AppWrap: Tech news from around the web 2021 archive

Published on the 15/12/2021 | Written by Newsdesk

iStart News - AppWrap tech news in brief

Keeping you up to date with A/NZ and world tech news from 2021…

AppWrap December 2021

15.12 Google has added a bushfire layer to Maps to provide Australians with fast access to official bushfire information. The layer, turned on by tapping the layers symbol on Maps and then the Bushfires icon, provides up-to-date details on fires. Users can also access details about a specific bushfire by tapping on the fire on the map to see latest updates, location, level of severity, recommended actions and other information, Google says.

14.12 Anti-trust litigator Gina Cass-Gottlieb will take over from Rod Sims as ACCC chair in March 2021. Cass-Gottlieb has previously been on the other side – acting against the ACCC, including representing a key participant in one of the ACCC’s biggest cases, a banking cartel criminal case against Deutsche, Citi and ANZ, and five of their executives. That case will go to trial weeks after Cass-Gottlieb takes up the new role, AFR says. Sims has said Cass-Gottlileb may have to recuse herself from decisions relating to the case.

09.12 The CovidSafe app identified just two potential close contacts of positive Covid cases during the six months to November 15 when both Sydney and Melbourne were in lockdowns according to the latest figures from the Department of Health. Since launch it has reported 792 uploads, 1.65 million handshakes, 37,677 encounters and 2,829 potential close contacts.

09.12 Google’s most-searched topics list for 2021 is out. Squid Game and Bridgerton, DMX and Prince Philip, Birria tacos and feta pasta, and Australia vs India and Covid vaccine are all there. While many were Googling for vaccine information, the lists show the old standards of sports and entertainment also remain popular. Monthly breakdowns are also available, showing searches for United States capitol spiked in January – ahhh yes, those old Trump days…

08.12 DoorDash is establishing an Australian engineering centre of excellence. The online food ordering and delivery service says the ‘significant investment’ will include hiring 50 engineers across multiple cities next year.

07.12 Coles is adding ‘more than 70’ digital professionals to its e-commerce business as demand for online shopping and omnichannel experiences grows. Coles says in the past two years e-Commerce at the company has accelerated at a rapid pace’ and the Australia-wide recruitment campaign will target those with experience in software engineering, UX and UI design, analytics, product management and delivery.

01.12 The Productivity Commission is pushing for software updates to be included in Australian Consumer Law. The call comes as part of the PC’s right to repair inquiry. The PC wants the ACL amended to include a consumer guarantee that manufacturers will. Provide reasonable software updates for a reasonable period of time, similar to the spare parts guarantee, ZDNet says.

AppWrap November 2021

29.11 Clearview AI is facing a £17 million fine from the UK privacy watchdog for scraping personal data and images and using biometrics for facial recognition. The announcement of the intent to fine follows a joint investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Clearview’s technology was offered on a free trial basis to law enforcement agencies, with agencies in UK, Australia and New Zealand among those taking up the offer.

26.11 A Senate inquiry says the federal government should ‘immediately finalise and publish’ a review of its IT and digital capability, agreed to nearly two years ago. The committee says it is ‘extremely disappointed’ at the lack of progress with the review, noting the governments inability to provide clarity on the status of the work was ‘concerning’, ITNews says.

24.11 Revenue NSW is promising its new AI and data analytics system to help with compliance won’t be a repeat of the Federal Government’s robo-debt disaster. ZDNet says Revenue NSW is using the system to check for overpaid and fraudulent Covid-19 business grants.

24.11 The Federal Government has blocked the release of robodebt information for the fifth time. A Senate report included an order for answers on 19 Questions of Notice, plus minutes from a. 2015 meeting, InnovationAus says. The government however is holding firm on its claims that the documents must be kept secrete under a public interest immunity claim. A $1.2 billion settlement was agreed earlier this year.

23.11 Australia’s Federal Government now has the power to take control of private infrastructure as a ‘last resort’ in cyber incidents after the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020 was passed this week. The bill’s powers sparked widespread concern from the industry, with many saying it was ‘unworkable’, ITNews notes.

17.11 Australia is investing $100 million in quantum technology, one of nine tech areas deemed ‘critical’ to national interest. The bulk of the money will be spent commercialising Australia’s quantum research and forging links with global markets and supply chains, Reuters says.

