Q&A: Outgoing ACS president Kumar Parakala

With elections for the next ACS president due in November Computerworld speaks with current, and outgoing, ACS president Kumar Parakala about the last two years at the helm of the ICT industry group.

Q: What were your objectives when you began your ACS presidency? Ensure we had reputation, recognition and relevance in the ICT sector was the key vision on which I got elected. Looking back we have come a long way in achieving those objectives in the last two years.

One of the main reasons we were struggling [at the time] was that the ICT profession wasn’t considered as important as other professions such as medicine, accountancy or engineering. The ACS’ mission is to enhance professionalism in the ICT space, so one of the missions I took upon myself was not only to increase the relevance of the ACS, but the whole sector to what the community wants, business wants and what other stakeholders want.

Q: What are some of the wins the ACS has secured under your presidency? There were a number of initiatives we worked on over the last two years which improved the relevance of the ACS and the sector as a whole and we’re pretty satisfied where they got to.

One of the main focus areas for us was to increase the recognition of the need for a digital economy. Over the last two years we have actively lobbied the government and a number of ministers to understand that simply by having a broadband infrastructure isn’t enough for the future of the country. The government needs to think in terms of a digital eco-system that will create the digital economy. It’s great they have agreed to invest in broadband infrastructure but it is not enough.

Minister Conroy took up our recommendations and we are glad that the government is taking the first few steps toward the digital economy – that’s a major achievement of the ACS.

We have played an active role in making people aware of issues relating to cyber crime and national security – matters of national importance. We have spoken of the need for innovation in Australia, the support small and medium enterprises need, and we have gone out and actively spoken about professional and skills development as one of the most important requirements for businesses to mitigate risk. We have also been very active in the green technology/climate change space.

Q: What are some of the areas you wished the ACS had advanced further? I wish I could have made contributions in many areas more than we have done. One of the areas out of our control was the global financial crisis. It was a major distraction for everyone and people went into ‘sit down and watch’ mode. We have fairly ambitious vision for the digital economy and the NBN so we would have like the government to have been far more advance on the those. They’re not regrets; we juts would have liked to have seen a lot more happen there

We would also liked to have moved further in employers recognising qualifications in ICT to make sure they are mitigating risks. For a lawyer, nurse or engineer you need formal qualifications and membership or certification from a professional body. Yet in ICT – one of the biggest employers in the country – there isn’t that formal recognition of qualifications and membership. We will be lobbying over the next 12 months so the government will understand the need to have some regulation in the ICT sector.

What is to come from the ACS in the next two years? There will be a lot of continuation of our current initiatives as what we want to do is add value to the agenda of business, academics and government and the community at large. The NBN and innovation will continue be central for the government from an ICT initiatives point of view, so we will continue to support the government and when required, play Devil’s Advocate when it comes to some of the principles governing decision making. Will we do the same with cyber security to make people aware of the issues and how security affects them.

What’s the ACS doing around the government’s proposed ISP filtering scheme? I constituted an e-security taskforce - it has been in action the past four or five months – and will come back with recommendations on ISP filtering and other issues of e-security.

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