; National digital twin revisited; Automation for equality

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

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How NZ broadband fares in the latest lockdown

Here we go again. Three days into lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand and fingers crossed everyone in your organisations (who can) is successfully working from home, fighting the urge to click on a phishing email. Also, fingers crossed that lockdown Level 4 is short, sharp, and effective.

With the move to Level 4, Chorus has fired up its daily broadband coverage graphs. The most interesting so far is the one comparing the first day of nationwide Level 4 lockdown in 2021 (18 August) with 2020 (26 March). Usage this time around was 27% higher than Day One of the lockdown last year, with more than 26 petabytes of data transported across the Chorus network on Wednesday, making it a new record. It is, according to Chorus, the equivalent of 1,000 years of a single Netflix HD stream. So, a lot.

1st day of level 4 in 2020 vs 2021 Chorus

The first day of the August 2021 COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand has resulted in a new record of usage—26 petabytes—up 27% when compared to the first day of the 2020 lockdown.

Chorus cites the reason for the increase as being manifold: people connecting to higher speed service, an increase in the amount of 4K content being watched, and a rise in the use of video in social media.

Level 4 came unexpectedly, but just as IT leaders all the around the country quickly dusted off their lockdown playbook, so too will have Chorus CTO Ewan Powell. He told CIO New Zealand earlier this year that, in common with most CIOs, it is people who come first and second. In his case, his team must ensure that staff can work from home and that field staff can attend to faults. The third priority is maintaining network capacity.

“Ironically, the network probably needs the least of the attention. We look at the information and model it regularly. There are a few pieces of traffic that you can move around the place, but there’s no massive augmentation you can do in a hurry, so you have to invest ahead of the curve for where traffic is going to take you,” he says.

The current ceiling for traffic throughput on the Chorus network is more than 4.5Tbps, while the peak on Wednesday was 3.6Tbps.

Fibre network valuation close enough

It must have been just a tiny bit irksome for Chorus to have the Commerce Commission announce a reduction in its valuation of the company’s fibre network in a statement this week. As part of the ongoing regulation of the network, the commission has to work out what it’s worth, and they’ve come up with the sum of $5.427 billion, less than Chorus’s valuation of $5.507 billion.

But what’s a few million, really, as Chorus CFO David Collins explains: “We note the outcome is about $80 million less than our submission of $5.5 billion but while there are some remaining areas of debate, we do see this as a positive step forward, and we will be engaging with the Commerce Commission to make our case.”

National digital twin revisited

Entertainment is an excellent use of fibre broadband, and so too is creating a national digital twin. As we noted in last week’s NZ Fry Up, this is very much on the minds of IT leaders in Aotearoa. Smart Cities NZ director Jannat Maqbool describes a thriving network of tech, government, and academic leaders engaged in getting a digital twin on the national agenda, with the Digital Twin Hub becoming a go-to place in New Zealand and Australia. Maqbool says it is modelled on the UK experience, and “we work closely with people operating in this space over there to learn from their experience.”

She says, “A national digital twin approach can avoid duplication, enhance consistency, and accelerate outcomes. While a national digital twin is a significant opportunity for New Zealand, a national approach to a digital twin is as important and beneficial. We are working in both spaces as we can’t really have a focus on one without the other.”

Maqbool says there is plenty of work to do to get everyone around the table and “genuinely collaborating” but that work has begun in terms of data architecture and standards. “It starts with leadership, standards, and capability development. Then the data becomes the engine room; and ensuring an information management framework is in place will help the nation unlock the value of data and support better decision making and use of public money.”

As part of work to build capability, Maqbool has met with Digital Communications Minister David Clark , who recently told a TUANZ audience that a national digital twin comes under his purview.

Automation gives a chance for equality reset

It is not the job of the algorithm to eliminate human bias, says Nicholson Consulting CEO Kyle Reiri, who presented five ways for CIOs to consider Te Ao Māori principles in data strategies at a recent TUANZ event. “Automation gives us this really unique opportunity to be deliberate about the decisions we are making.”

Senior leaders need to be thoughtful about ensuring they don’t replicate bias when moving to automation, and as such should “sit down as an executive team and find out what fair looks like, don’t leave it to an algorithm,” she says.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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