Mysterious orbs floating over Southeast deliver Wi-Fi. How?


They’re not floating jellyfish, mysterious UFOs or a motley crew of Goodyear blimps.

No, that bevy of balloons dotting flight-tracking maps 60,000 feet above the Carolinas is actually “beaming the internet,” according to The New York Times.

The balloons — chartered by Google-backed Loon — provide Wi-Fi to rural areas where internet connection is often spotty, if not nonexistent. A fleet of the balloons were released over Kenya on Tuesday, The Times reported. At least four additional balloons were also spotted bobbing from Virginia down through the Carolinas and into Georgia and Alabama.

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Flight-tracking software shows four Loon balloons flying over the Southeast on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Screenshot from ADS-B Exchange

California-based Loon is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. that aims to expand internet access across the globe. The first Loon balloon that launched in 2011 was made out of a weather balloon and “off-the-shelf radio parts,” according to its website.

A sheep farmer in New Zealand became the first person to connect to one of its internet balloons in 2013, and the company went public with the idea shortly thereafter — “which helps to explain some UFO sightings that were reported after testing around the world,” Loon quips on its website.

The so-called Wi-Fi balloons have since been used to deliver internet to communities in Peru and Puerto Rico after natural disasters. Prior to its launch in Kenya on Tuesday, The New York Times reported Loon has launched at least 35 balloons over the last several months.

Though not an internet service provider, Loon describes the balloons as “essentially floating cell towers.”

“Customers will not necessarily know they are connected to a Loon balloon, aside from the fact that they may receive a signal in a location where one did not previously exist,” the website states. “A customer needs to have a SIM card of the mobile network operator partnering with Loon and an LTE-enabled smartphone.”

The balloons are about “the size of tennis courts” and are “powered by solar panels” on the ground, according to The Times.

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Loon’s balloons are powered by solar panels on the ground, The New York Times reported. Source: Loon

With a floating altitude between 60,000 and 75,000 feet, Loon says there’s no risk of the balloons running into airplanes — which fly between 31,000 and 38,000 feet, Time reported. According to Loon’s website, the balloons fly internationally, provide roughly 50 square miles of ground coverage and can serve thousands of subscribers.

They can also occasionally be spotted from the ground.

“In certain weather conditions it may be possible to see a Loon balloon from the ground as a small, white dot in the sky,” Loon’s website states. “Most of the time they will be very difficult to see without magnification.”

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The balloons might appear as white dots in the sky if weather conditions permit but are otherwise diffult to see. Source: Loon

Flight tracking software known as ADS-B Exchange charts the balloons’ location just like airplanes.

“The easiest way to find a Loon balloon is to just look for the balloon icon on the map,” FlightRadar24 reported in 2016. “You’re most likely to see a Loon balloon over the equator. To search directly for a Loon balloon, use callsign ‘HBAL.’”

Five balloons with that call sign were spotted in the U.S. on Tuesday, four of which had been tracked over much of the Southeast.

More information on the science behind the Wi-Fi balloons can be found on Loon’s website.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.





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Big tech’s China face-off risks sparking exodus from Hong Kong


Hours after Hong Kong announced sweeping new powers to police the internet on Monday night, those companies plus the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Zoom Video Communications Inc. all suspended requests for data from the Hong Kong government. ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok, which has Chinese owners, announced it would pull its viral video app from the territory’s mobile stores in the coming days even as President Donald Trump threatened to ban it in the U.S.

Their dilemma is stark: Bend to the law and infuriate Western nations increasingly at odds with China over political freedoms, or simply refuse and depart like Google did in China a decade ago over some of the very same issues. Much like that seismic event shook the mainland in 2010, Big Tech’s reaction now could have a much wider impact on Hong Kong’s future as a financial hub.

“Google is pretty important to people here, and if that’s cut off then it’s really extremely serious,” said Richard Harris, a former director at Citi Private Bank who now runs Port Shelter Investment Management in Hong Kong. “In Hong Kong we don’t know where the boundaries are, and that’s threatening to a lot of business people.”

Over the past week, Hong Kong authorities have begun explaining how they’ll enforce a law that officials in Beijing called a “sword of Damocles” hanging over China’s most strident critics. The legislation, which sparked the threat of sanctions from the Trump administration and outrage elsewhere, has had a chilling effect on pro-democracy protesters who demonstrated for months last year while also raising fresh questions for businesses.

On Monday night, the Hong Kong government announced sweeping new police powers, including warrant-less searches, property seizures and online surveillance. If a publisher fails to immediately comply with a request to remove content deemed in breach of the law, police can seek a warrant to “take any action” to remove it while also demanding “the identification record or decryption assistance.”

“We are absolutely headed for a showdown, and there are no indications that the Hong Kong government is particularly prepared if Facebook or another company refuses a removal request,” said James Griffiths, a journalist and author of “The Great Firewall: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet.” “These companies appear to have realized that there is no compromise they could make that would truly satisfy Beijing or make them seem trustworthy. This could make them more willing to stand up against Chinese censorship in Hong Kong.”

American internet giants have made overtures toward Beijing in recent years as the market exploded, but few have so far actually acceded to China’s censorship framework.

Of the rare examples, Microsoft’s LinkedIn censors content to allow it to operate a Chinese version, while Apple Inc. complies with local regulations in policing its app store and other services. Reports that Google entertained the notion of returning — via potentially a censored version of search called Project Dragonfly — enraged lawmakers and its own employees torpedoed the idea.

Worldwide Censorship

Twitter and Facebook have never been consistently available in China, but Mark Zuckerberg also flirted with Beijing before abandoning the notion as regulatory scrutiny and a user backlash grew at home. In both instances, external factors helped scupper the feasibility of operating in the world’s No. 2 economy.

“I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in,” he said last year in a speech at Georgetown University. “And now we have more freedom to speak out and stand up for the values we believe in and fight for free expression around the world.”

Still, the internet heavyweights are already censoring content across the world for both authoritarian regimes and western democracies, according to Ben Bland, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia. After a mass shooting last March in Christchurch, New Zealand, top social media companies joined with more than 40 countries in a concerted call to end the spread of extremist messaging online.

