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Over NZ$ 75 Million in Cybersecurity for Health and Disability Sector

The New Zealand government is planning significant investment in cybersecurity to improve the resilience of health and disability systems in the country. Over 3 years, up to NZ$75.7 million from the national budget allocations will be committed to increasing the resilience of data and digital systems in the face of increasing cybersecurity risks.

The funds will go toward increasing security leadership and capability both regionally and nationally as well as contributing to upgrading software and systems. It will also help establish national security standards and guidelines, strengthen assurance and testing capability and increase the use of cloud security services as well as improve identity and access management systems.

Shayne Hunter, Deputy Director-General, Data and Digital emphasised how important the country’s health and disability system is, describing it as a critical national infrastructure that will only, over time, become more dependent on digital technology and information sharing across health networks. While the government official acknowledges digital’s role to better patient care outcomes and health outcomes, she does not deny the cyber threat risks that the platform carries.

Further, Hunter admits that fully eliminating cyber attacks may not be possible. But the focus should be on improving the resilience of the nation’s health and disability system. By doing so, the risk of disruptions to healthcare services in the event of a cyber-attack and better protect sensitive health information is minimised.

‘The number and sophistication of cyber-attacks are increasing around the world, and healthcare is traditionally one of the most targeted sectors. We’ve seen with the recent incident at Waikato District Health Board that New Zealand is not exempt from this global trend.’

– Shayne Hunter, Deputy Director-General, Data and Digital

Referencing last year’s Waikato attack again, she admits that more is needed to be done even with all the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) making progress in the area of increasing the resilience of their systems to reduce the risk and impact of events.

In mid-May 2021, a ransomware attack disabled the computer systems and phone lines of the Waikato District Health Board of New Zealand. As the attack happened when the country was battling COVID-19, the impact was magnified. Some surgeries had to be postponed and seriously ill patients had to be transferred to more secure facilities, even to Australia, as a result.

By June of that year, things started to return to normal as one by one several hundred computer servers and thousands of workstations were restored. Nonetheless, the Waikato cyber attack has left an indelible mark on the country.

The Cybersecurity National Steering Committee is tasked to deliver the roadmap for the government’s planned cybersecurity drive. The team includes the national and regional Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) along with representatives from the Ministry, the health sector, the National Cybersecurity Centre and the Government Chief Digital Officer.

New Zealand has been using technology to the utmost. Its drive to help its health sector denotes how much it values cooperation to bring about the best service to the public sector. The government is committed to funding drives that, in the long run, would help the whole population.

The country is even investing in a global marketing campaign to attract the best and the brightest ICT professionals to its shores, not to mention secure foreign funding. As reported on OpenGov Asia, the global initiative called “We See Tomorrow First” is a collaborative global marketing campaign between the industry and the government.

As all-encompassing is tech, the marketing initiative is bound to benefit each and every New Zealander. And once again, the New Zealand government has invested a substantial amount in the endeavour.


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