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Hot News in IT this week

Simon Eskow, TechBlog Editor. 12 December 2014, 12:11 pm

Some highlights of the news from New Zealand and around the world.


Encouraging an Open Privacy Policy

New Zealand has signed an open letter calling for mandatory, pre-download disclosure by app maker privacy policies. The Office of the NZ Privacy Commissioner joined 22 overseas privacy enforcement agencies urging app marketplaces to post links to privacy policies, making it clear what personal information the app will collect and use. The December 9 letter was sent to Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, BlackBerry and Amazon.com, but is intended for all companies that operate app marketplaces.

The letter states that a Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep surveyed the types of permissions sought by more than 1,200 popular apps, and the extent to which consumers were informed about each app's privacy practices. The sweep confirmed many app makers were not up front about the information being collected, if they had any privacy policy at all.

In fact, 85 per cent of them failed to clearly explain how they would collect, use and disclose personal information. While the letter acknowledges the responsibility of app makers to be forthright, it called on app marketplaces to make privacy notification clear and mandatory. The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner has published guidance to help app makers understand their legal obligations under this country's Privacy Act when collecting personal information through mobile apps.

Scoop: App Markets Urged to Make Privacy Policy Very Public

The open letter to app stores around the world from the Global Privacy Enforcement Network

Read the NZ Privacy Commission's Need to Know or Nice to Have guidance here.

 

COM COM Come on

Spark announced this week it will raise prices for certain home phone and broadband plans from 1 February 2015 by between $2.50 and $4.25 a month. It's an unsurprising move in the wake of the Commerce Commission's draft decision reported at the beginning of the month on Chorus copper wholesale pricing. Spark will raise the price on its home phone-only plans, its 40GB and 80GB broadband ADSL and VDSL service, and its business copper broadband plans. Com Com's draft decision signalled a $5.40 rise in wholesale charges for home phone lines, and a $4.54 increase in broadband lines.

ISPs were not happy with the decision and announced price increases as the prime option for mitigating losses. Pricing plans had been in place based on previously set copper and broadband charges, but under the draft decisions, the ISPs would either have to pass the increase on to consumers or take the differential in the gut. Vodaphone and Callplus will likely raise their prices as well. The Commerce Commission hasn't declared if new pricing will be backdated, as is the wish of Chorus, and the bane of service providers. Not everyone in New Zealand is convinced the ISPs must raise prices, as Bill Bennett explains in his thorough summary of the roots of the coming copper price flux.

TechDay: Lower End Customers to Feel Price Rise After ComCom Decision

Bill Bennett: Behind the Broadband Price Rise

 

Microsoft Recruits

As we head into the summer holiday season, a lot of university students will be taking time off, and a lot of others will be working summer jobs and internships. Which group is luckier all depends, but for 90 plus uni students, summer 2014-2015 will be the first step in IT careers. TechBlog has already discussed programmes, like Summer of Tech. Microsoft this week announced that it is placing 94 students in tech roles through the 2015 Microsoft Student Accelerator summer work programme. Students in the 10 week programme are placed with participating companies in the IT industry, working on Windows App and Microsoft Cloud development projects, required skills to be considered for the programme. Microsoft has trained more than 600 students in Windows App and MS Cloud development over the last six months. Microsoft matches the students in groups of three with their preferred employer candidates, based on their abilities and preferences, and the companies' feedback from the interviews. The final 94 students earned their placements meeting with perspective employers in speed dating-style interviews.

Computerworld: Kiwi Students Take First Steps in IT Career

Geekzone: MSA programme helping address New Zealand shortage of skilled IT professionals

 

N4L at One

Around 40 schools in New Zealand have been using the Network for Learning (N4L) Managed Network for more than a year. The government funded N4L connections provides broadband internet connection with no data caps, web filtering, and security services. Participating schools say the programme has helped bolster digital initiatives, such as networking additional devices in the classroom, which has especially helped lagging students concentrate on particular areas with personalised instruction. The N4L programme has grown from 40 early adopters to 1,200 schools, or 40 per cent of all New Zealand schools. All schools will be able to connect to the Managed Network by the end of 2016. In addition to building the Managed Network, N4L has developed a digital learning hub called Pond, which 2000-plus teachers from more than 700 schools are now using to find learning resources and share classroom practices with their peers. Pond can be accessed by every teacher with any internet connection.

See a map of N4L activated schools

Computerworld: Kiwi Schools Fast Track Digital Learning

 

Growth Grant Spurt

More tech companies are eligible for government research and development grants administered by Callaghan Innovation. Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce named 15 companies that qualify for $13 million in Growth Grants, on top of the 22 new companies announced in October. The IT companies that made the list include app maker CEREBRALFIX Limited; trade analytics shop Flintfox International Limited; parking management solution provider, Frogparking Limited; business software maker i-lign Limited, and data warehouse specialist Wherescape.

NBR and other media are highlighting the eligibility of Chatham Rock in this new round. That company is working to mine phosphate from the New Zealand sea bed, with applications in agriculture to enrich pasture land. Recipients of the three-year grants can claim back 20 per cent of R & D spending up to $5 million a year. To qualify, a business must commit to spend at least $300,000, and at least 1.5 per cent of revenue, a year on R&D occurring in New Zealand. They must also be domiciled in New Zealand and maintain or increase their spending on R&D over the course of the funding. A total of $566 million funding is available for use over the next four years.

Computerworld: 15 Tech Firms in Line for Grants

NBR: Chatham Rock Listed for Callagahan Innovation Grant

 

UNISYS wins NZTA contract

Unisys New Zealand has won a six-year contract as prime system integrator in the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) effort to modernize its national Crash Analysis System (CAS). According to a statement, Unisys will lead the design and implementation of a new version of the CAS based on an open platform, wth Unisys delivering the CAS under a SaaS model from its Auckland data centre, and providing technical support.

The aim of the project is to improve analysis of trends and road conditions and to help in road design to prevent crashes, and to measure the efficacy of previous road safety projects. There are 30,000 road crashes reported in New Zealand every year, of which around 10,000 involve injuries. CAS is used to capture and analyse information about road crashes to help determine the cause of individual crashes as well as to identify trends and contributing factors such as high speed or road curvature.

Previously, New Zealand Police would record key crash information on paper and that information was then later manually entered into the CAS. The new solution will leverage the Police's investment in mobile technology, which includes Intergraph's Mobile Responder, to capture the data electronically while at the scene. The CAS contract was awarded to Unisys as a result of a competitive tender process.

Scoop: Unisys to Modernise Crash Analysis System

Computerworld: Unisys Bags Six Year New Zealand Transport Agency Crash Analysis Contract


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