Germany has banned online Nazi and right-wing extremist content, and most countries have blocks in place against online pornography and criminal activity. In Thailand, strict lese majeste laws lead to censorship of content deemed offensive to the royal family, while Communist-run Vietnam expunges anything deemed “anti-state.”

Reputational Damage

Big tech companies must gauge the importance of the markets in China and Hong Kong with possible reputational damage in other places they operate, according to Stuart Hargreaves, a law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong who researches surveillance and privacy issues.

“I do not expect to see the Great Firewall extended from mainland China to Hong Kong, at least in the medium term,” he said. “It is not necessary for Beijing’s goal of tamping down certain sentiments and would be the obvious end of Hong Kong as a global city and its particular role as an Asian finance hub.”

The exit of TikTok, the viral video app that has insisted it operates independently of Beijing, could actually benefit the Communist Party by removing a forum pro-democracy protesters have used to post videos calling for an independent Hong Kong. Last year, demonstrators used the Reddit-like forum LIHKG as well as Telegram to organize leaderless protests.

TikTok on Tuesday played up its U.S. ties while pushing back against comments by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who said the government is considering a ban of the short video app. Trump later said the move may be one possible way to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus.

“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” a TikTok spokesperson said, adding that it’s led by an American CEO.

Platforms like Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption could become increasingly popular, said Joyce Nip, senior lecturer in Chinese Media Studies at the University of Sydney. Telegram said it has never shared data with Hong Kong authorities, adding that it doesn’t have servers in the territory and doesn’t store data there.

‘Knife Edge’

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, didn’t answer a question Tuesday on her response to tech companies that stopped processing data requests from her government. Still, she played down any long-term impact on the city’s position as a financial hub around the same time that Pompeo released a statement blasting the Communist Party’s “Orwellian censorship” in Hong Kong.

There “has been an increasing appreciation of the positive effect of this national security legislation, particularly in restoring stability in Hong Kong as reflected by some of the market sentiments in recent days,” Lam said a day after local stocks entered a bull market. “Surely this is not doom and gloom for Hong Kong.”

The regulations stemmed from a new national security committee created by the law that includes Lam and Luo Huining, Beijing’s top official in the city. While China’s leaders know Hong Kong needs a free flow of information to function as a world-class financial center, “much seems to rest in the hands of the few newly empowered bureaucrats who will police the new laws,” according to Steve Vickers, chief executive officer of Steve Vickers and Associates, a political and corporate risk consultancy.

“Foreign firms are on something of a knife edge here, caught between their natural affinity with freedom of information and their commercial desire to operate in the huge Chinese market,” said Vickers, a former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Criminal Intelligence Bureau. “It is now more a matter of what is actually done, as opposed to what is being said — by either China or the foreign IT companies — that will be the key.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Guy Trafford is disappointed that the latest MPI aspirational document highlights yet more confusing signals for the rural sector, devoid of detail of what will be supported


I was somewhat taken aback by Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor’s release of the Governments aspirational statement that they are aiming to lift primary sector exports by $44 bln in the next decade.

To put this into some sort of context, in 2019 the sector hit $46.5 bln so we are looking at a near doubling of returns.

The MPI report which the Minister’s statement is based upon is targeting a flat $10 bln per year for the eleven years up to and including both 2020 and 2030. If we compound out the $46.5 bln to the $90.5 bln which presumably is the target, then export receipts need to increase on average a tad under +7% per year. But to date this year primary sectors exports are ahead by +4.5% over 2019. However, I suspect in regard to livestock these numbers may be inflated by drought pushing a lot of capital stock into the works as well potentially some destocking of farms going into forestry (just thought I’d drop that in).

Just to add further confusion to the Minister’s release, an analysis by others have cast serious doubts on the additional +$44 bln and believes that the figure in 2030 should be $57.6 bln, so rising just +$10 bln over the decade. Nothing in the release would support the lower figure, (except perhaps logic and common sense).

The Minister does seem to be getting poor numbers from MPI of late, with the area of new forestry plantings also creating some confusion.

If we go with the second figure then the annual increase is (only) an average of +2% per year and then look back at the previous 10 years (2009 -2019) we find an average of 5.5% and as the below graph shows there are some major annual variations.

Source: Stats NZ.

So, a word of warning here is that the $44 bln is a questionable number that may get revised (downwards).

Before getting into detail, just a reminder of what the primary industry sector largely consists of; Agriculture, Dairy, Sheep, Deer, Wool, Horticulture (which includes fruit and vegetables), Arable grains and crops (that aren’t included in horticulture), Fisheries (both wild fish caught and aquaculture) and finally, Forestry, both unprocessed and process timber. Other smaller but rising sectors also include pork and poultry and no doubt I’ve missed some out also.

One thing that had my eyebrows raised was that last year MPI’s outlook was considerably more subdued. In October they forecasted a -0.1% drop in 2020 later in December they updated that to a positive +3%. Latterly, COVID-19 certainly has made life a lot more complicated, at least in the short term, to try and get a handle on what is happening with supplies and demand around the globe, but then this latest MPI report is looking out to 2030 and was completed under the influence of COVID-19, so no excuses can be made as a result of the changing situation. The report which the Minister is using as his guide to making his release is long on generalities and light on any real detail.

Broken into three areas of aspiration the report focuses on:

Productivity; that’s where the +$44 bln comes from.

Sustainability; restoring New Zealand’s water ways and reducing methane emissions

Inclusiveness; increasing the number of Kiwis’ involved in the Primary sector by +10% in the 2020-2030 period.

The detail around “productivity” should be where MPI could bring some expertise to the discussion. However, there is a paucity of detail and ideas. It does mention an increase in smaller scale irrigation schemes driven from stored water, aquaculture gets a mention and surprisingly the strong wool sector features probably more than any other specific resource. MPI must know something strong wool farmers have been missing for the last couple of decades and to achieve this turn around from an all time low (in real terms) is incredibly optimistic, especially with the limited processing resources New Zealand now has.

Sustainability focus is on regenerative agriculture, restoring waterway and utilising waste products from the timber industry. These are all laudable aims and no reason why they shouldn’t be achieved. My problem is that they will not be contributing much to the additional +$10 bln per year required to achieve the + $44 bln target.

