'Ferals' onto IT

Far from being "feral", as the prime minister reportedly called them, plenty of West Coasters have top IT skills.

Far from being “feral”, as the prime minister reportedly called them, plenty of West Coasters have top IT skills.

Ian McCann of Greymouth has developed hotel management software that is being used in centres as diverse as Fiji, Samoa and Invercargill. And Tony Smith, formerly of Hokitika, developed Qtalka voice over IP-based software. It is reportedly such a success that he now shuns publicity, living in exile in Port Vila in Vanuatu.

McCann heads RoonSoft Software and works at home as a sole trader. He says his software is installed in 300 hotels, motels, backpackers and campgrounds across New Zealand, as well as at the Cousteau Resort in Fiji.

McCann says he developed the DOS-based system as a bet with a friend who wanted good software to help run his motel. The self-taught programmer worked with teenager Michael Rooney and came up with Roonsoft. Eighteen months later it was installed at one motel and then at the friend’s, who uses it today.

After a slow start and much of the profit of his own retail business, Cameron says the software is now profitable. Initially its development gobbled up over $500,000. He says RoonSoft, written in Microsoft Visual Basic 1.0, is easy to use. It runs under Windows 2000 in full-screen DOS mode. “At the end of the day, companies [just] want something that does the job,” he says.

This is a point made by several customers contacted by Computerworld. Averil Lark of Christchurch-based Latimer Motor Lodge says RoonSoft is easy to train people on and is adaptable. Philip Groom of Greymouth’s Ashleigh Motor Inn says he likes how it integrates data between departments, for example, from bars to reception. Nigel Davidson of Auckland’s Cornwall Motor Park Lodge says it has good company searches, historical records and it does all the stats reports.

Software support happens mainly over the internet and McCann says Greymouth is as easy to serve tourist firms as the city. Running your own ISP also means no problems with bandwidth, he says.

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