Published on the 26/07/2021 | Written by Newsdesk
Keeping you up to date with A/NZ and world tech news…
AppWrap aims to help you keep up to date with an easy to read collection of news and snippets published by other leading tech media publications that we trust.
AppWrap July 2021
25.07 New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is favourite to take a top UK role, heading up the Information Commissioner’s Office. Edwards has been recommended for the role with the appointment awaiting approval by Prime Minister Boris Johnson the Sunday Times and Daily Mail report.
23.07 Uber ‘interfered’ with the privacy of 1.2 million Australians, failing to protect personal data of customers and drivers which was accessed in a 2016 cyber attack, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner says. The attackers destroyed the data and there was no evidence of further misuse of it, however, Uber has been found to have breached the Privacy Act 1988 by not taking reasonable steps to protect personal information or to implement practices, procedures and systems to ensure compliance. Uber paid the attackers a reward through a bug bounty program, rather than disclosing the breach.
22.07 Salesforce has completed its US$27.7 billion acquisition of Slack. In announcing the deal back in December Salesforce said the deal – its biggest ever – will enable them to provide a ‘Slack-first Customer 360’ and providing customers with a single source of truth and a single platform for connecting employees, customers and partners, Engadget says.
21.07 A cross-government partnership has been formed to make New Zealand ‘a centre of global clean tech excellence’. The NZ CleanTech Mission aims to convert local clean tech into profitable businesses, Stuff says. Last year the 98 clean tech businesses which have been funded by Callaghan Innovation generated $334 million in revenue, but Kiwi innovators are struggling to compete with foreign counterparts because they can’t attract the same level of innovation.
19.07 Capgemini is on an A/NZ acquisition trail this time offering to buy ASX-listed Empired (Intergen in NZ) for A$233 million. The Empired Board has recommended shareholders vote in favour of the scheme, which will see Paris-headquartered Capgemini bolster its credentials in the region with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure cloud hosting services. If successful, 1,000 A/NZ staff will join 270,000 in Capgemini in November.
19.07 AU Govt has launched a ransomware offensive with intelligence forces assigned to a new cross-agency taskforce. Dubbed Operation Orcus, the initiative spans the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Austrac and state and territory police forces, as reported in InnovationAUS. The move will increase the number of AFP staff working directly with the ACSC on cyber issues from 13 to 35.
14.07 Augen Software Group is now CodeHQ. The software development service provider says the rebrand reflects its adapting ‘to meet the shifting software development needs of New Zealand businesses while continuing to deliver world class service’. Augen was founded in 1993 by CEO Peter Vile and Mitchell Pham and combines ‘local expertise with offshore scale’ via teams in NZ and Vietnam.
13.07 Icehouse Ventures new $75 million IVX growth fund will see established Kiwi startups being given a helping hand to scale globally. Around 30 high growth startups will each get $1-10 million of investment through the fund, in a move designed to help fill the expansion capital funding gap, Icehouse Ventures says. Eight companies, including Halter, Memetemia, Shuttlerock and Crimson Education have already received IVX investment.
12.01 The draft report for the Digital ITP Skills workstream has been released. It features 10 skills actions the skills steering group says must be achieved to ‘truly transform skills to enable industry transformation’. Included are rapidly expanding pathways to industry, refining the immigration system to be more targeted, expanding the Tech Story to a domestic audience, increased support for digital tech learning in schools and the radical redefining of standardised job ‘roles’. The draft plan is open for consultation until Friday 30 July.
09.07 The Epic Games vs Apple anticompetitive case will be heard in Australia after the Federal Court found in favour of the Fortnite creator. Epic is alleging Apple’s App Store control breaches Australian Consumer Law and the Competition and Consumer Act, ITNews says. Apple had requested the case be dismissed given US proceedings are also underway.