This same criticism could also be applied to “Inclusiveness”. Getting more Kiwis’ involved in the primary sector will be great and apart from not adding to greater housing demand, helping to bridge any urban -rural divide and providing more jobs I fail to see how they also will contribute much more than what migrant workers provide assuming the plan is to replace the need to bring foreign workers in. At least in part.

Maori are also singled out as having potential for improvement and will be assisted by providing additional Maori agribusiness extension. This smacks of patronising to me. We all can use help and no doubt Maori can as well, but Maori look to be making pretty good gains already and are showing the way in many areas.

One area which may make a difference is “We will support investment in improved digital infrastructure”. The frustration many not far out of an urban boundary find with lack of decent internet and cell phone coverage is a constant frustration and slows down communication considerably, especially in a world where banks, insurance companies and government departments are increasingly providing services and requirements only available online. Has anyone seen what happened to Uncle Shane’s $15 mln yet?

Perhaps I’m being harsh as this is only a “Road map” and maybe more fleshing out will come later. But it was MPI that raised the $44 bln goal and I would like to think they applied a bit more rigour than just plucking a figure out of the air. Because that is what it looks like.

So, in general, there is nothing in the Report that I would not be happy to see happen but as a “road map” to show the way forward that will lead New Zealand into prosperity I struggle to be convinced that this will lift productivity or profitability anymore than what business’s are doing on their own bat.

For those who may take the time to go to the Report, although it is 24 pages the crux of it is on pages 16 and 17, so not too much time need be spent perusing to gain a fairly accurate idea.

It pays to keep an eye on your emails as in addition to the MPI “Road map”, or perhaps ironically, the Primary Sector Council’s Vision and Strategic Outline was also released today. Although published online by MPI is was put together by industry heads of the private sector. In its general tenor it is very similar in tone to the MPI road map and uses very similar language to the point where they both have the same title “Fit for a Better World”. I assume this is no accident and have either been done jointly unless someone has borrowed from the other. Anyway, it got me confused. The biggest differences between the two was the Primary Sector Council Vision didn’t put in the +$44 bln figure and was a little more circumspect in annual growth rates, keeping theirs down to between +2 to +5% annually. This is a figure that is certainly more attainable especially given some of the other constraints that will be applied to industry.

The message coming through strongly from both documents is certainly that the future needs to be more sustainable on all fronts, the rest we can ponder on.

The ‘NI average’ chart will be drawn here.
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$ per head

The ‘SI average’ chart will be drawn here.
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$ per head



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Coaxing New Zealand’s arts community back out the door


‘All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.’ Octavia Butler’s words became something of a motto for the latest PANNZ online hui. Change is omnipresent and omnipotent. The times are always changing, but perhaps they have been more acutely felt over the last three months. 



The country moved up and down our COVID-19 levels system at a pace that managed to feel both breakneck and slow motion as we scrambled to keep the arts sector afloat and pause to consider what we wanted the future to look like.

As we moved down the levels, weekly PANNZ online hui have been a fertile platform to discuss the opportunities that a COVID-19 induced lockdown presented for the sector and to consider what needed to be left behind. The importance of the what and the why.

Now we are at level one, the latest hui was a welcome opportunity to explore how artists and organisations are shifting their practices in this brave new world. How they are marrying lessons learnt during lockdown with tried-and-true practices. How they are confronting the challenges of audience engagement in a world where free content, Netflix and YouTube reign supreme – in the safety of their own homes.

Moderator Dolina Wehipeihana (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngati Tūkorehe) observed, ‘we’ve acknowledged that there is no going back to the way things were. That we are seeking a new normal. So how do we readjust our [artistic] practices and start working again?’

A Successful Lockdown

Anna Cameron says the ATC used lockdown to reflect on the organisation’s practices.

For the first speaker Anna Cameron, Executive Director of Auckland Theatre Company (ATC), said ‘in order to look forward, we’ve got to look back.’ Cameron has been impressed by previous PANNZ hui, particularly the words of Puawai Cairns.

‘She spoke about the age of precariousness and underscored the need and importance to move at the pace of our most vulnerable,’ reflects Cameron. ‘We’ve never met, but thank you Puawai – your words have stayed with me and I have been turning those ideas over.’

For ATC, Lockdown was an opportunity to focus on the wellbeing of their myriad of staff, which notably included the installation of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to provide 24/7 confidential free counselling for them and to lobby for the resources of MusicHelps to become accessible for everyone working in the arts. They were successful.

‘The past six weeks feel like the distant past due to the rush to get back to level one,’ said Cameron, who had to pull a company halfway through a tour, cancel four out of seven shows and the ASB Waterfront Theatre as the country moved into Lockdown.

Despite these challenges, the ATC used the time as an opportunity to explore new ways of connecting to audiences, namely an online adaptation of Checkov’s The Seagull. ‘It was a true innovation,’ Cameron attested.

‘The critical and audience response shows it was successful – we had over 33,000 views in five weeks. As a hypothetical comparison, if it ran at the ASB Theatre for five weeks, six nights a week and we sold 100% of tickets, we would’ve only reached 22,000. That means that there was a 64% increase of audience numbers….we are unpacking what this experiment means and debating how to protect the value of the arts and monetise it online. This is entirely new territory and we need to ready ourselves to develop new experimentation,’ said Cameron.

‘We’re at a place of experimentation and discovery right now – perhaps we should be staying here right now to build trust with audiences, to learn, to test out what feels right for brands.’

This tension between live and online experiences and how to engage with audiences now accustomed to a glut of free entertainment available online is an important topic to unpick in a post-COVID-19 world, as evidenced by the discussions at the hui.

No Stone Left Unturned

A pertinent question put by the audience was, ‘how do we continue to place value on live art in the wake of online performances?’

As soon as the impacts of COVID-19 became clear, Tānemahuta Gray – Kahukura/Kaiarataki Toi – CEO & Artistic Director of Taki Rua Productions had, ‘a strong commitment to believing that we would be presenting live theatre in 2020 and taking steps towards doing that.’

To achieve this, Gray adopted a “Hauora policy” to keep their employees as well as their past and future audiences safe.

They cancelled their successful Te Reo tour of schools and worked from home up until they were able to re-enter their offices.  Even then, employees were unable to use the dishwasher in order to keep up strict hygiene standards. ‘In rehearsals, we created a bubble and [the performers] were aware of where they were going outside of the rehearsal bubble. The question now is ‘how do we keep it safe and build strong audiences moving forward?’