16.11 Google has launched a $1 billion Australian Digital Future Initiative, investing in local infrastructure, research and partnerships. The deal includes a five-year multi-million dollar research partnership with CSIRO to develop solutions to challenges including natural hazard management, energy and protection of the Great Barrier Reef. A partnership with Macquarie will cover quantum computing, CSIRO says.

15.11 The Australian Digital Health Agency has inked a AU$2.1 million deal for Chamonix IT Management Consulting to build a consumer digital health mobile app which will start with My Health Record. Users will be able to view their patient, clinical and lab records via the app, which is expected to be available in early 2022, Hospital and Healthcare says.

08.11 KPMG and the University of Newcastle are joining forces to create a technology hub and nearly 100 roles for graduates over the next five years. The deal will facilitate the development of industry ecosystems and see a number of community initiatives developed including supporting skills transition in the Hunter region and advancing indigenous access to employment and training, the University says. The deal follows a partnership list week between IBM and Charles Sturt University, expected to create more than 300 IT jobs.

03.11 Clearview AI has been ordered to destroy existing biometric images of Australians and cease collecting them after the OAIC found the company had breached Australian privacy rules by scraping biometric information from the web and disclosing it through their facial recognition tool on a ‘large scale, for profit’. The finding comes after joint investigation by the OAIC and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office. Australian police forces engaged in trials of the facial recognition tool between October 2019 and March 2020 the report notes. The OAIC says it is finalising an investigation into the Australian Federal Police’s trial use of the technology. Clearview’s technology was also trialed in New Zealand.

03.11 The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is launching cryptocurrency exchange services, enabling customers to own and trade crypto. The service will be available starting later this year via the CommBank app InformationAge says. The bank will be the first of the big four banks to offer the service.

03.11 Microsoft is also joining the metaverse rush, with Satya Nadella launching Microsoft Ignite outlining his vision of ‘an era of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence’. The vendor’s Teams chat and conferencing program will be updated early next year with digital avatars for immersive spaces where workers can meet, Geekwire says. Microsoft announced its Mesh software, enabling augmented reality and virtual reality earlier this year. Ignite also sees Microsoft rolling out dozens of new cloud, AI security and productivity offerings and upgrades.

AppWrap October 2021

28.10 Will the meta verse be the next major computing platform? Facebook – the company, that is – certainly thinks so. It’s betting big on its ‘metaverse’ plans, with the company saying it’s changing the name of the company to Meta. As to what the metaverse is, it’s essentially a digital world layered on top of the real world, or in Mark Zuckerberg’s words an ‘embodied internet’ says Engadget.

28.10 The ACCC has turned its focus on Google’s search service, calling for new powers to stop the tech giant from being the default pre-installed search engine. Google Search is the default search engine on the two most popular browsers in Australia, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari – for which Google reportedly pays Apple US$15 billion a year. The ACCC says that gives Google a 94 percent market share in Australia, and it wants measures including a choice screen, providing a selection of search engines, to be introduced.

27.10 Transport for NSW is investigating the use of driverless rideshare services, and is working with Motional to develop a plan for the services, ZDnet says. BusBot trials will also be beginning at Coffs Harbour Botanical Gardens later this year.

25.10 Apple privacy changes enabling app tracking earlier this year have hit Facebook with the social media giant admitting it faces ‘significant uncertainty’ in Q4 due to ‘continued headwinds from Apple’s iOS 14 changes and macroeconomic and Covid-related factors’. Non-ad revenue is also expected to be down year on year, Facebook says. Don’t feel too sorry for the tech giant, however. It is expecting Q4 revenue to be in the range of US$31.5 billion to $34 billion. And the company racked up US$29 billion for Q3, up 35 percent year on year.

25.10 Services Australia will launch a myGov mobile app, with features including a credentials wallet, in December, ITNews reports. The app will provide access to the government digital experience platform which is designed to provide a single personalised view of interactions with government, with content structured around life events.

20.10 Cryptocurrency businesses and assets will be licensed by Treasury under a new plan to regulate the sector. The Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre tabled a report introducing a framework for digital currencies and a legislative foundation this week, InnovationAus says. The report includes 12 recommendations focused on new licensing regimes, addressing debunking and tackling emissions related to crypto mining.

