“If there is one sector which is really going to benefit from the impact of COVID-19, it’s IT. Most of us are doing much more online, whether it’s shopping, holding a Zoom meeting or sharing drinks time through HouseParty. We are witnessing an explosion in online activity with broadband usage and data traffic increasing exponentially.”
Peter McKinlay from McKinlay Douglas Ltd. discusses the exponential growth of online activity and through this a rise in cyber crime. He also shares his insights into how IT opens up a range of exciting opportunities for our region.
As we transition back through Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2, those of us who can are going to spend a lot more time working from home and thus using the internet to connect with colleagues, clients and others. Retailers and their customers will all be looking more at online shopping options especially if retailers, IT providers and couriers get better at working seamlessly together to ensure customers have an easy and satisfying online experience.
We are likely to see a marked increase in online consultation with medical and other practitioners. With restrictions on people coming to New Zealand at least for a time online virtual events will become the norm.
There is another side to the IT boom, but one which will also be an opportunity for people in the industry. This is security. The internet is still at its wild west stage. At almost every turn users risk confronting the IT equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde. One largely unnoticed news item early on in the pandemic reported that hackers were penetrating the IT systems of hospitals treating people with coronavirus looking to lock them down until a ransom was paid.
The more we become dependent on the Internet the more we need to reign in its wild west characteristics. There’s a bit of a parallel with road traffic. For decades we have taken for granted that every vehicle should have either a current warrant of fitness or a current certificate of fitness and the owners should meet the cost of regular renewal.
Is it time to require that every device which can access the Internet must be the subject of independent certification of the security it has in place? This won’t stop every incursion but it should at least ensure that all devices have up-to-date security. Perhaps it is also time the international community acted against states which provide formal and informal support for hacking Internet use. This may be a more complex challenge than simply certifying devices as it does seem that just about every country on the globe at some time or another encourages hacking of users/systems in other countries.
Yet another element is the extraordinary dominance of FAAMG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google). Attempts to make them contribute something back from the revenue they extract through their dominance of online advertising has so far been unsuccessful. Variously they run into the active resistance of the American administration, the extraordinary difficulty of getting numbers of countries to agree on a common cause of action, and the reality that huge private-sector firms employ many more and much more capable people to resist or circumvent attempts to regulate them than governments can ever afford to employ to bring them to heel.
It’s time to get sensible. Instead of trying to regulate FAAMG, regulate the users. For some time the Better Public Media group has had on its agenda imposing a levy on users to establish a fund to support measures to offset the negative impacts of FAAMG on public media and more generally on the public interest in the integrity of information. This idea has not yet gained traction. Time to dust it off and look at implementation but that’s a government issue, not one just for the Tauranga community.
So in conclusion, whatever COVID-19 means for most of us, for the IT sector it opens up a range of really exciting opportunities and, for the Tauranga community, perhaps an opportunity to take a centre of excellence approach, elements of which are already in place.
This is part of a regular series with Peter – you can read his previous articles here:
- Post COVID-19 Recovery: The Opportunities
- Post COVID-19 Recovery: Working with Border Regulation
- Post COVID-19 Recovery: Work Patterns