The Te Reo season ‘reaches thousands of tamariki to keep Te Reo [Māori] alive and well,’ said Gray.  After cancelling 23 schools in three days, Gray was thrilled to report that ‘75% of schools have called back to reschedule – it shows confidence [in live performance] and a need from teachers.” For Gray, some post-COVID changes include “keeping performers a five-metre gap from where students are and promoting strong hygiene practices.’

Gray was hopeful ‘given the crowds at the rugby that people will be excited for live experiences’, but acknowledges that [in the wake of COVID] ‘people do feel safer to watch from home. Netflix and YouTube have really been competition for us. In 2006/2007 when we were selling Maui and before YouTube had taken off we were performing for 60-70 thousand people, rather than 30 thousand now.’

While you can get a Netflix subscription for $12, Gray is confident that ‘it doesn’t give the energy of live theatre. That’s hard to recreate and alter. Maybe virtual reality could try and recreate something but there will be a core audience who will want the live experience, who will want to say “I was there at the time”. The Met Opera has performances you can see in the cinema. It’s a business model that if you have the power is an option. For Independents, it’s going to be unique quirky offerings that will bring crowds combining live via phone and technology…I don’t believe a live art experience will disappear because there’s value in it.’

For Gray, the focus on hauora which has led to our fantastic COVID results will be a key part of the recovery, particularly for those within the arts ecology.

‘I’ve heard that 40 films could come and shoot in New Zealand. This could be a challenge for live theatre because [theatre lighting and technology companies] will be better paid by films,’ he said.

‘So how does [live theatre] become resilient and robust and also work for emerging talent to create a bigger bubble of stronger work and stronger opportunities for emerging talent? 

‘Our wellbeing will be the best part of building the economy because we can’t do it in the States- I predict Hollywood will be closed for about 18 months, so there will be opportunities there.’

Quick Transition

Michael Bell, a theatre and music producer based in Christchurch (Little Andromeda, New Zealand Playhouse and Orange Studios) was of the notion that, ‘if we [were streaming during Lockdown for free] we didn’t want to disincentivise people to come to the theatre.’ However, he discovered “a new demographic of people who said they can never afford to go to shows. 

‘There is some merit in making shows free, but we [were] just being really careful with wording, saying ‘this production was made possible with thanks to Creative New Zealand’ – we were trying to not devalue the work or making audiences think [the theatre] will always be free.’

Now at Level One, Bell finds his multiple companies ‘transitioning back pretty quickly – it’s easier to get an audience along and harder to get artists up and running again.’

Bell has found that his private theatre company New Zealand Playhouse – that tours to 450 schools around New Zealand and Australia – has had ‘75% callbacks from his post-lockdown schedule.’ However, he notes the discrepancies between independent creatives and their ability to apply for Creative New Zealand funding – a topic that has been touched on in previous PANNZ hui.

‘I’ve got a lot of mates who are struggling with their independent groups,’ said Bell. ‘It’s awesome that Creative New Zealand is supporting so much of the arts…but there needs to be a lot more connection between Creative New Zealand and Independents, so CNZ can cater to them more when writing criteria [for funding] and independents can feel like they can apply.’

Balancing Act

Finding a balance between the live and online performances and how to capitalise on online performance and audiences is the elephant in the room and a question that was thankfully put forward by a viewer.

Cameron responded, ‘I don’t have the answers, only questions. We have been too focused on settling our businesses down to start to grapple with the question of how or if we should monetise art online. I’ve been doing some reading on the original intention of the internet; take the idea of the democratisation of space and information. I’m interested in how to take this accessible thinking into the physical space. 

‘What are the conversations and ways to engage the audience so that we can create a space between being physical and online? It’s difficult to think about how to monetise work online when so much is on offer for free,’ Cameron continued.

‘What feels useful to me is intention. As artists, companies, organisations think quite carefully about what the intent for a particular project is – who is it relevant to, how do we reach those people? What feels true is the approach to audience building has become a lot more complex now. It will depend on the project about whether or not it is online. 

‘We’re interested in how the spaces talk to each other and how we can use it as a strategy for engagement. The online space can be an enhancer of live experience. There is so much more insight you can give to audiences who might be interested in people or organisations behind the work. It feels that we need new business models to assist how to go forward.’

She points out that ‘these audience questions are the same questions before COVID-19. It’s just now there’s a heavier reliance and a comfort zone for people in the online space. I  don’t think it means less live audiences. It does mean that our collaborations with companies and organisations will be more interesting, more dynamic, more complex.’

Refreshingly, Cameron is interested in what the next generation can bring to the table. ‘I want [the next generation] to be my boss right now,’ said Cameron. ‘I’m looking to listen to digital natives because they have a different mindset about digital spaces – we have a lot to learn from younger people with bigger brains than I.’

Back Off, Robots

After weeks of long overdue and robust conversations about what needs to change in the sector, it was useful to explore the ways how changes were beginning to be implemented so that the true values of the arts – inclusivity, freedom, collaboration – can be brought front and centre. “The world is asking us to be more adaptable,’ asserted Cameron.

Looking forward, Bell is confident that ‘artists are going to be the last ones standing – as robots take over everyone’s jobs, I think artists are going to be the last people with jobs – the future will be good for artists.’

Watch the latest PANNZ Hui.

This story was first published by The Big Idea, New Zealand.



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Coronavirus And Drinking Games: Author Of New Book Sees Commonalities . News


The spread of coronavirus has surprising similarities to the spread of fake news, gun violence and even social media fads. What they all have in common is that mathematics plays a role in predicting how things “go viral,” whether it’s a germ, a rumor or an internet trend.

In his new book, The Rules of Contagion, Adam Kucharski, associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, talked about how to understand all types of contagion.

In your book, you describe a drinking game, Neknomination, that started on Facebook and YouTube in 2014 in Australia and “went viral.” You studied it when it came to England, and you correctly predicted the game would die out quickly. How did you come to that conclusion?