14.10 The OAIC has found against 7-Eleven for unlawful collection of customers’ sensitive biometric information. The finding relates to surveys 7-Eleven conducted using tablets with built-in cameras which captured facial images during the survey-taking. The images were used to generate ‘faceprints’ which were compared to other faceprints to exclude responses that might not be genuine. The personal information was used to understand the demographic profile of customers. The OAIC says 7-Eleven interfered with customers privacy by collecting information that wasn’t reasonably necessary, and without adequate notice or consent.

14.10 Human rights advocates have called on Australian health ministers to up privacy protections on home quarantine apps using facial recognition and relocation data. The Human Rights Law Centre and Digital Rights Watch have both called for adoption of stronger safeguards around the use and management of the personal data being collected, ITNews says.

13.10 Mandatory ransomware reporting for Australian businesses is on the cards under a new Ransomware Action Plan. The Australian government has also announced new aggravated criminal charges for cyber extortion using ransomware and new criminal offences for those targeting critical infrastructure, ZDNet says. New legislation will be required for the plan, rather than using the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020.

10.10 NSW is expected to have a digital venue vaccination passport from October 18. The digital vaccination certificates will be integrated into the venue check-in function of the Service NSW app, says InnovationAus.

07.10 Deloitte has snapped up Australian cloud managed service provider Sliced Tech for an undisclosed sum. Sliced Tech has just been announced as one of four companies to achieve strategic hosting provider certification under the Federal Government’s Hosting Certification Framework, ITWire says.

07.10 Social media platforms should be viewed as publishers, and liable for defamation, if they’re unwilling to identify people posting offensive comment, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. He dubbed social media ‘a coward’s palace’ where people can make ‘foul and offensive’ comments with impunity. The comments followed reports that Australia will be cracking down on misinformation on social media with reports that plans are afoot to redraft the country’s defamation laws, ZDNet says.

05.10 Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have been hit by an outage, affecting both web and smartphone apps around the world. There are also reports Facebook’s VR headset platform Oculus has been affected, along with apps requiring Facebook logins, such as Pokemon Go. No official reason has been given for the problem, however, network experts have speculated that it is likely a DNS configuration error, RNZ says.

AppWrap September 2021
30.09 The Australian National Audit Office has launched an inquiry into Services Australia’s reliance on contractors. InnovationAus says the inquiry follows concerns the agency has a ‘serious problem’ with technology capability due to an over reliance on outsourcing.

27.09 Microsoft is going password-less, enabling customers to remove their passwords and log in through the Microsoft Authenticator App, Windows Hello, a security key or a verification code sent to a phone or email. CPO Magazine says all Microsoft accounts now support the passwordless login in an effort to help protect accounts from identity attacks like phishing.

25.09 The CSIRO Data61-led team has taken second place at the prestigious ‘Olympics for Robotics’ run by DARPA. It’s the first time an Australian team has made it to the Subterranean Challenge final, and sees the team, which also includes Georgia Tech and Emesent, taking home US$1 million. They were narrowly beaten out of top place by Cerberus in a tiebreaker, notes InnovationAus.

24.09 CIOs are bracing for a price increase of up to 25 percent for Microsoft 365. The price increase is due to kick in March 2022, an includes at 25 percent increase in per-seat pricing for Office 365 at the E1 support level and a 20 increase in Microsoft 365 Business Basic. Other subscription levels will also face increases, albeit smaller ones, CIO notes. Increases are smaller on the fuller-featured – read more expensive – versions as Microsoft attempts to drive enterprises to the higher support levels by making them more attractive. Microsoft 365 E5 is apparently exempt from the changes.

23.09 AWS has announced a $7.5 billion investment to build a cluster of at least three data centres in Auckland. The cloud giant says spending on construction and operation of the infrastructure is expected to contribute $10.8 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, while the AWS region should see the creation of around 1,000 new FTE roles. The facilities are expected to start coming online from 2024, Stuff reports. Eight more AWS regions have also been announced in Australia.

21.09 Adobe has won a $32m myGov tech contract which will see it providing the ‘core technology components’ underpinning a new version of myGov. The government digital experience platform is being developed as a replacement for the existing myGov offering and is expected to use a ‘Netflix model’ providing service recommendations based on users previous interactions, says ITNews.

17.09 NSW is trialling geolocation and facial recognition software to monitor Covid-19 home quarantines and ensure people comply with quarantine rules. The app also provides a testing schedule and symptom tracker. It is based on an app already being trialled in South Australia, ZDnet says.

