This year’s Computerworld Excellence Awards has three people as the finalists in the new Young ICT Talent category, covering different areas: geological science, management of information systems and web hosting.
The common thread for all three is that the tasks at hand for the three candidates required creative thinking for problem solving, and the ability to learn technology and apply it within a business context.
Amanda White of Marlborough Lines in Blenheim says the company’s IT department covers three sites with seventeen servers and 120 users, and is managed by one person: her.
From installing and maintaining the hardware to deploying core financial and scheduling applications for Marlborough Lines, White does it all. “Let’s make it work” is her attitude, and work it does: to show how reliable Marlborough Lines’ systems are, the amount of downtime annually is measured in minutes for the core in-house servers.
Reliability is key to a business operating around the clock, every day of the week, and White has to make innovative use of technologies to keep the company’s ICT running smoothly. Next up are projects like implementing a storage area network and virtualisation for servers, and a swipe-card system for Marlborough Lines’ petrol pumps to automate processes and improve efficiency.
Another important measure of ICT implementation success is what users think of it. Installing instant messaging within the organisation is one feature everyone loves as it makes it easy to keep in touch, White says. More importantly, staff value her willingness to help and the fact that she never makes anyone feel stupid, even if the questions are sometimes a bit silly.
Remote monitoring of a large, 45 hectare landslide in Taihape is probably one of the more unusual Awards entries ever, but it’s an impressive and important project. There are over two hundred households in the area that the hazard monitoring network covers — and a primary school.
To gather the data from the monitoring network, and to process and display it, software engineer Richard Guest of GNS Science in Lower Hutt created an integrated ICT solution from scratch.
Thanks to Guest’s work, scientists get near real-time monitoring of surface movement, rainfall and groundwater measurement. This is furthering scientists’ understanding of the processes behind landslides, says his manager, Geoff Clitheroe.
Much of the ICT solution had to be hand-coded, according to Clitheroe, with Guest configuring the computers controlling the robotic laser total-station that repeatedly scans thirty prism reflectors across the landslide area, providing a great degree of temporal and spatial resolution in order to pick up ground movement.
Free and Open Source Software was used extensively for the project, and the results from the data gathering, analysis and visualisation are reported to the Earthquake Commission regularly. Furthermore, the scientific methodologies developed during the project are being published in peer-review scientific journals, Clitheroe says, with the technical aspects of the monitoring network to be presented at an international mining and engineering conference.
Jonny Mole, of Wellington, didn’t set out to become an IT guru, but resistance was futile: while studying, he developed a passion for applying ICT solutions to help small businesses, not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations create effective web presences.
From there, Mole continued working with the web while completing his
marketing degree. Mole believes the web is under-utilised in New Zealand, and that many organisations have yet to grasp the global reach and penetration it brings. “Much of the New Zealand web-space is a mess,” Mole says, and he has made it his mission to clear it up for organisations.
This conviction has led to a profitable venture for Mole with, as he claims, delighted clients who now have far improved web presences. Getting to this stage meant Mole had to educate himself alongside his studies, picking up digital media technologies and qualifications along the way.
Mole’s education in marketing combined with his IT skills is what gives him the edge, he says. Clients value the fact that he provides a range of affordable ICT solutions while understanding their businesses. Demand is growing thanks to this, and Mole intends to take his business full-time next year.