Computerworld Top 10 Most Influential - #3 Senator Stephen Conroy

Love him or hate him, there's no doubting the influence of Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy

Senator Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy

Senator Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy

The Computerworld Top 10 Most Influential for 2009 has reached the top three people, products, organisations, trends or events that have had the greatest influence on the ICT industry and community.

Last week Computerworld began the countdown listing a top placing each day from 10 to number one.

When we reach #1 on Friday, it will be over to you for the readers' choice award. If you don't agree with the panel of 12 you can still have your say on the most influential person, product, organisation, trend or event for 2009.

We’ll publish the results on the website and in the February/March issue of Computerworld magazine.

For now, it is onto third place — Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy

#3 Senator Stephen Conroy

If you were to ask a cross-section of the ICT industry and greater community to rate the performance of Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy for 2009, it's doubtful you'd get much agreement.

Some say he "gets it". Others suggest he has "no idea". His plans, decisions, comments and personality have divided opinions, sent online forums into a frenzy and shaken up the entire industry, if not broader society.

He's been lambasted and decried as the UK Internet Industry Awards' Internet Villain of the Year 2009 and at the same time applauded and respected for his efforts by many in the industry and community.

Whatever your opinion of the man, very few individuals have had a greater influence — both positive and negative — on the Australian ICT industry and community in 2009 than Senator Conroy.

For many, it is Conroy's pursuit of the ISP-level content filtering plan that says it all. In the face of outrage by many Internet users, ISPs and technology experts, Conroy went ahead with a controversial filtering pilot and has yet to release the results for public consumption.

He has received some support from religious groups and a handful of child safety advocacy bodies, but the plan has been ripped to shreds and called a reckless waste of public funds that will slow down the Internet, unnecessarily censor websites, and ultimately fail to achieve its goals, to mention but a few criticisms.

The commentary is vociferous and unrelenting. But Conroy has had a considerable influence this year in many other ways, not least of which was the announcement of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the resulting push to reform telecommunications legislation.

In April, Conroy joined Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in ditching the original NBN tender to announce the government would go it alone and roll out a $43 billion fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) NBN. The result has been ongoing debates, investments, criticisms, talk-fests and praise from across the world.

Notably, the NBN decision was a precursor to the dramatic moves later in the year to force the structural separation of one of the biggest companies in Australia — Telstra. The incumbent telco and Conroy have sparred on and off for most of 2009 over the NBN, Conroy eventually announcing he would push to force Telstra to separate through legislation.

It is a remarkable turn of events that has again generated a tsunami of commentary and movement within the industry and general public. And, from all accounts, it is likely these moves will continue to play a disruptive role on the ICT industry for a long time to come.

But Conroy, along with his testy relationship to the media and general public as a result of the above, has also had a hand in, among other things:

    Pushing along the digital economy
  • Promoting the use of smart grids through funding for a pilot
  • Fast-tracking funding for regional broadband backbone rollouts
  • Raising awareness of cyber security threats
  • Promoting ICT careers
  • Providing research and development bodies (NICTA and CSIRO) with additional funding and support

The list could easily continue. And it is for these reasons the Computerworld Top 10 Most Influential for 2009 panel chose Senator Stephen Conroy as number three in its inaugural list.

More stories on Senator Stephen Conroy

Analyst: Conroy's blunder number not news

Fed Govt to push ahead with Telstra separation – Conroy

Wait continues for content filtering report

Government brings forward $23.8 million broadband funding

Regional Australia suffers from lack of broadband: Conroy

Conroy kicks off ICT careers week

Conroy releases digital economy direction report

Conroy deserves Internet villain award: Minchin

ICANN says Web filters will "embarrass" Aussie govt

Conroy rejects NBN cost analysis

Federal Government to give the bush a $250 million NBN headstart

Net filter to block only restricted content

Telstra separation decision to wait at least 60 days

More needs to be done with cyber security: Conroy

Government spends $43 billion to establish National Broadband Network

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