by Rodney Gedda

NSW Education CIO rides IT pressure test

Jun 01, 2010
CareersCloud ComputingGovernment

With some 1500 staff and 500,000 devices under his command, NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) CIO Steven Wilson is no stranger to large IT projects. With the Digital Education Revolution in full swing and infrastructure demands skyrocketing, Wilson is developing an accessible and sustainable IT program for students and teachers across the state.

This year the DET will complete the roll out of a state-wide wireless network in August for a total of 22,000 access points, each serving 30 netbooks for a total of 500,000 concurrent sessions.

In 2010 and 2011 it will deploy the eBackpack application where students can collaborate and teachers can share best practices. It will be developed with Microsoft SharePoint.

Also on the cards is a migration to Windows 7 and Office 2010 and data centre capacity will be increased along with the core network.

“We’re in the midst of a massive change in public education,” Wilson said. “Our strategy is to create a connected learning community [and] IT systems should enable and support the business, not define the processes.”

“For example, a bank teller’s world is defined by what they can do on their terminal and we want to give teachers all the tools they need to be creative.”

Formerly the IT director of Johnson Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Wilson has signed off $600 million contracts at DET, the biggest of his career and more than many CIOs.

The average tenure for a DET CIO is only one year, but Wilson has thrived and is coming up to his five year anniversary.

“If usage is any measure of success all our graphs are off the charts,” he said. “Internet traffic has increased by 200 per cent over the past year going from 30TB per month to 90TB.”

Wilson puts the spike down to improvements in school networks and the distribution of netbooks to students. By next year about 97.6 per cent of schools in NSW will have fibre network connectivity.

There has also been a five-fold increase in videoconferencing use over the past two years and the number of videoconference end-points will rise from 2500 to 3000 by the end of 2010.

Speaking at an AIIA ICT in Education forum in Sydney, Wilson said every vendor that does work with the DET is a specialist and “does a lot of business with us” to avoid conflicts.

“When I joined there were a lot more vendors and they often competed with each other,” he said.

Wilson says he is a believer in the move towards cloud services and “we will see more there”.

The DET is also developing SALM, the Student Administration and Learning Management system and Wilson said the infrastructure to make it happen is already in place.

When asked if a new government was elected and decided to scrap the Digital Education Revolution program, Wilson said there would be a lot of unhappy voices heard among students and teachers.

“The netbooks have had a profound effect on families, many of which have never owned a computer and they can use the one their 15 year-old child has brought home,” he said.

“We have a challenge, but we have built a sustainable model for service delivery.”