08.07 AWS, Google, Microsoft and Atlassian say proposed cyber takeover laws will cause more issues. The four tech giants were among those fronting a Parliamentary Joint Committee hearing into the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020, criticising a proposal which would see the government able to install software on their networks for ‘incident’ response. “I do not believe that there is a situation where installing ASD software on our networks or our systems, especially in the heat of an incident, is actually going to cause anything except more problems, and it’s not going to help the solution and it’s not going to help the problem at hand,” ZDNet quotes Google director of threat analysis group Shane Huntley as saying.
06.07 NZ to get consumer data right Consumer Affairs minister David Clark says the government will introduce legislation next year to establish a Consumer Data Right to give people more control over the information businesses hold on them, Stuff says. Australia introduced a CDR in 2019, with banks the first to come under the requirements there.
04.07 Facebook hit a US $trillion market capitalisation last week, nine years after its $100 billion+ IPO, reports TechCrunch. America’s five major technology stocks are now all worth more than $1 trillion each with Microsoft and Apple both over $2 trillion each, after Apple became the first US company to reach the trillion mark three years ago. Facebook has outpaced growth from Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft, up nearly 500% in the past five years.
01.07 Misinformation big concern for Kiwis The majority of New Zealanders are ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ concerned about the spread of misinformation and support specific groups or organisations taking action to deal with the spread of misinformation according to a new report. The Edge of the Infodemic: Challenging Misinformation in Aotearoa from the Classifications Office found the 57% of Kiwis believed they had come across misinformation in the past six months with many concerned about the impact on issues like the pandemic and climate change.
AppWrap June 2021
29.06 Westpac is investing $370,000 in a GovTech Accelerator programme designed to help identify problems and use ‘creativity and technology to solve them’. Government funds and ‘other sources’ of funding will cover the remaining costs for the three year programme, Stuff reports.
25.06 Microsoft has unveiled its next-gen Windows 11 OS, but it won’t work on all devices. Windows 11 will enable users to configure multiple desktops, includes tighter integration with Teams and comes with Xbox Games Pass pre-installed says BBC News. However, it will also require eighth gen Intel chips and needs 64Gb of storage and 4Gb of Ram.
24.06 BIS has slammed cryptocurrencies as ‘speculative assets’ often used for criminal purposes. The Bank for International Settlements threw its weight behind central bank digital currencies and hinted it may launch a renewed challenge, saying cryptocurrencies work against the public good, says CBC.
23.06 Tech occupations have been added to AU’s priority visa scheme, reports InnovationAus. The new occupations include analyst programmers, software and application programmers, ICT security specialists and multimedia specialists. Employer-sponsored applications will be prioritised, allowing tech migrants to receive visas within two weeks, and then book flights and quarantine space at their own expense.
21.06 The Productivity Commission is calling for submissions on its Immigration, Productivity and Wellbeing paper which discusses issues with the country’s immigration policy settings and invites input into their review. Submissions are open until the end of the year, but with an interim report being drafted in October, submitters are encouraged to respond sooner rather than later. With immigration a hot topic in tech circles, industry association NZ Tech is also seeking survey input from tech companies that are actively recruiting offshore to inform policy discussions.
17.06 Greenwashing is rampant in tech, and IT buyers need to work harder to confirm both environmental and social credentials of products, Information Age reports. A/NZ’s distance from the China sweatshops means upstream risks aren’t registering for many local purchasers. A TCO Development report says 40 percent of IT purchasers report false claims on sustainability goals.
17.06 Australian law enforcement agencies have received CovidSafe data, but they haven’t accessed or decrypted it. InnovationAus says a report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security says agencies are taking ‘reasonable steps’ to quarantine and delete data from the contact tracing app as soon as practicable after becoming aware of it and are not deliberately targeting it. The WA Government introduced legislation on Tuesday to stop police accessing data from the state’s SafeWA contact tracing app after it was found police had done so on two occasions.
17.06 R&D collaboration between SMEs and universities and research institutions has real payoffs for SMEs. CSIRO found 66 percent of companies collaborating with researchers design or manufacture new product, compared with just 28 percent of non-collaborators. The SMEs also saw higher turnover and were better able to cope with uncertainty and change.
