CIO Profile: Gwyn Thomas of the Welsh Assembly is building a united nation

In difficult times or times of great change a nation needs strong leadership. As the pages of CIO demonstrate every month, leadership comes from strong ideas and an ability to galvanise support and lead people towards a common goal.

Since the 1980s Wales has undergone radical change as a nation, back then coal mining and steel production dominated.

Today's Wales is very different. Financial services, IT, tourism, and action sports are on the ascendancy, while mining and manufacturing are still vital to the economy.

Devolution in 1999 has also changed the political and societal view Wales has of itself.

Dr Gwyn Thomas is CIO for the Welsh Government and Director of Informatics Health and Social Care.

"The role I occupy is unique as I am effectively CIO for Wales, which embraces the whole of the public sector," he says.

"We are taking a federated IT approach of councils, health boards and academia. They have all agreed to work together because it is about IT, and IT touches all organisations and citizens."

Thomas's complex stakeholder map also includes local authority chief executives and politicians.

He reports to the Permanent Secretary — the Assembly's senior civil servant — and the directors general for health, for social care and children, and for business, economy, technology and science, as well as through to the respective ministers.

But the advantage for him is that the Welsh government has a unified and efficient approach to IT that is not blighted by the problems and overspending seen elsewhere in the public sector.

Thomas's role is to deliver a digital Wales that can respond to the nation's changing economic landscape and increasing sense of independence. Thomas says he and his team look at Wales as a corporate entity.

"It will be business-led above all," he says, by which he sees the government CIO role being central to economic stimulation for prime industries such as the growing television and creative sector, construction, IT and green technologies.

"We are trying to explore new ways of working with organisations. SMEs have a lot of good ideas, but the globals bring stability," Thomas says of the plans to stimulate both ends of the business spectrum.

A benefit in the IT world is that major vendors find the size of Wales convenient, as it provides a useful test bed for developments.

A strong spine
To allow the Welsh dragon to prosper, Thomas' strategy is to deliver a technological spine for public services that fosters innovation, drives down costs and creates a public sector that is rapid, efficient and attractive to the business world as a partner.

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