Before the arrival of Dr Pedro Harris to the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, the state government’s data centre landscape was fragmented and unwieldy.
There were 130 data centres and servers rooms racing towards capacity. Keeping them all secure was a mammoth task and the cost of operations was unclear at best.
The state was a relative laggard when it came to ICT. Agency CIOs were wrangling with increasing amounts of data and no easy way of sharing it, stymied too by a painfully slow service procurement process.
There was a plan, inherited from Labour, which landed on the desk of Michael Coutts-Trotter, director-general of the Department of Finance and Services in 2011. Coutts-Trotter brought in Harris, to review it.
"He sat me down and said if you don't see the value of this then you should shut it down," Harris said.
But Harris, then CITO of Land and Property Information, saw great potential.
“It gave us an opportunity to drive the government’s reform agenda and give us the ability to transform at the same time,” Harris said. “It will give us the ability to do things faster and drive our digital agenda.”
“[Coutts-Trotter] said: If you believe in it so much why don’t you stay on and do it?”
State of change
Five years later, Harris has announced his departure from the role of executive director of government technology platforms, leaving a significant legacy and a new approach to the way the state handles its IT.
Two government Tier-III eco-friendly data centres, each capable of supporting up to 9 megawatts of load, in Silverwater, West Sydney and Unanderra, Wollongong are more than 80 per cent subscribed. The government mandated that all agencies move their ICT into ‘GovDC’ by August next year.
Agency CIOs now source cloud services via the GovDC Marketplace, a secure ecosystem of services and suppliers, which met in Sydney yesterday, and benefiting from the economies of scale it provides.
The marketplace concept was inspired by Harris’ research into emissions trading schemes while studying for his masters in environmental law at the University of Sydney. Getting it off the ground, Harris said, was the result of forging industry relationships collecting a “stack of business cards, something like 1500”.
"The work we've done well is how we extract all of the complexity and make it easy for people to go to the cloud,” Harris said. “And that’s come from relationships, between government and industry, working together.”
While in his role, which he departs in October, Harris has also lead the launch of the state’s online services platform OneGov and the I Work for NSW Identity Hub which supports single login for state staff and contractors and a gateway for common and shared services.
"I’ve more than achieved what I set out to do," Harris said.
Harris will be returning to his research into data slums, informal data settlement places like email inboxes, at the University of Technology Sydney.