Imagine if your neighbourhood was one where criminals blatantly plied their trade down your street, banging on your door at all hours of the day and night and extorting money from you, breaking into houses and taking credit cards, stealing your money to pay for terrorism and other inhuman activities. Imagine that that some of the products you buy compounded the problem because the vendors published all your personal information without checking with you first. Worse, if you called the police, they wouldn’t be able to do anything, because the criminals live in a different neighbourhood where the local law enforcement don’t give a damn. You’d probably like to move, right?
Unfortunately we all live in this neighbourhood, it’s called cyberspace. Every day I am subjected to phishing attacks. Every day I am compelled to use software that is about as secure as a broken padlock. Facebook makes public things that I am sure I never agreed to (but then who can read those pages of tiny print with all the get out clauses). Flickr is determined to give all my photos away unless I constantly tell it not to. More and more of my intellectual property is somewhere ‘in the cloud’ where levels of security are an unknown and there are no guarantees that i can access my own work when I need it.
Maybe we should all wake up a little and realise that we live in a dangerous neighbourhood. Apparently 1.9 million people who had their password stolen from Adobe were using the password 123456.
Not, of course, that a ‘stronger’ password would have done any of these people any good if it was stolen anyway. In the end, the more you live on line, the more of your life you have given away for good.
The shortage of ICT professionals is not a new phenomenon in New Zealand, nor in many other developed economies. Professional organisations such as NZTech and the NZ Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) are well aware of this issue. New Zealand government ministers have recently expressed their own concerns about this.. but hang on… what are they doing about it? The IITP has recently pointed out to the government that its funding for ICT research over the last few years has been pitiful. ICT is treated as a poor relation to other areas of research and development, leading to low investment and, of course, low returns. Government policy influences university policy, so that my own university research goals sideline ICT, indeed most aspects of technology. The underlying thinking seems to be that ICT is just an infrastructure service, not a ‘real’ discipline. Some might say that the link between ICT research and ICT skills in the marketplace are tenuously linked at best. However, perhaps some investment in, for example, ICT scholarships at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels might be a sign to potential students that the government does actually care about the ICT skills shortage enough to do something about it rather than just bleating.