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Hot News in IT This Week

Paul Brislen, Editor. 30 October 2015, 11:00 am

A week of IT news from New Zealand and around the world:

The responsibility of data collection

It's been a rough week for Westpac, from a public relations point of view.

The story so far: Nicky Hager wrote a book about the government's links to an attack blogger, who in turn called the police about someone "hacking" his email. Hagar wasn't considered a suspect but police managed to get a warrant to search his house looking for evidence that someone had supplied him with the material he used in the book.

They also managed to convince Westpac to hand over "almost 10 months of transactions from Mr Hager's three accounts" without a warrant.

The resulting calamity has brought to light two issues. Firstly, Westpac was operating within the auspices of the Privacy Act which allows for such activity if there is hope the information will help catch a criminal in the act, which came as something of a shock to many people who were under the impression that a bank shouldn't just hand over your personal details on the whim of someone with a badge.

The second issue is around media freedom to do their job free from the sorts of tactics we've seen deployed here. Not only was Hagar's book potentially damaging to the government, Westpac has recently been reconfirmed as the government's bank of choice and the police, while ostensibly separate and distinct from the political arm of government, is still part of that status quo. Journalists should be protected under the law, but in New Zealand that isn't really the case.

Westpac has decided that in the future it will only hand over such information if the police or other agencies (such as Inland Revenue which has similar powers in this respect) get a court order or warrant.

These days collecting data on a large scale isn't the challenge it used to be. Banks are only one of many service providers that collect huge amounts of private information on their users almost as a byproduct of the service they offer. Telcos, especially mobile phone companies, have huge rafts of data on individuals' movements as the network has to track the phone in order to connect ca

Likewise, many companies large and small are all too happy to collect private information. App developers have been caught asking for access to contacts and calendars when their app really has no need, and so on.

How we as an industry manage both the collection and dissemination of personal information is critically important. With great ability comes great responsibility and this affair just highlights that. I don't think New Zealanders want us to slide into the kind of environment highlighted in the Ad Age story below.

Scoop - Inside The Hunt For Rawshark - The Hager Raid Court File

NZ Herald - Police got Hager data without court order

CIO - The data science activist

AdAge - The $24 Billion Data Business That Telcos Don't Want to Talk About


End of an Error

Good news, mostly.

The European Union has announced it will phase out mobile roaming charges throughout the EU in the next couple of years.

Well, sort of.

Apparently the decision sees roaming charges fixed at lower levels, but still in play, and apparently only for EU-to-EU roaming, so those on a New Zealand mobile connection won't be covered.

However, the bill introduced new net neutrality rules which have come in for some serious attacks from pro-neutrality proponents who claim the new law allows telcos to introduce fast lanes, zero rating of some sites and so on.

Here in New Zealand, MBIE has been tasked with working out some kind of trans-Tasman roaming regulation in conjunction with the Australian government. However that seems to have all but vanished during one or more of the changes in government that's taken place in Australia and nothing much has happened on that front for several years now.

The mobile companies say if they have to absorb the cost of roaming charges that will put up the cost of domestic mobile use, but consumers will be happy not to pay 20c/MB when travelling. 

Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees have all dramatically reduced their mobile roaming charges in recent times - the era of the $1200 phone bill for using data in Sydney should now be well and truly behind us.

Ars Technica - Net neutrality: EU votes in favour of Internet fast lanes and slow lanes

Guardian - EU net neutrality laws fatally undermined by loopholes, critics say

TechCrunch - Europe Agrees EU-Wide Net Neutrality Rules And End To Mobile Roaming Fees


Watch this space

The state of the ICT industry in New Zealand has never been better according to two reports out this week.

The TIN100 has been covering the top tech exporters since 1999 and looks at both the 100 largest tech businesses and also the 100 fastest growing.

This year the report says the combined annual revenue from all 200 companies has increased 7.3% and now is worth just under $9 billion a year.

While still a way behind dairy and tourism exports ($16 billion and just over $10 billion respectively), the tech sector is growing far more rapidly and two in particular - health and financial services - growing at around 58 per cent revenue growth year on year.

The second report, the annual Market Measures survey, says New Zealand technology firms continue to grow strongly at an average 44 per cent year on year but need to do more to market their wares in overseas' markets.

Growth is strong and companies are willing to invest more in sales and marketing - an average of 20 per cent of turnover with two thirds of companies indicating they will increase that investment over the next 12 months.

But the report likens New Zealand export marketing efforts as being like taking a "knife to a gun fight" with Kiwis reluctant to embrace the world of "indirect marketing activities" such as email, advertising and social media.

"Eighty per cent of firms from the USA typically generate their leads from a high volume, cost-effective approach of using indirect marketing. In 2014 the figure for Kiwi firms was 23 per cent, this year it has increased to 35 per cent."

TechBlog - Kiwi firms need to do more to win big in the US

Stuff - Tech sector grows strongly creating 2410 new jobs over year

Computerworld - $9 billion and counting as NZ tech exports shift up a gear

NBR - TIN100 list reveals New Zealand's largest, fastest growing high-tech exporters


Major Tech Conference planned for 2016


Book it in your diaries now - the largest independent tech conference of 2016, ITx2016,  is in Wellington in July.

IITP, along with NZTech, NZRise, InternetNZ, TUANZ, the IT Service Management Forum NZ, CITRENZ, Health Informatics NZ, Agile Day, the Test Professional Network, Project Management Institute of NZ and the NZ Open Source Society have come together to deliver a one-stop shop for all your ICT conference needs.

Spread across three days the conference is expected to attract 1200 delegates. ITx 2016 will cover areas like health IT, testing, agile, telecommunications, internet innovation, open source and IT project management. 

The conference is aimed at professionals working in the industry, rather the general public, and culminates in an awards ceremony, the Excellence in IT Awards.

TechBlog - Major tech conference planned for 2016

Stuff - ITx to be country's 'largest independent tech-related conference in a generation'


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