Cyclone Gabrielle and the severe weather that followed threw Spark into the climate front line by disrupting the company’s mobile and broadband services in parts of the North Island earlier this year.
While lines were cut and there was damage to equipment on towers, the disruption owed as much to power outages as severed connections. Modern digital technologies rely on electricity to function. The coupling between the two underlined the need for a broader approach to infrastructure resilience across industry sectors.
READ MORE: Click here to read more Mood of the Boardroom stories
CEO Jolie Hodson already had climate change on her mind before Gabrielle. She plays an active role in the Climate Leaders Coalition and is the convenor of the CEO Steering Group. She says the Coalition has: “Laid out a clear set of policies that we think are good across the board. And we’ve discussed them with each of the political parties.”
Hodson says businesses are naturally good at making the necessary operational risk management investment choices to tackle climate challenges, if they’ve got a clear line of sight to see where policy is going. That last line is the killer, while there is a bipartisan approach, there still tend to be policy shifts when governments change.
It’s much the same when it comes to investing in the digital technologies needed to improve productivity. She looks for greater certainty and asks: “How do you incentivise businesses to invest in digital technology?”
“If you look across the Tasman, we’ve seen government investment in cybersecurity and incentives for the gaming industry. There’s been some movement in that area on this side of the Tasman. We need incentives for small businesses to invest in digital technology in the form of being able to claim early depreciation on technology investment.
“It’s in the economy’s interest to get more people using these tools. We need to speed up adoption. It’s not about giving money away; it’s about bringing forward when companies can claim depreciation. Australia has had good incentives in the recent past, these aren’t around for a long time, but they can encourage everyone to move forward.”
Hodson sees Spark operating as an enabler for other sectors. She says the company’s technology is horizontal, sitting under other industry sectors and it has a role to play tackling climate problems.
“We are optimistic about the period ahead and the role that technology can play in supporting Aotearoa. We know we want to be more productive, and we know we want a lower carbon economy. That’s why we need businesses like Spark investing in these areas.”
One area where Spark’s technology can underpin moves by the energy sector is with electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Another sector Hodson singles out is agriculture. Spark operates nationwide internet of things networks that can monitor water quality and ensure we make the best use of the resource.
Spark recently sold its mobile tower network. Hodson says that enabled significant reinvestment in data centre infrastructure and upgrading the 5G mobile network. It offers lower latency - that’s the time taken to respond to a signal - as well as higher data speeds, both needed for more advanced wireless applications, and allows organisations to build sophisticated campus-wide wireless networks.
Jolie Hodson’s top three business priorities
- Growth investments in new data centre capacity, 5G Standalone, and digital identity
- Innovating in core markets with an immediate focus on satellite capacity in mobile and broadband and hybrid cloud for our business customers
- Harnessing the power of technology to help New Zealand businesses become more productive and sustainable.