In Neknomination, people were downing pints of beer and large quantities of alcohol. Each person would do it, post a video on line and nominate two or three others to outdo them. Those people had to meet the challenge and nominate others within 24 hours. In studying it, we had two bits of information that are really hard to get at in disease outbreak: the reproduction number — how many others one person “infects” — and the lag time, 24 hours, after which people would stop spreading the game. Friends tend to cluster together and nominate the same people. That reduces the reproduction number below one and leads to a smaller outbreak. Despite a media frenzy in early February 2014, [the game] was all but gone by the end of that month.

Talk about the importance of the reproduction rate in contagion.

It’s the mathematics of exponential spread. For each case of COVID-19 you have, how many others are you infecting? In the early stages of this pandemic, the reproduction number, or “R,” was 2 to 3. Now, in many countries, it’s in the 0.8–1.2 range. Anything above 1 means it’s going to grow. If you bring the “R” rate down below 1, it means one person infects fewer than one other person, and you can say the spread of the disease is under control and will eventually die out. If the “R” is .95, you will have a declining epidemic.

Even though the epidemic is in decline with an “R” of less than 1, some people will continue to get infected, get sick and even die, correct?

Yes, that’s a good point. There could be a large number of individuals still getting sick as transmission slows. You can’t think that when you get to an “R” number below 1, the problem is solved.

How far into the future can you predict how a virus will spread?

The hard thing about predicting the future for COVID-19 is that it’s so dependent on what governments do and what individuals do. You can see a lot of different scenarios depending on what people do. Models can be a useful way of laying out the possibilities. If you lock down longer, this is what will happen; if you lift the lockdown early, then this is what will happen. But a much larger question is what governments and people do with the information. Some countries might think a predicted level of contagion is acceptable. Other countries will think that same level of contagion is too high, and they need to put more measures in place for a longer time.

Contact tracing has been identified as a key element in stopping spread: finding all those in contact with a newly diagnosed case. Can that work in other areas, like stopping the spread of gun violence?

In a pandemic, you identify a patient and then you identify others in that person’s network that they’ve been in contact with. You quarantine them all, and that should stop transmission. Violent events can also spread through definable networks like gangs. If you have a shooting, you try to find other people connected through friends, gangs or other networks. Some communities have what they call violence interrupters — a well-known person in the community who has credibility. They might find friends of a gunshot victim and talk to them about the danger and futility of retaliation.

How do you think this pandemic is going to unfold?

It’s often hard to imagine what might have happened had you done something differently. But we can watch different scenarios. Some countries, like New Zealand, had early travel restrictions and now have local control. With border restrictions, they might be able to keep that going. Other places, like Hong Kong and South Korea are keeping the pandemic under control but with flare-ups. Some places in Europe and the U.S. are lifting lockdowns, but they’re doing it differently: with or without various substitute measures, like testing, contact tracing, mandatory masks and social distancing. And still other places, like India and South Africa, are not able to keep lockdown measures in place.

With this pandemic, we’ll see alternative realities play out in real time with wide variations around the world. Things aren’t going to look the same for a long time.

Susan Brink is a freelance writer who covers health and medicine. She is the author of The Fourth Trimester and co-author of A Change of Heart.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.



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Mike Pompeo threatens to ban TikTok in US due to potential China surveillance



Mike Pompeo said he is considering banning viral video app TikTok, which has 65 million users in the US, because of concerns that the app could be forced to hand over user data to the Chinese government.

“We have worked on this very issue for a long time … I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at,” the US secretary of state told Fox News in an interview.

“With respect to Chinese apps on peoples’ cellphones, the United States will get this one right too.”

Owned by ByteDance, a Shenzen-based technology start-up, Chinese video streaming app TikTok has been downloaded over two billion times since its launch in 2016.

It has become the first Chinese-owned social media platform to attract a mass following in western countries, where the app is used by tens of millions of teenagers to share viral dance routines, sketches and lip syncing videos.

However, opaque rules on how it collects sensitive user data have fuelled fears it could be used by Beijing as a surveillance tool or for propaganda purposes. India has already barred the TikTok app over national security and privacy concerns while other countries are reportedly mulling similar measures.

TikTok has said all its data is stored in servers in the US and insisted it would not remove content even if asked to do so by the Chinese government.

It has also denied handing over data to Chinese authorities and has taken steps to separate its app from its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

In June it took a major step toward burnishing the service by hiring ex-Disney streaming boss Kevin Mayer. Mayer, who runs TikTok globally, is hoping to smooth relations with US lawmakers.

Pompeo’s comments on a ban were made ahead of TikTok’s announcement that it would stop operations in Hong Kong, where it has 150,000 users, joining other social media companies in eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national security law that took effect last week.

Tech giants, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Zoom, say they are assessing implications of the security law, which prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.

Many of these Western technology firms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are already banned in mainland China given strict government censorship and control of news, information and social media.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s destruction of free Hong Kong continues,” Pompeo said in a sharply worded statement.

“With the ink barely dry on the repressive national security law, local authorities – in an Orwellian move – have now established a central government national security office, started removing books critical of the CCP from library shelves, banned political slogans, and are now requiring schools to enforce censorship.”

Pompeo condemned what he called the “latest assaults on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong”.

“Until now, Hong Kong flourished because it allowed free thinking and free speech, under an independent rule of law. No more.”



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The Bulletin: Hamish Walker, former Nat president in disgrace after Covid leak


Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Scandal for MP after leaking confidential Covid data, new bookings for return to country put on hold, and Islamic Women’s Council release evidence of being ignored.

We now know exactly how the leak of private information of all active Covid-19 patients happened. National MP Hamish Walker, representative for Clutha-Southland, has admitted to being the person who tried to take that private information to media organisations – all of which made an ethical judgement not to publish it. A breaking news report on this all was filed last night by our political editor Justin Giovannetti.

Walker received the information from former National Party president Michelle Boag, who got it in her capacity as the (now resigned) CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust. Boag apologised to her former colleagues at ARHT, and said she “did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets  but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.” It isn’t exactly clear why she chose to share it with Walker, but Business Desk has a report including some of the pair’s links in the past.

And just to reiterate: An MP attempted to use the private information of very unwell people for political gain. Walker put out a statement and apology denying that he ever intended for the patient details to be made public, and did so to “expose the Government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified.” Essentially, Walker claimed to be a whistleblower – but if that were the case, he could simply have blown the whistle, rather than attempt to create an embarrassing story for the government.

