At the forefront of change

By Merri Mack
Monday, 08 February, 2010


As the Director of the South Australian (SA) Government ICT Service Delivery Group reporting to the SA Government CIO, Stephen Schmid* firmly believes the economic challenges that we all are facing the world over need to be met with innovative solutions - interoperable, open solutions that can be shared between governments, industry, and with the education and community sectors. Merri Mack spoke to Schmid to find out how passionate he is about bringing his beliefs to fruition and what he enjoys about his current role.

Schmid has consulted widely with the Australian and New Zealand ICT industry in an effort to find ways to achieve this challenge. With in-principle support now in place, the Open Technology Foundation [OTF] which he initiated is moving towards commercialisation this year, something that the governments and organisations who invested time and resources on this initiative from the A&NZ ICT community should be extremely proud of. Senator Kate Lundy has been one of his greatest supporters for the OTF.

Driven by the rapid pace of change in technology and the corporate landscape over the last few years, Schmid found recent studies to be extremely beneficial - Masters from Carnegie Mellon University [CMU] in Information Technology and Management through CMU’s Australian campus in Adelaide, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. “We are very lucky to have the world-leading international IT and Management Masters Qualification available on our shores in Carnegie Mellon.

“The Carnegie Mellon study has been an enormous benefit in my role and provides a great building block to be able to move forward on technology initiatives with confidence and know that we are on the right track to where we want to be.

“Alumni get regular technology updates from Carnegie Mellon; and with a worldwide network of graduates to communicate with, I can ask colleagues for their opinions (on Facebook) in India and Pakistan for example. It is a great benefit and I would recommend it to other ICT executives in similar roles.”

It’s not as though the study was a doddle though, requiring three years of intense work with no time for hobbies except for ‘pen and desk’. Schmid is now back on his bike with road riding being one of his passions.

Schmid most enjoys the people he works with in his role. “I have an exceptional, dedicated team who are responsible for providing operational control and management over the South Australian government’s carrier-grade voice network (which is the largest peer-to-peer NEC Fusion network is the Southern Hemisphere) and the carrier-grade, fibre-optic data network (which not only links government buildings in the CBD but extends to the major regional centres which act as aggregation points).

“The primary drivers behind centralising these large ICT investments is to provide resilient, secure networks that focus investments into a central capability which realises economies of scale.”

The team also manages the SA government email service which services all SA government agencies. Of the 87 million emails processed last month, 80 million were identified as spam. As alarming as this figure is, technologies are now available to quickly filter out the noise.

The same theme flows into the central internet gateway which allows the SA government to focus its internet front-line investment and resources in a single capability to provide tighter control and security. Last month, as part of the in-depth, front-line defence, the Fortigate Web Anti Virus appliances blocked over a million attacks.

The SA government is currently going through a phase of rapid change with near exponential increase in internet traffic for a rich/resilient/secure and fast internet service.

“A strong working relationship with our strategic vendors such as Fortinet is crucial to be able to react to demand shifts and the unforeseen which we are all susceptible to.

“This hunger for bandwidth is driven by a paradigm shift in the way South Australians want to engage with its government - online. The newly released sa.gov.au website and YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/sagov) reflect the need of the community for information.”

* Stephen Schmid is the Director of the SA Government ICT Service Delivery Group. He has been in the IT industry for over 20 years working in the private sector as an IT and Telco Consultant/Program Manager in Australia and abroad, primarily for larger IT vendors. He has worked in his current position for the last 12 months and has a Masters from Carnegie Mellon University [CMU] in Information Technology and Management and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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