16.09 Immutable has raised another $82 million in Series B funding. The raise takes total funding for the Sydney NFT startup to $105 million, Stockhead says. Immutable is focused on blockchain focused gaming and the in-game trading of NFTs. Funding will be used to expand the company’s global engineering and sales teams, strengthen partnerships with gamin g companies and grow in-house NFT games Gods Unchained and Guild of Guardians.

13.09 Google, Facebook are funding a new industry body for independent Australian digital publishers. The Digital Publishers’ Alliance, which includes Junkee Media, Mamamia and Private Media and The Squiz among the 20 publishers, is designed to give local media a stronger voice on key industry issues, and boost visibility with advertisers, the SMH says.

10.09 Privacy advocates have thrown shade on Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses. The glasses allow users to listen to music, take calls and capture photos and short videos – and share them on Facebook – using a button on the glasses or through voice commands. However, the social media giant’s poor track record when handling user data has sparked concerns, despite Facebook saying it won’t access media used by smart glasses customers without their consent or for personalising ads, Newshub says. The ability for warning lights showing when recording is happening to be easily defeated has also raised concern.

09.09 The ACCC has authorised the merger of eftpos, BPay and NPP after accepting a court-enforceable undertaking, which includes maintaining the eftpos payments scheme for four years. A number of other requirements are also included in the undertaking, designed to allay fears that the merger would weaken payments competition. The ACCC says these include least making cost routing, which allows merchants to choose the payment scheme that processes transactions when customers use a dual network debit card, available and to promote it.

07.09 The ATO is trialling face verification technology on myGovID. IT News has revealed the public beta kicked off last week. Using tech from the UK’s iProov, it aims to enable users to create a ‘strong’ digital identity.

03.09 The RBA is testing cross border payments using central bank digital currencies. Central banks in Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa are also part of the trial, dubbed Project Dunbar. The Reserve Bank of Australia says the project will work with multiple partners to develop technical prototypes on different distributed ledger technology platforms, aiming to allow direct transactions between institutions, reducing costs and increasing speed. Results are expected to be released in 2022.

02.09 Online shopping may be continuing to soar, but marketers will need to shift gears in 2022 to ensure they provide satisfying omnichannel shopping experiences as consumer expectations also soar. IAB Australia and Pureprofile’s Australian Ecommerce Report 2021 says new shopper expectations and behaviour, including seeking recommendations via search and social, looking for easily contactable customer service and placing a premium on fast local delivery, mean marketers will need to adapt and upgrade the buyer journey. Local, sustainable and ethical brands are also tipped to be the biggest winners in the year ahead.

01.09 UCG is giving staff who get Covid vaccinated an extra day of annual leave. The telecommunications services company, which has more than 1,250 employees, contractors and delivery partners across New Zealand and Australia, says delivery partners will also be rewarded with a $100 gift for double vaccinations. Ralf Luna, UCG executive chairman, says he hopes other companies will adopt similar incentives to be part of an aggressive vaccination strategy to enable A/NZ to open up to the world more quickly.

AppWrap August 2021

30.08 A scathing report says the $16m CovidSafe contact tracing app is a time-waster and ineffective in very high-risk settings. The ‘secret’ report, released under a freedom of information request by The Canberra Times, says the app was taking hours of contact tracers’ time with little reward with just two percent of close contacts in NSW were uncovered by the app during the reporting period. No new close contacts were identified in the Victorian and Queensland outbreaks.

25.08 The controversial ‘hacking’ bill has passed through Senate after 60 changes were made. The bill will provide the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission with powers to ‘disrupt’ data by modifying, copying, adding or deleting it, and enable the collection of intelligence from devices and networks used by those subject to a warrant and online account takeovers. The changes included strengthening issuing criteria for warrants, ZDNet says, along with reviews and sunset powers.

23.08 KPMG Australia is acquiring Oracle implementation specialist Certus APAC in the latest in a string of acquisitions of systems integrators by big consulting firms. The deal, expected to be finalised in late 2021, will enhance KPMG’s ERP and Oracle cloud services capabilities – an area the company says is critical at a time when clients are ‘challenged’ with navigating organisations through Covid. APAC’s 40 strong team will integrated into KPMG’s Melbourne, Sydney and India teams, KPMG says. Certus APAC booked more than $10 million in revenue last year. KPMG says

17.08 Australian organisations spent $1.36 billion on IaaS in 2020 – a 38 percent increase from 2019’s $988 million – on the back of the pandemic driven digital transformation rush. Research company Telsyte says local businesses on average have 3.3 public cloud service and 3.8 private cloud services in use, with numbers increasing with size of an organisation. AWS, Azure, Google, IBM, Oracle and Alibaba Cloud dominate with 85 percent market share, up from 82 percent last year.

