- broadband again (sorry about that)
- spam I am
- public versus private
- broadband again (sorry about that)
So here we are with yet another story about how New Zealand has slipped in the rankings for broadband uptake.
This is from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the report is quite detailed. Rather than simply look at user numbers countries claim to have (always a fraught business what with definitions like "JetStream Starter is not broadband" and all) the report takes a broader view of a nation's state, providing the "world's first global ICT ranking" according to the report itself (link below).
We're still in the top bunch, so that's a relief. The other three groups include nations emerging from civil war, those that haven't got telephones and those that don't have electricity, let alone computers, let alone broadband.
The survey makes use of the digital access index (DAI) to rank countries and that will be handy in years ahead - everyone's ranking is based on the same formulae so we will be able to compare apples with apples.
So how do we sit. To quote from the report's methodology:
"The DAI combines eight variables, covering five areas, to provide an overall country score. The areas are availability of infrastructure, affordability of access, educational level, quality of ICT services, and internet usage. The results of the index point to potential stumbling blocks in ICT adoption and can help countries identify their relative strengths and weaknesses."
The index runs from 0 to 1; top of the class is Sweden with 0.85. Niger languishes at an appalling 0.04. New Zealand is at the bottom end of those countries that are developed and have some government-level interest in ICT as an "enabler". We scored 0.72 along with France, Italy and Slovenia. Bottom of our group is Israel with 0.70.
We rank sixth highest in terms of education, which is a relief. The only other category where we stand out is in the "whose fallen the furthest" chart. Since 1998 we have fallen from 12th place to 21st. That's a fall of nine places and narrowly beats out the Australians who only managed to fall eight. Nobody else fell as far as we did.
The full report will be released in December. By then Project Probe will be finally under way, I should hope, we will be closer to the telecommunications commission's final report on unbundling and hopefully we will see what we can do to increase our rankings. I don't think we'll fall another nine places, but if we don't advance the cause we'll almost certainly be left standing still.
- spam I am
Xtra has launched its anti-spam service, finally.
Rumour has it that early in October, when we were having some slow-downs in email delivery and users were reporting their Xtra email going astray, although Xtra vehemently denied this, Xtra was all ready to roll out the service but it crashed and burned and had to be delayed.
Certainly at the time Xtra wouldn't say what piece of software had glitched or who the vendor was, but that's all behind us now.
Xtra is using Brightmail, the same service that TelstraClear has been using for a couple of months. Most of the other ISPs are offering similar services or are about to introduce something.
It's a pain in the butt that it's had to come to this. Filtering out unwanted messages because some greedy swine are too caught up in their own tiny worlds to understand.
The beauty of the internet is that you can be selective, that you can send and receive information sifted to the most granular of levels. If I want to hear about ostrich farming in the Sudan I can probably find a site devoted to it (quick, Google for it!). If I want to place an ad on a website so only New Zealand users see it, I can, more or less. If I want to target my message specifically to a small but worthy group of readers, I can write a weekly email newsletter (group hug).
What really gets my goat is those morons who send don't see the elegance of such a solution but instead see a mass market. If only half a percent of recipients bother to read my email and only half a percent of those readers bother to buy the product, I must send 10 million emails a day to make it worth my while.
How stupid is that? Almost as stupid as those folk that open the spam in the first place. You're only encouraging them, you know.
Actually, I was reading one suggestion on Slashdot that said answering spam may be the solution.
Think about it for a moment. If these guys are getting paid for delivering good clean contacts (the posting suggested $50 for each mortgage-hungry recipient) then dilute their earnings by replying to these offers even though you don't want the service. If the banks start receiving hundreds of thousands of emails instead of only four or five, they'll be hiring staff to sift through them and their costs will go up. Eventually they'll realise it's not productive to spam and they'll stop.
Interesting theory. Personally I think we should round them up, put them in a field and bomb the b*%$^#. But that's just me.
I'm getting spam now offering me anti-spam services. Stop the unwanted email, they cry. Are they being ironic or do they really not understand?
- public versus private
If you're standing in your bedroom with the curtains drawn you probably have a high expectation of privacy, right? What about standing in your bedroom with the curtains wide open? What about sitting in your front garden? What about walking down the public street in the middle of rush hour?
Our expectation of privacy has been something of a moving target of late it seems. Do you have a right to privacy in general? Yes, I think we can all agree on that. But what about when you're out in public? Can you really expect to be "private" when you're surrounded by hundreds of other people?
These questions and a great many more were the focus of a discussion held at the Internet Safety Group this week. Judge David Harvey spoke eloquently as usual on the matter and former InternetNZ councillor (and no legal slouch himself) Rick Shera lobbed a few issue-related hand grenades into the mix just for fun.
The talk was initially about cellphones with cameras built into them and the potential for misuse by those nasties who like to take photos of folk without their knowledge. What can we do about it currently? Well, it really all depends on where you are and what you're doing.
You have the right to stand on a public street and take a photograph. Can you imagine the outcry if you weren't allowed to do that?
You're allowed to stand on a public street and take a photograph of a private property. Interesting point. Don't think many people are aware of that.
You're allowed to stand on a public street and take a photo of someone in their home if they've got the curtains pulled back and all the lights on and they're standing there.
I can see you're shifting in your seat a little uneasily now.
It's a tricky area, balancing up your freedom of expression and movement and so on with your freedom from stalking or harassment or invasion of privacy.
Actually, as Rick Shera said at the meeting, it's not so much about the taking of the photograph (and you could easily make that "information" instead), it's what is done with that photograph that's the issue.
If I'm caught in a photo that the Herald runs with a story on foot traffic numbers in Auckland, well that's neither here nor there. If that photo is then kept and used again as a file photo should I go postal and climb a clock tower (better that than my high school photos I must say), then I might have things to say about that. But if it's taken, plonked on the internet on some "rate this imbecile" site or whatever, then I'm going to feel my privacy has been well violated and someone's going to be getting a stern talking to.
Harvey thinks current laws are enough to deal with the situation, and he mentions legislation covering trespass, harassment, privacy and so on. I'd hope that's right because I can't see this government drafting a law to protect us from cellphone camera wielding perverts that doesn't also squash several ordinary everyday rights that we should be holding close to our hearts. This isn't a debate about technology as such - to change the laws to fit the new devices would be a mistake, I think. Better to have a law that covers any technology, unless we're absolutely forced into a change.