CIO50 2018 #6: Peter Auhl, City of Adelaide
Adelaide has experienced significant changes in its economy, moving from a heavy focus on manufacturing background and needed to rethink how the next chapter of its economy would play out, says CIO Peter Auhl.
The city has historically been overlooked by international investors and businesses considering moving to Australia. The council set out to reposition Adelaide as an attractive alternative to other locations by providing business insights in a format not offered by other Australian cities.
“Adelaide is world-renowned for its culture, festivals, produce, affordability and lifestyle – we were just missing growth. We needed to use technology and digital infrastructure to ‘de-risk’ our economy and leapfrog other cities creating digital economic bridges to new markets and new economies,” Auhl says.
Auhl and his team recognised that not all business owners have access to a data scientist or the business insights that will increase their likelihood of success.
“So rather than publishing flat open data, we developed a toolkit that anyone can use to slice and dice demographic, economic, employment, business property and tourism data to inform their business development decisions,” he says.
Theis effectively open data on steroids, Auhl says. The tool pulls in business data from various local and national sources and presents it in a toolkit that can be accessed from anywhere and at any time.
Insights provided by the dashboard increase success rates for new and expanding Adelaide businesses and highlights opportunities the city has over its competitors, Auhl says.
“It will improve the economy of Adelaide and South Australia by increasing our visibility globally and delivering quality insights to local, national and international businesses and customers considering investing in Adelaide,” he says.
A ten gigabit city
In 2016, business connectivity to cloud services in Adelaide was being compromised by the ever-increasing domestic traffic created by services like Netflix and YouTube.
To rectify the issue, the council worked with a telco to build a network - Ten Gigabit Adelaide - that transfers business traffic from the internet to private links and interconnects. Established earlier this year, the network is providing Adelaide businesses with communications capacity that is unmatched by any other city in the world, Auhl says.
The network connects more than 1000 buildings and 3,500 businesses on a common network.
“In practical terms, this means that new industries and international businesses can now make Adelaide the centre of their operations. For example, the network can enable a radiographer to provide real time medical services from across the city on a secure and cost-effective network. It means movie industry businesses can collaborate on the next blockbuster film without the need to co-locate. It can enable a private network for government legal services and law firms,” says Auhl.
Independent assessment of the 10GA project estimates that it will result in $3 billion of economic impact and create more than 2,500 jobs in the first six years, says Auhl.
“The benefits are already becoming evident; investments are flowing into the city, new jobs have been created, institutional investment is returning, and several major international businesses have announced they are relocating to Adelaide,” he says.
“Nowhere in the world has a city delivered infrastructure like this. It’s the utility of the 21st century and it is already netting huge benefits, including the sale of three major buildings in the CBD for $74 million, $190 million and $24 million. The property investors have cited Ten Gigabit Adelaide as the reason for returned investment - all of which occured within two months, Auhl says.
City of Adelaide has also secured more than 300 fibres for council use, which will allow it to prepare our city for innovations like autonomous vehicles, drone technology and further development of our smart city, he adds.
A hard sell
Leading pioneering projects in government is incredibly challenging, says Auhl. Adelaide’s projects have long lasting positive impacts so Auhl says he uses contemporary methodologies to consult with stakeholders.
“My team demonstrates this value of using persona mapping, design thinking and problem statements to focus on the outcomes that matter to people and resolve business issues,” he says.
"I spent a lot of time in the community talking to people - listening and learning - a very untraditional CIO methodology. I focus on not only the technology but also on the economic and social impacts for our community and commercial returns for government."
Auhl says he took elected members through the journey of Ten Gigabit Adelaide over three years, bringing in various stakeholders at different times to nuance the messaging and improve the outcome of the engagement.
"I introduced stakeholders from business, community, legal and financial sectors at various times to build engagement and support for the project. Despite, the inevitable challenges I faced in trying to influence the city's executive team and elected members to invest heavily in a new kind of infrastructure, I never gave up. I knew that unlike many tactical projects, Ten Gigabit Adelaide would have a multi-generational impact on Adelaide and South Australia."
The CEO's right arm
Auhl says the CIO role as becoming increasingly important for any organisation.
"The role needs to be the right arm of the CEO, it needs to show the way, curate information, services and systems to ensure effectiveness. The role has become less technical and more business-focused. Certainly from my perspective, my focus has been not just on the technical elements of IT like enterprise architecture and information management but also very much part of the economic reform of our city using digital infrastructure as the enabler.
"Having working in IT for well over 20 years I have been fortunate to see so many changes but at its core is one simple goal - focus on the customer. I see no threat from other roles, just opportunities to work together and help demystify what is an amazing industry."