NZ Fry Up: $60m to boost rural connectivity; Chorus opts for hot-desking; IT leadership moves; Kordia chair goes to Spark

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our correspondent in the Central North Island.

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NZ Govt reveals details of $60m rural connectivity funding boost

The New Zealand government is stumping up $60 million to boost network capacity and speeds in rural areas, while providing broadband services to some of the country’s most remote communities and funding connectivity at more marae.

The funding was announced during the 2020 general election and allocated in the 2022 budget.

New Zealand Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications David Clark, announced details of how the $60 million will be spent. The funding will go towards three initiatives.

The first is $43 million will be used to improve network capacity and speeds for rural users in locations with slow broadband, such as in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and the Waikato.

A further $15m will fund a new initiative called the Remote Users Scheme, which aims to provide broadband services to New Zealanders in some of the country’s most remote locations who currently have no coverage, or only have voice calling and text messaging services. This scheme is set to launch later in 2022.

The remaining $2 million will be spent on extending the existing Marae Digital Connectivity initiative for up to two years to connect more eligible marae across the country on top of the over 560 already connected through this initiative. These are mostly in rural areas where they serve as hubs for their communities.

Combined with the Rural Capacity Upgrades Clark announced in February, the new $60 million funding will bring the amount the New Zealand Government has allocated to upgrading the capacity of rural networks to over $90 million, said Clark.

Chorus slashes office space to embrace hybrid working

Ultra-fast broadband network operator Chorus has embraced the shift to hybrid working  —where staff work only some of their days in the office and the rest at home, reports the New Zealand Herald. Chorus is providing just 371 workstations for about 550 staff at its new central Auckland head office, as well as a mix of collaborative workspaces and hot-desking, according to the report.

Being a technology company, Chorus might have some advantages in taking this approach. It would employ a greater number of tech-savvy staff who are likely more inclined to wanting to work from anywhere — and for whom the challenges of remote working are likely to be less of a burden.

Indeed, Chorus has turned to technology to help it manage the new hot-desking arrangement using an app called GoBright, through which staff can book a workstation or find colleagues.

But even so, Chorus is “still feeling its way with the new setup”, the Herald writes. One issue, which many other organisations are also facing these days, is how to handle meetings with some staff in person and others online.

is interesting to note that Chorus’ former parent company, Telecom (now Spark), adopted a very similar arrangement when it moved to its new head office back in 2010. In fact, in its annual report at the time, the company wrote: “In December 2010, 2,700 of our Auckland people relocated into a dynamic work environment at Telecom Place in Auckland and adopted a mixture of free, fixed, fluid and flexible working styles.”

This was under a section titled “New ways of working”, which goes to show today’s challenges with managing flexible working arrangements are not as novel as some made them out to be.

IT leadership moves

Stuart Bloomfield, chief digital officer (CDO) of Waitematā and Counties Manukau District Health Boards (DHBs) has been appointed interim chief data and digital at Health NZ — the new organisation being established to run the health system across New Zealand. He will replace Shayne Hunter, who announced he was stepping down last month.

According to Health Informatics New Zealand, in his new role, Bloomfield will provide the Health NZ executive leadership team and interim regional directors with a monthly progress report against all data and digital investments.

He had been at Waitematā DHB for over 12 years serving as CIO for more than five years before becoming CDO for both Waitematā and Counties Manukau DHB in 2018.

Kordia chair goes to Spark

Spark New Zealand has poached the chair of rival telco, Kordia, as it appointed two new members to its board. Sheridan Broadbent has resigned as chair of the Crown-owned Kordia this month to join the Spark board as an independent, non-executive director from 1 August 2022, along with Gordon MacLeod.

Broadbent was appointed chair at Kordia last April and served on its board since 2014. Kordia has since appointed deputy chair Sophie Haslem as acting chair. The company competes with Spark for a range of business ICT offerings, including connectivity, voice, cloud and cybersecurity services.

Broadbent is also an independent director for Manawa Energy and was previously a director of Transpower.

Gordon MacLeod meanwhile was most recently CEO at Ryman Healthcare Group where he held a range of senior executive roles over a 15-year period.

Spark said in a statement to the NZX that MacLeod will join its audit and risk management committee and Broadbent will be a member of the human resources and compensation committee.

The Spark board also announced that non-executive director Paul Berriman will retire at its next annual general meeting in November after 11 years in the role.

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