16.06 Fake online reviews are responsible for around US$152 billion of consumer spend globally and $1.2 billion of Australian spend. The CHEQ and University of Baltimore study says four percent of all reviews posted are fake.
16.06 Kiwi startup Exsurgo is using EEG to manage pain, reports Newsroom. The new twist on old technology will help patients retrain their brains to manage pain. The home-based electroencephalography (EEG) device reads electrical activity in the brain to help chronic pain patients take control of their rehabilitation, aiming to help reduce the $14 billion cost of pain treatment in NZ. Axon is a wearable non-invasive helmet with electrodes that transmits brain wave data to the patients’ tablet or phone in a game format that gives positive reinforcements when their brain relaxes.
15.06 Forget Mars Rover, Kiwi company Lens Outdoor has launched Lens Rover, a trailer complete with image recognition technology to provide localised traffic data for proposed new billboard locations. Stoppress says the technology will provide real-time audience metrics.
14.06 Interruptions and meeting overload are derailing software engineering. A Github report shows going from two to three meetings a day lowered the chances of developers making progress on their goals from 74 percent to just 14 percent. Drop meetings to just one a day and the developers had a 99 percent chance of knocking out high quality work. Those who are less interrupted during the day were more likely to report having a ‘good day’.
09.06 ANOM: FBI messaging app leads to global arrests worldwide after more than 800 suspects were tricked into using an FBI-run encrypted messaging app, the BBC has reported. The operation, dubbed Operation Trojan Shield, jointly conceived by an Australian enforcement officer and the FBI, saw devices with the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals. Drugs, weapons, luxury vehicles and cash were seized across more than a dozen countries. This included eight tonnes of cocaine, 250 guns and more than US$48m (£34m) in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies.
09.06 Numerous big name websites around the world went offline last night after a ‘technical issue’ at content delivery network provider Fastly. The outage affected sites including TVNZ OnDemand, TradeMe, The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age, Amazon, Reddit, the BBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Financial Times, Spotify, Paypal and large tracts of the UK .gov
08.06 Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is divesting its automation portfolio in a $38.1 million deal, the company says. One of New Zealand’s leading agritech companies, LIC is selling the automation business, including the Protrack suite of automation and sensing technology offerings, to US based MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co. MDS has manufacturing facilities in Palmerston North.
08.06 Use by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand of a hacked file sharing system for more than it was intended for placed more information at risk than would otherwise have been the case according to a public summary of KPMG’s review of the January hack. The report notes the bank was using the hacked system as an information repository and collaboration tool, rather than limiting use to secure file transfers, as intended.
02.06 The Sage Australia & Asia sale to Access Group has closed, meaning Sage’s non-ERP products such as Handisoft accounting, Micropay and Easypay payroll solutions now sit under the Access umbrella. Sage UK still retains the ERP products globally along with an Australian office. Access, itself based in the UK, has expanded into the APAC region with the acquisition of Attaché and Unleashed over the past 2 years. The solutions will be integrated into the group’s Workspace platform.
02.6 The Australian operations of the world’s largest meat processor, JBS Foods, was temporarily shut down this week after a ransomware attack, affecting 11,000 A/NZ staff. The weekend attack affected some servers supporting North American and Australian IT systems. JBS is warning that ‘resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers’. The company has said there is no evidence customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised. Reuters says JBS has pointed the finger at a criminal organisation most likely based in Russia. The attack comes just three weeks after the US’ Colonial Pipeline was attacked, disrupting fuel infrastructure and leading to panic buying and temporary gasoline shortages in the US.
01.6 AI will add very little to New Zealand’s GDP, says a new report from Otago University. The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Jobs and Work in New Zealand report notes that while the industrial revolution’s profits landed extremely unevenly across British society, they did at least mostly land in Britain. Early AI benefits however are mostly accruing to Silicon Valley’s FAANGs, such a Google and Facebook, who have built up data assets so great it will be difficult for Kiwi companies to compete.
