Groups explore fortress New Zealand

Two separate e-business ideas that exploit New Zealand's unique location in the world could be merged into one initiative.

Two separate e-business ideas that exploit New Zealand’s unique location in the world could be merged into one initiative.

The first, written about in Computerworld last month, is to turn New Zealand into an e-commerce transaction hub (see NZ promoted as e-biz hub). The second idea (see Data archiving plan takes wing) is similar, but different: it would see the country become a centre for archiving data for overseas organisations.

The two schemes fit with the ideas bandied about at the August Knowledge Wave event in Auckland and the e-commerce summit last year. They involve creation of a new IT-based service industry with potential to bring in export dollars. And they play on what’s often perceived to be a disadvantage of New Zealand’s place on the world map – the fact that we’re miles from anywhere and greet the new day before anyone else.

Can they succeed? Until September 12 (or September 11 for those late risers in the northern hemisphere) I would have said there’s no harm in trying. Now, after the suicide attacks in the US, I’m a little nervous about living in a land that touts itself as a safe haven for e-business or the precious data of foreign owners. In today’s climate of terrorist paranoia, claiming to be a secure provider of any kind of service is a little like waving a banner saying “aim here”. But hopefully that will pass soon enough.

It’s certainly early days as far as turning these ideas into reality goes. The e-hub scheme was outlined by its originator, Aucklander Arjen de Landgraaf, at a meeting of APEC officials in South Korea a fortnight ago. He says he received an interested hearing, which has helped firm up his commitment to the idea.

It’s just a bare-bones plan so far, with a couple of different strands. Part of his thinking is that New Zealand can use its time zone to advantage by providing early warning of security threats on the internet. As he explains it, a virus set to deliver its payload at a particular time will make its presence felt in New Zealand before anywhere else. A New Zealand-based alert service could rouse the rest of the world to the danger. (De Landgraaf’s firm, Co-Logic, already provides such a service, called E-secure-IT.)

Another strand is to turn New Zealand into the “Switzerland of e-business”, the trusted location for transacting e-commerce. When written about in Computerworld, this caught the attention of another group, which includes representatives of the University of Auckland, Telecom and elsewhere, who are toying with the idea of turning the country into a data archive repository. They figure the e-business hub and archive ideas might be merged and were to discuss it at a meeting last week. De Landgraaf is keen and the other group, who were spurred to action after the Knowledge Wave event, are ready to consider a range of business ideas, including creation of several data archive centres around the country.

They’re exciting ideas. Exploiting our time zone in such a way has the appeal of simplicity. If it can be translated into a service with mass uptake, it could spearhead efforts to promote fortress New Zealand.

While de Landgraaf is not overly concerned that this will place New Zealand in the firing line, saying appropriate infrastructure will be required, the adequacy of our telecomms links to the outside world is doubtful. I’m not talking about capacity, but vulnerability to breakage. Within a year of being commissioned, we’ve already had one outage of the Southern Cross Cable, an event which was supposed to occur once in a blue moon. With Telecom’s advanced solutions group involved in scoping the data archiving idea, this is undoubtedly an issue of which they’re mindful.

Disclosure of interest: Computerworld’s publisher, IDG Communications, helped subsidise Arjen de Landgraaf’s trip to South Korea.

Doesburg is Computerworld’s editor. Send email to Anthony Doesburg. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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