National MPs in recent days have been gleefully jumping on this story as a blunder to be exploited – for example health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said “this is unconscionable and unacceptable that those suffering from the incredibly dangerous virus now have to suffer further with their private details being leaked.” As commentator Ben Thomas argued this morning, it is unlikely that senior MPs had any idea it was about to blow up like this. Party leader Todd Muller issued a statement yesterday saying that it was an “error of judgement” from Walker, and that he had been stripped of his portfolios.

For what it’s worth, that is about the extent of the direct powers Muller holds as party leader. Speaking to the AM Show this morning, Muller said he found out on Monday at lunchtime, and said he made it clear to Walker that he expected the inquiry to be given that information. He delayed going public so that Walker could “connect with our chief press secretary and chief of staff,” before it became clear that an inquiry would happen, and all involved would need legal advice. He also said that he had written to the National Party board “outlining my concerns” – the subtext of that is that it is the board that has the power to deselect him. He also said that Boag’s actions are “appalling”, and that was “another question the board could reflect on.”

Privacy commissioner John Edwards put out a very simple statement in response. “Outrageous, unbelievable, indefensible,” he tweeted. But is it also potentially a criminal matter? Walker said he had received legal advice “that I have not committed any criminal offence”. Edwards made further comments to the NZ Herald, and while he couldn’t comment on that legal advice, it may be in breach of the Privacy Act. “There is a Queen’s Counsel appointed to investigate the whole circumstances of the matter and he will be able to consider some of those questions more, whether there are charges that can be pursued and I look forward to his report.”

And what about that investigation into how the confidential data came out in the first place? That will continue, health minister Chris Hipkins said last night. Radio NZ reports he described the situation as “disappointing”, and said it had the “whiff of dirty politics” about it. But apart from that, it was fairly straight down the line, saying “it’s important that Michael Heron [the QC running it] has the opportunity to complete that investigation.” Anyone with further information has been urged to come forward.

Just quickly, a message from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive: 

“The arrival of Covid-19 and lockdown changed The Spinoff, transforming our editorial to focus on the biggest story of our lives, taking a small team and making it a seven day a week news operation. But it also fundamentally changed us as a business, too. Prior to the crisis, around 20% of our editorial costs were funded by our Members. Now, that figure is north of 50%. If you’re already a member, please know that all at The Spinoff are incredibly grateful for your help. If you’re not, and would like to contribute, please consider doing so – support is important to our ability to cover the next phase of the crisis, in all its complexity.”

That news yesterday afternoon took a lot of focus off a major border decision from minister Megan Woods. Because the managed isolation facilities are basically full, New Zealanders won’t necessarily be able to book a flight back, under an agreement between the government and Air NZ to manage the flow of arrivals. We had a report on this in our live blog yesterday, and PM Ardern argued that it didn’t create any issues with the Bill of Rights, as people were still had a right of return – they just needed to wait. Todd Muller by contrast said it did breach their rights, reports One News, as “New Zealanders if they want to come home should be able to come home full stop.”

Meanwhile, there was an update on the issue around those in the country on temporary visas. The Indian Weekender reports that those in such a situation whose visas were due to expire this year will get an automatic further six month extension. Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway says it is a short term change “to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers, while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised.”

The Islamic Women’s Council has presented evidence that their warnings of growing danger were ignored for years before the March 15 attacks, reports Josie Adams for The Spinoff. In particular, the group noted that the government and public service had blithely brushed warnings aside – in some cases nobody bothered to take minutes at meetings between the group and government officials. They also spoke about how those at the top contributed to a climate of harassment and suspicion of Muslims, for example when former PM John Key made false and damaging claims about so-called ‘jihadi brides’ – a statement that he has never apologised for.

Another old rubbish dump has been exposed, with debris now seeping into a river, reports Radio NZ. Gisborne District Council staff have been out at Te Araroa, next to the Awatere River, in an area that has seen heavy rain over the past two weeks. It is still too early to say how much got into the river, but it is not expected to be as significant as the Fox River debacle last year.

A sad bit of news for our cousins in Australia: Melbourne is going back into a six-week lockdown, because of an alarming explosion of community transmission in the city. The Age has reported the views of experts, which are that infection rates were on track for 3000 a day by the end of July if a lockdown wasn’t put in place. There are currently 772 active cases, and dozens of hospitalisations – the public is also being warned that new deaths are unfortunately inevitable.

A new report on Auckland’s port has recommended that it move south to Manukau, rather than north to Whangārei. Newsroom has covered the reaction to the report which is currently before cabinet, and Auckland mayor Phil Goff says some of his concerns about the move north have now been vindicated. On the other hand, others involved in the original Upper North Island Supply Chain report have absolutely gone in against this one, with chairman of that taskforce Wayne Brown providing some particularly spicy quotes.

Yesterday morning two leading Brexit campaigners claimed they’d be campaigning at the election on behalf of NZ First, with the aim of “mischief, mayhem and guerrilla warfare”. As this was quite an explosive claim, and had been reported by the political editor of the Telegraph (one of Britain’s papers of record) naturally our political editor Justin Giovannetti picked up on it. That drew the ire of Winston Peters, who issued a statement disavowing any and all prospect that his party had hired people from this group, or that any would be turning up in New Zealand to campaign – that statement can be read here.

A note on the title of Peters’ release: They’re not ‘Spin-off allegations’ as he puts it – they’re direct quotes from leading Brexiteer Arron Banks, a man with whom Peters has been “happily sharing thoughts and ideas on international matters” since 2016, according to a recent tweet. The inconsistency there was elaborated on in this follow up story.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

So Delish! (Styling and photography: Jane Yee)

Right now on The Spinoff: Michael Andrew reports on a protest in Auckland against the rise of right wing nationalism in India – more on that below. Jo Waitoa makes an excellent contribution to discussions around parliamentary and political culture, particularly in Māori participation in politics. Gareth Shute writes about Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust launching its own gallery on Auckland’s Karangahape Road. I interview an expert about how exactly the internet works, and why it’s such an important piece of physical infrastructure. And Jane Yee has given a delicious review of a new cookbook by a prominent social media influencer.