AppWrap May 2021
31.5 Low-code is still very much the domain of IT staff, at least for now according to a new survey. While low-code might be touted as a way to enable citizen developers and line of business to create apps, the Creatio survey found just six percent of low-code development is being done by business users without any IT involvement. Holding back adoption? A lack of experience with low-code platforms, according to 60 percent of the survey’s 1000+ respondents.
28.5 The Australian Human Rights Commission is calling for a ban on facial recognition and other AI-based technologies. Its landmark report calls for a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology in “high-risk” government decision making until new laws are developed, reports IT News. It has also urged the federal government to employ an independent “artificial intelligence safety commissioner” that would lead a multi-disciplinary taskforce on AI-informed decision making.
27.5 Kiwi startup Dawn Aerospace has received “significant” funding to propel its space transportation business to new heights. The company makes satellite propulsion products and has developed an unmanned spaceplane called Mk-II Aurora powered by rocket engines. Named New Zealand hi-tech startup company of the year in 2020. Stuff has reported the company has now received ‘significant’ funding from New Zealand’s largest tech investment firm, Movac.
27.5 All Australian companies will have to use the government’s digital identity service in order to apply for the RDTI, according to InnovationAus. Deloitte won a $1.1 million contract last July to build the digital platform, which has just launched.
27.5 Forget internal IT teams, it’s external contractors who are making up the bulk of IT staff for some of Canberra’s biggest agencies, reports ITNews. In fact the there’s almost 7,500 contractors spread across Defence, Services Australia and the Department of Home Affairs. Internal stuff numbers for those three: Less than 4,000.
26.5 The best 50 New Zealand tech companies and startups to work at has been drawn up by venture capital investors and career platform Matchstiq, reports Stuff. To be considered, companies had to be of a minimum size and be well-funded, and of 20 years’ age or less. They were chosen for their growth potential, innovation, purpose, and contribution to nurturing a diverse pool of talent.
26.5 The ransomware attack crippling services at Waikato District Health Board is into its second week with multiple services affected as IT system recovery work continues. Stuff reported that the crisis has been escalated to a national level, prompting a meeting of the Government’s top-level officials. Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government had “stepped up” the crisis response to the ransomware attack, and the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) would meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the response. The DHB is the fifth-largest in the country and provides care to more than 430,000 people.
25.5 Free EV Regos in ACT has come as welcome news for Australia’s carbon neutral by 2045 aspirations. Information Age has reported that residents and businesses in the ACT will now receive two years of free car registration when they buy an electric vehicle (EV) as the territory looks to cut its carbon footprint. The deal is extended to new or used EVs bought between 24 May and 30 June 2024.
25.5 Crowdfunding has opened for AU university innovation through crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd, which today announced a partnership in Which-50 with early stage commercialisation fund Uniseed, to make university research ventures available for individual investment. Uniseed was founded in 2000 and has invested in 57 startups, exiting from 10 including Spinifex, Fibrotech Therapeutics and QRX Pharma. According to VentureCrowd, this is an Australian-first partnership.
24.5 A national booking system for Covid-19 vaccinations is being piloted in Auckland and Canterbury and will be available nationwide by July, reports eHealthNews. The Ministry of Health is using Skedulo, a scheduling plug-in app for Salesforce, which is the platform of the national Covid-19 Immunisation Register and National Contact Tracing Solution. A Ministry of Health spokesperson says the system is being piloted at vaccination sites in Ōtara and Manurewa in the Auckland Region and Christchurch is trialling it at their Kaikōura site.
24.5 Facebook is cleaning up Covid misinformation – they couldn’t do it for Christchurch, but Facebook has removed 110,000 fake Covid news and posts made by Australians, among 14 billion posts removed globally which shared misinformation on the pandemic, InnovationAus reported this week.
24.5 NZ Tech Week 2021 runs this week, culminating in the Hi-Tech Awards on Friday. The festival saw over 300 events organised nationwide, celebrating the technology sector’s role in New Zealand innovation.
Footnote: links take you to the third party news sites as attributed in each story.