17.08 Australia’s OCR Labs has become the first private business to be accredited as a ‘trusted’ government ID operator, alongside Australia Post and myGovID. Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert says the accreditation means private sector customer using OCR Labs’ identity service ‘can trust that their identity information can be verified and is protected’.

17.08 An audit of the Department of Defence ERP program has recommended oversight not be left to contractors, reports IT News. The Australian Nation Audit Office suggests Defence staff need to be more involved in decision making rather than delegating to contractors. The audit provides a generally positive report for the Department of Defence, saying administration, procurement and contracting arrangements with IBM have been ‘largely effective’.

17.08 Microsoft has entered the Australian space race, launching Space Startups Australia to support ‘cloud-powered innovation on and off the planet’. The program provides eligible ‘space startups’ with Azure cloud credits, along with access to Microsoft technologies and the opportunity to work with Microsoft technical specialists. Office of Planetary Observations and Spirla Blue are among the first companies to join the initiative. Microsoft says it expects agriculture, energy, mining, resources, telecommunications and the public sector to be among the early terrestrial adopters of space-enabled solutions

10.08 The Australian government has been advised to replace its ANZSCO job classification list with a more flexible offering better reflecting today’s job market. The recommendation from the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migrations Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program says many ICT roles aren’t sufficiently covered by current role classifications, which underpin the skilled migration lists. Increased use of permanent residency to attract and keep skilled staff in Australia was also recommended, ITNews says.

06.08 Thirty-three changes will be required for the PJCIS to support the proposed law giving federal authorities online account takeover powers. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security wants greater oversight of the new powers and assurances the laws will only be used to target the most serious offences, IT News says.

06.08 The Department of Defence is mapping its global manufacturing supply chain in a new tech program which will see Deloitte scoring $660,000 for eight months work. The new tech program is part of the Defence Department’s new data strategy which aims plans to make more and better use of data, InnovationAus says.

05.08 John Deere is acquiring autonomous tractor startup Bear Flag Robotics in a US$250 million deal. The deal is the second big tech buy in recent years, with the company also snapping up Blue River Technology, which makes intelligent weed-killing robots, in 2017 for $305 million, Wired notes.

05.08 Ernst & Young have scored a lucrative $10m Department of Defence ERP change management deal, netting them $2 million a month for five months reports ITNews. Defence is moving to a SAP Defence Force and Public Security solution hosted on S/4 Hana in the billion-dollar ERP overhaul.

04.08 Cabinet has backed plans for QR code vaccine certificates, but there’s disagreement over whether the vaccine certificates should also be used domestically, the SMH says. The multimillion dollar initiative will involve linking vaccination status on MyGov accounts with new digital vaccination certificates and border declarations, and has been given the green light by the government’s expenditure review committee. The coalition however, is in disagreement on extending use to domestic travel.

01.08 Artificial intelligence has been recognised as an inventor of a patent in a landmark Australian court decision. The Federal Court ruled in favour of US-based Dr Stephen Thaler, the developer of the AI machine DABUS, finding that ‘the inventor can be non-human’ in his case against the Australian Commissioner of Patents. ABC says the historic finding came just days after South Africa awarded a patent recognising DABUS as an inventor.

AppWrap July 2021

30.07 The CovidSafe app identified just 17 contacts not already identified by manual contact tracing according to the long overdue federal government report into the app. The report, which comes a week after the government was forced to release an independent report into the app, shows just 779 CovidSafe people who tested positive for Covid were using CovidSafe and consented to having data shared for contact tracing, InnovationAus says. The government says the limited use of the app is due to low community transmission rates and strong manual contact tracing.

28.07 Google has launched its second Australian cloud region. The new Melbourne region joins an existing Sydney offering, launched in 2017, and will provide improved latency and availability ITNews notes. The company is also setting up an engineering team in New Zealand.

