The power of ICT and its multiplier effect

Meet Michael Hedley, National Policy Manager for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).

For someone who built his own computer sans blinking lights back in the early 1970s, Michael Hedley, National Policy Manager for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has had a love affair with computers ever since and so it was natural to make ICT his career. He is passionate about ICT and fully realises its power.

He started his career in the federal government public service corporate services, which included the payroll and accounting areas. They were early adopters of ICT so this piqued his interest further. His role included being a buyer of IT as part of the public service senior executive program, which prompted his interest in going to the other side and working for a computer vendor.

Peter Upton, a former AIIA chairman, suggested that instead of working for one vendor he should work for the AIIA where he would be in close contact with a range of computer vendors.

He really hasn’t looked back since and says he gets a huge buzz from technology that is rapidly changing and is enormously interesting. “You just have to look at the cloud and see how it is applied to changing business as well as finance and health with software as a service (SaaS).

“The ICT industry has a lot of really interesting people in it. Vitality, creativity and their honourable, well-meaning and sheer good behaviour typifies those people. Reaching across a broad section of the community makes it a privilege to be part of the overall development of the industry.

“The ICT industry is a broad church with new, different people coming into the industry all the time and refreshing it as some of the pioneers take a backwards step. AIIA has a strong alumni program so pioneers like John Price, a former chairman, are involved in the program.

“The ICT industry was a frustrating industry to be involved in initially, especially in Australia where business and government could not really see the benefits of computers; in fact in some instances they used to wear it as a badge of honour that they did not use a computer! We had to wait for a generational change for ICT to be accepted and now ICT is underpinning business.

“In fact I would go as far as saying that the economic prosperity of Australia is based on the productivity delivered by ICT. Not only that but it has had a general-purpose multiplier effect on the economy.

“The world has woken up to the power of ICT and what it can do; for example, in health where the human genome has been mapped, which will eventually lead to treatments of the now untreatable diseases and better health through preventative measures.”

The FITT (Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications) comes under the auspices of the AIIA. “It is one of my disappointments that there are not more women working and studying ICT despite FITT being a fabulous group who keep driving the message.”

When it comes to females, computer science degrees attract between 17-18% and IT&T degrees between 24-25% participation. Numbers only get better when we get down to double degrees like an ICT and law combined.

“I think it is a cultural issue for Aussies. For example, in the Eastern Bloc countries and Europe and also in India there are a lot more women in ICT. This might be controversial but I almost think we need to force quotas.”

When Hedley takes his AIIA hat off he is passionate about many forms of art including modern, sculpture, photography, ballet, music (early and baroque) as well as new music forms coming out of India.

American history is another of his passions and he can indulge far more now with the help of the technology available at his fingertips.

Social networking is wonderful for keeping relationships up to date but he admits he draws a line when he is sitting at the same table as his daughter and she is texting him.

Michel Hedley is the National Policy Manager for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). He has worked with the AIIA on developing and managing policy for over 15 years. Hedley has also had committee representation in New South Wales for politicians and government.

This was first published in April 2011

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