For a feature today, a confronting piece about the disturbing ways social media can be turned towards hate and violence. It is no secret that communal tensions have been very high in India over recent years. What this piece from Wired’s Mohammad Ali makes clear is that a combination of extreme nationalistic rhetoric and ready access to coordinating technology is raising the stakes, and excacerbating the damage. Here’s an excerpt:

Premi’s cadres in the Shamli unit of the Bajrang Dal were now focused mainly on the fight against love jihad. In practice, this amounted to a bizarre, Stasi-like effort to micromanage the dating scene in a town of 100,000—and to stamp out religious miscegenation at first flush. They ran an extensive surveillance operation, they said, using Facebook and a network of on-the-ground informants.

The social media arm of the dragnet was run by a lanky, bearded teenager named Himanshu Sharma, who sat cross-legged, a cushion resting between his back and the wall. On Facebook, Sharma said, he and his team had infiltrated hundreds of groups and friended thousands of people, trawling for Muslim men who flirted with Hindu women in Shamli. “We monitor everything, including which user ID is making what kind of comments on Facebook,” Sharma said. “They are not subtle in expressing their emotions, and that makes our job easier.” Sometimes, he said, he and his team use fake accounts with female names to draw men out. While he spoke, his smartphone buzzed constantly with notifications.

The concept of SANZAAR could be on the verge of coming to an end, according to a bombshell report from Newshub’s Ollie Ritchie. It would basically mean that national rugby unions would end up on their own, rather than as part of a wider Southern hemisphere bunch. It’s really unclear what that would mean for the financial state of the game, but there has been plenty of speculation already that South Africa (Super Rugby’s big moneymaker) is not far away from throwing in with Europe.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme






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NZ jobs lost as Scott Technology goes into recovery mode



Scott Technology has had to let go of 20 per cent of its global workforce, including 15 jobs in Dunedin, as a result of Covid-19 impacts.

The company announced to the NZX yesterday it was continuing to recover after the April Alert Level 4 lockdown halted work here.

READ MORE:
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It had gone through a restructure that cut about 150 jobs from the business as it moved to a recovery phase, chief executive John Kippenberger said.

“Now it’s really about getting on with what we call a ‘fast start’, which was how do you get best prepared through the lockdown as you can to make sure the operations and the teams — not only in New Zealand but other parts of the world — come out of the pandemic quickly and get activated quickly.”

The job losses were in a mix of departments across Scott.

“What we did try and do was to say ‘what are the areas that are absolutely central to the business going forward’ and again being able to grow the business into the future.

“So, what are some of those core skill sets you need to protect with everything you can, and then what are the other areas that could have been reduced, and those are the areas that we looked at.

“Essentially, it did cover a number of areas from right throughout the supply chain of Scott in New Zealand.”

Of the 45 jobs, 15 were from Dunedin.

“Dunedin is a big part of the New Zealand operation so obviously, proportionately it played its part in that reduction, for sure.”

Scott announced progress on a number of projects around the world and a “growing list of inquiries” for its automation and robotic solutions.

Mr Kippenberger said Scott’s dealings around the world showed how its four different key markets were being affected by Covid-19.

While its China, Australia and New Zealand businesses were going strongly, in North America and Europe things were more “subdued”.

“I think the interesting thing is China went into the pandemic earlier than any other parts of the world. Our China business has come out very strongly.

“That’s with the big blue-chip global brands of appliances investing in automation for new demand in the white-goods sector. That’s been positive for our business.”

Scott had recommenced a project to get a large appliance automation line ready at Bosch in China.

“Obviously that got put on ice and as soon as the situation started to open up again, our team mobilised with the Bosch team and we’ve been able to commission that piece of equipment.

“That sort of thing is very important for Scott. Where we’ve put all the time and energy and cost and investment into the project, we need to get it commissioned for the customer but also for the Scott return,” he said.

In Western Australia, where there was good demand and pricing on iron ore, Scott reached an important milestone on its Rio Tinto contract to build and design an automated mine laboratory for the Koodaideri Iron Ore project in the Pilbara region.

“That was an interesting scenario because we were deep into the design when the lockdown happened and therefore we needed to find a way to work outside of the big design offices,” Mr Kippenberger said.

“Our teams did a really good job of connecting and sharing ideas and information from their homes wherever they were in New Zealand and Australia and we continued to push ahead with good progress on that project.”

Mr Kippenberger said he was “very keen” to see a transtasman bubble happen.

“It’s not just about projects … it’s about getting around the table physically.

“You can do a lot of Zoom but I do believe … when you’re in the room with your executives or teams in another country, that is a different proposition in terms of thinking up ideas for business and thinking through issues and problem-solving.”

Scott also announced it had begun using augmented reality [AR] technology to assist engineers working on equipment in a different part of the world.

“We’ll have engineers in Christchurch using AR … to support engineers in America on a large project,” Mr Kippenberger said.

“The teams have accessed technology so they can actually be looking through the eyes of the local engineer in America and be on the headset real-time talking through the aspects of that equipment.”

The company said it expected Covid-19 to have a “material impact” on its financial year results for the year ending August 31.

But it said revenue was expected to recover as restrictions were lifted and businesses restarted projects and capital expenditure.

– Otago Daily Times



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Five best international shares to buy


A stock exchange is a facility where various stockbrokers and traders can buy and sell numerous financial instruments. The goal is simple – making a profit. 

To be able to buy and sell trades, they must be listed at the stock exchange. Most recently, buying shares has been made available online. Buying shares online has certain advantages such as speed and a reduced amount of costs. 

With the rise of the Internet, buying shares internationally has become very easy. People from all around the world can buy shares and with the right amount of insight and skills, they can make a handsome profit. With that thought in mind, we decided to give you a list of the 5 best international shares to buy in 2020. Let’s check them out.

SkyCity

SkyCity Entertainment Group Limited, or just known as SkyCity, is a gaming company based in Auckland, New Zealand. Recently, the company exceeded $1 billion in profits for the first time in their history. SkyCity owns and operates several casinos in New Zealand and Australia, which is why their shares are listed in both the Australian and New Zealand Stock Exchange. 

Its original casino was opened in Auckland in 1996. Today, its properties include SkyCity Auckland, Skycity Hamilton, Adelaide Casino, Skycity Wharf Casino, and Skycity Queenstown. The stock exchange market in New Zealand is a huge contributor to the country’s economy, and many people have had good outcomes after deciding to invest some money there. 