27.07 More than AU$47 million in crowdsourced funding was pumped into Australian SMBs in FY21 according to Birchall’s Funded! report. The final quarter was strongest, up 620 percent year on year – bearing in mind that 2020 was affected by Covid. The $47 million accounts for nearly half of all crowdsourced funding since it became legal in 2018. Fintech Thrive was a big winner, netting $3 million in three days in Feb 2021.

23.07 The long awaited CovidSafe report is out, sort of… The federal government has been forced to release the independent Act Associates report following a Canberra Times freedom of information request, but ITNews says it’s a heavily redacted version that is ‘of little value’. Six-monthly reports are required by legislation, though none have been forthcoming.

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 Police should be banned from accessing government Digital ID data says former Australian Privacy Commissioner Malcom Crompton. InnovationAus says Crompton, now a privacy advisory, says it’s inappropriate for law enforcement to have access to the information, currently allowed in some situations, and a blanket ban should be enforced.

20.07 One third of Australian’s have been the target of ‘pure cyber crime’ at least once, with 14 percent reporting a disruption to network systems in the past 12 months alone. MyBusiness cites a new study from the Australian Institute of Criminology and Flinders University suggesting nearly 6.7 million Australian adults could have been victims in the past.

19.07 Capgemini on 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, the 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.

13.07 Capgemini has acquired Australian SAP services specialist Acclimation for an undisclosed sum, as it looks to build its SAP capabilities and bolster its client portfolio, Capgemini says. The deal follows the February appointment of Mike Giles to head Acclimation’s new SAP Centre of Excellence and the company launching a new SAP Warehouse Management Application designed by its mobile logistics team.

12.07 Accenture has acquired CS Technology, which has offices in Melbourne and Sydney as well as London, and offers ‘a broad range of cloud infrastructure engineering capabilities’ Accenture says. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will bolster Acenture’s cloud services portfolio.

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 The Federal government is reviewing its early stage venture capital tax breaks, with a report due back by the end of the year. The review isn’t designed to develop new policy, but will instead look at whether the tax breaks, launched five years ago, are achieving their intended objectives, InformationAge says.

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.

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 percent in the past five years.

02.07 Monash University has launched vulnerability disclosure and bug bounty programs, in what it says is a first for Australian universities. ITNews says the original disclosure program was prompted by a desire to more aggressively search out cybersecurity weaknesses in the university’s IT. Other universities are now reportedly looking at Monash’s program.

AppWrap June 2021

25.06 Microsoft has unveiled its next-gen Windows 11 OS. 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 the 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.

22.06 Kablamo’s bushfire prediction tool has been recognised by Amazon with the Most Innovative AI and ML solution award in the AWS Public Sector 2021 Partner Awards. The Australian data analytics company’s offering has removed technical bottlenecks and limitation around the depth of data analysis and will potentially be used as a tactical tool for fighting bushfires, Information Age says.

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 Service NSW’s planned data tool for fraud never eventuated, leaving the agency with ‘limited if not non-existent’ ability to track fraudulent applications. Service NSW – tasked with delivering more than AU$1 billion in bushfire, flood and Covid recovery funding – was warned of the need for an analysis tool, and ‘multiple assurances’ were made that a tool would be developed in Tableau, but the agency didn’t follow through, says IT News. Documents show one instance where a single person made 200 applications to the bushfire grants scheme, pocketing over a million dollars in relief funds.

17.06 Coles has earmarked AU$2.5 billion for its tech roadmap over the next two years. The tech plans include improvements to its online shopping, self service checkouts and data and automation across its warehouses, Inside Retail says.

17.06 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’.

11.06 Robodebt has been tagged a “shameful chapter” in Australia’s social security history in a judgment from the Federal Court approving a $112 million settlement over the “unlawful” program, reports InnovationAus. The Judge also said it should have been obvious to the public servants and Ministers presiding over the program that it was faulty. Justice Bernard Murphy found that the government “unlawfully” raised $1.7 billion in debts against 443,000 people after a computer algorithm launched in 2016 went rogue, erroneously matching income against welfare payments and automating debt collection procedures.

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 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.

07.06 NSW Police are tuning into AI and machine learning to speed up evidence analysis. The Microsoft Azure-based is pulling around a terabyte of computer vision each day to support investigations, and is also being used for voice to text transcriptions of interviews, ITNews says.

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.

02.06 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.

01.06 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. What’s holding back adoption? A lack of experience with low-code platforms, according to 60 percent of the survey’s 1000+ respondents.

28.5 The 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 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 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 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 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.

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