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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 20 October 2017, 4:45 pm

The $10 billion industry

There are two ways to look at the TIN100 report which came out this week.

The first is to cheer the results. Our industry, in its broadest sense, is now worth $10 billion a year in revenue and around three quarters of that is made up of export earnings. That makes the tech sector the third largest sector in the country, just behind tourism but way behind cows, and better still, it's growing at a huge rate.


The second way is to point out that "tech" as a sector is a nonsense, that all companies are tech companies and that when you boil it down you've got Fisher & Paykel making washing machines next to Xero with accounting as a service, alongside Gallagher which makes electric fences… you can call just about any company a tech company and the term is meaningless and we should stop doing these kinds of reports because they're not worth the paper they're written on.

I've seen a lot of nonsense written about the tech sector over the years and I have to admit I've written some of it. Gartner's magic squares put the magic back in most predictions and while we're not hip deep in IoT devices by now, we will be by tomorrow. Symantec puts out a report each year that outlines just how much money the world loses to hackers every year - currently we're sitting at about three solid gold globes each the size of the Earth. Bitcoin is about to replace both our banking and our political systems, if only someone could explain it in simple terms. Fibre cables will both usher in a new era of productivity and be a white elephant as 5G, 6G and 7G mobile services fill the air with bits and waves.

But I think there's a huge amount of value in putting a stake in the ground and saying "this is where we think this industry is at, financially speaking" because in an environment like New Zealand it's all too easy to think we're a giant farm and not much else.

There's a heap of work going on, there are a lot of people employed and they earn good money (over the New Zealand average). If nothing else were true, that's a success in and of itself. It's somewhat meaningless as a metric goes but "we employ lots of people and pay well" is as good as any.

Sure, many of these companies are no longer locally owned. Sure, this is a measure of revenue, not profit, and that's got to ring alarm bells in some quarters, but put all of that to one side and just think about how far we've come as an industry since (random point in time) the 2001 Knowledge Wave conference.
Tech is now a viable career path in New Zealand. We can safely encourage our kids into a career in coding, in manufacture, in design (yes, even the girls can apply) and we're contributing vigorously to the country's bottom line.

Pinches of salt? Sure, but mostly I'll have a glass of bubbles with the report thanks.

TIN100 - Press release and blog posts here

Techblog - The $10 billion industry

NBR - NZ's top tech companies

Computerworld - High tech company revenues top $10.0B, exports $7.3B


Are you on KRACK or summink?

I remember lying awake one night fretting about how I was going to explain some virus or other on TV the next day. What if they asked me to define the difference between a virus and a network worm? I hardly slept at all.

Of course the next day they asked me what a computer was and why it was such a big deal since NOBODY has one in their house, rolls eyes, throws to Camera Three and the ad break.

Whenever mainstream media gets hold of a story about a virus, or a security breach, or anything that sounds like it should be in a Tarantino movie, they get very excited and you'd really think it was Y2K all over again. Sheesh.

This time it's the wonderfully named Krack exploit in which the ever popular WPA2 protocol is found to contain a security flaw that could IN THEORY mean someone could listen in to your wireless traffic.

Of course, they'd have to be attached to your wifi network and of course, that's highly unlikely, nor is it scalable. But still.

So, remember to patch your machines (and that includes phones, routers, coffee makers, cars, speakers, air-conditioning units, garage door openers, printers and pretty much anything else with a plug) and just breathe through it.

Techblog - Don't panic: we're not all on KRACK

TechCrunch - Microsoft already published a KRACK fix, Apple and Google are working on it

The Register - Release the KRACKen patches: The good, the bad, and the ugly on this WPA2 Wi-Fi drama


White smoke Pope. Black smoke, Nope.

And so the waiting is over, the Phoney War is done and we have a government. Labour, supported by NZ First (which gets four ministers inside cabinet and an undersecretary) and the Greens (which gets the same but outside cabinet). All of which means we could get just about anyone covering the portfolios that relate to the tech sector. Could it be Clare Curran? Could it be Gareth Hughes? Could it be Kareem Abdul-Jabar?

Either way we'll have the round of fun called the BIM. That is, the Briefings for Incoming Ministers.

BIMs are great. They tell the new minister all about what her or his portfolio actually includes, what issues are on the rise, what work is underway and generally brings them up to speed on their new fiefdom.

They're also available to the public either through dint of the ministry actually publishing them or through Official Information Act requests shortly thereafter.

This is always fun because ministries of course are supposed to give advice to the minister free from influence and noise and the like. That generally means they'd rather not share with the group. But BIMs are BIMs and it's always great to see what the ministry thinks the minister should know.

We'll have a closer look at the communications, IT, MBIE, education and any other assorted BIMs and report back once they're out there. There are plenty of issues in our sector that will be up for grabs in the next term of government (including the copyright legislation review) so we'll have a closer look when they're published.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled fretting.


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