When you combine the general success of casinos and the New Zealand Stock Exchange, buying shares from an NZ based company has the potential to be a recipe for a good profit. That is why we advise you to buy shares there. We are even willing to go one step further for you and provide you with a detailed guide on how to buy shares in New Zealand. 

Netflix

Netflix is probably at the very top on the list of companies that managed to become very successful in a short period. Their services are available around the world. By registering on Netflix, people gain access to some of the best movies and TV series of today. From the looks of it, the company will continue to rise in the next few years, which is why it might be the best idea to invest some money now and buy shares here. 

Since its creation, Netflix managed to replace DVDs, vanquished Blockbuster, and succeeded in the mission of switching millions of people to their streaming services. Netflix is revolutionizing the TV industry and that is why it is the perfect time to invest in it now.

Volkswagen 

After reaching an all-time low in 2015, Volkswagen’s shares started going down rapidly. The reason for that was because the company admitted to cheating on emission fuel tests. Numerous lawsuits slammed Volkswagen, but since then, the company has been on a good path on returning to its glory. The last 3 years have been very good and statistics showed that its shares are on the rise, but the best part about it is that they are still low. 

That is more than a reason why you should invest in the company. Their cars are always in the top 5 lists of most sold vehicles in the world. That is a sign that the situation will be normalized soon and prices for shares might sky-rocket. 

Bank of America

Warren Buffet’s second-largest holding of Berkshire Hathaway earns billions of dollars by serving a huge part of the American population with various financial services. Even though banking stocks have had a very slow return since the 2008 crisis, they are now on the rise and Bank of America might be the best option if you are looking to buy shares in this industry. 

Amazon

Finally, we have the world’s largest eCommerce service. Amazon is the company that made Jeff Bezos the richest person on the planet with a net worth of over $120 billion. Online payments are on the rise in the recent period and people are becoming far more open to the idea of shopping online, rather than going to the shops. Statistics show that the number of e-transactions will continue to rise, making Amazon as the perfect company to buy shares in.





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Natural disasters, card fraud Kiwis’ top security concerns


New research from Unisys Corporation reveals that the top three security concerns are natural disasters, e.g. flood, hurricanes, bushfires or epidemics (47% of New Zealanders seriously concerned about this issue), bankcard fraud (44%) and identity theft (43%), according to the new 2020 Unisys Security Index.

False sense of security: Only one in five (22%) Kiwis concerned about risk of a security breach while working from home (WFH), despite increasing cyber attacks

Despite data theft issues of bankcard fraud and identity theft ranking among the top concerns, the New Zealand public’s concern for the cybersecurity issues that contribute to such theft has decreased – 40% of New Zealanders are concerned about computer viruses and hacking, down from 48% in 2019, and 35% are concerned about online transactions, down from 39% a year ago. 

In addition, when assessing the concerns arising from the global pandemic only 22% of Kiwis were concerned about the risk of a security breach while working remotely, and 26% were concerned about the risk of being scammed.

“Consumers appear to be blasé about the dangers of being online – or simply distracted by their higher concern about national infrastructure and family well-being. This is a critical issue for organisations that underwent a rapid transformation to move to WFH models due to the pandemic. Meanwhile cyber-attacks in New Zealand are increasing – up 38% during 20193 even before the COVID-19 scams started,” says Unisys Asia Pacific security services director Ashwin Pal.

“Understandably, people were more concerned about their ability to access health services should they or their family require them – and likely assumed their employer would take care of securing data and systems in the ‘new normal’ environment. However, for many organisations, the first challenge was simply enabling their teams to work remotely.

“People are the weakest link in security. Shadow IT grows with every unauthorised app downloaded, even if well-intentioned for remote collaboration – it might not be covered by the security rigour deployed across the rest of the organisation. Employers need to ensure their people have secure direct access to applications, are trained to identify and avoid malicious scams and phishing attacks designed to exploit the fears and distractions created by the pandemic, and can quickly isolate devices or parts of the network to minimise the extent of a breach – because breaches are inevitable,”

Top security concerns change in 2020: return to normality

The longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, the Unisys Security Index measures concerns of consumers on issues related to national, personal, financial and internet security.

The overall measure of security concerns of the New Zealand public is 136 out of 300, the third-lowest of the 15 countries surveyed. 

It has returned to recent normal levels, down from 143 recorded immediately after the Christchurch attacks in 2019.

In 2020, the top three security concerns are natural disasters, e.g. flood, hurricanes, bushfires or epidemics (47% of New Zealanders seriously concerned about this issue), bankcard fraud (44%) and identity theft (43%). 

The top security concerns have changed over the last 12 months. After the Christchurch attacks, concern about national security in relation to war or terrorism had jumped to the top of the list, but in 2020 it has returned to its previous position as the second-lowest of the eight issues tracked.

New Zealand women are more vigilant than their male counterparts about the impact of COVID-19

In 2020, New Zealand women are more concerned about most types of security issues that are used to calculate the index, with a Unisys Security Index of 142 for women compared to 130 for men – 9% higher. 

In particular, women are significantly more concerned about natural disasters, ability to meet financial obligations and their personal safety.

The longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, the Unisys Security Index asked New Zealanders to assess their level of concern about how global health crises, such as the outbreak of the COVID-19 impacted the economic stability of New Zealand, their job security, their financial security, their family’s physical health, and New Zealand’s health infrastructure.

Overall, in the COVID-19 environment, New Zealanders were more concerned about the stability of the nation’s economy, health infrastructure and their family’s well being than their personal health or data security. 

However, women expressed significantly higher levels of concern for most areas and in particular the stability of New Zealand’s health infrastructure (61% of women seriously concerned vs 40% of men), the nation’s economic stability (63% of women vs 48% of men), family health (55% of women vs 41% of men) and financial security (47% of women vs 35% of men).

Unisys Asia Pacific commercial and financial sector vice president Andrew Whelan provides one explanation, “These findings indicate that the pandemic is causing women more stress than men, which is likely to be a reflection of their personal experience given the overrepresentation of women in frontline occupations such as healthcare – with nine in 10 nurses female.”

Of course, women traditionally are expected to shoulder the burden of emotional labour. Also being more than six times as likely to be a stay at home parent, it is no surprise that they bear the onus of concern for the health and well-being of their families.



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