James Riley
April 27, 2016

Doug Elix’ return a boost for Data61

Cyber Security

Doug Elix’ return a boost for Data61

Malcolm Turnbull: Presses the start button Australia's cyber engine

Former IBM services legend Doug Elix’s return to an active high-profile participatory role within the Aussie innovation ecosystem is a huge boost for the sector.

His appointment as co-chairman of the Australian Government’s just-announced Cyber Security Growth Centre is also good news for the CSIRO’s data research unit, Data61.

By the time Mr Elix retired a decade ago from IBM after 39 years, he was running the tech giant’s global sales and distribution apparatus. This was after having building its services business – an engine room of revenue – first in Australia, and then across the world.

At the time, he was arguably the most successful corporate executive Australia had produced, and he brings a deep well of international connections into the role – which aims to build a lucrative cyber industry in this country.

Mr Elix co-chair is Data61 CEO Adrian Turner. The two have worked closely in the past, founding and building the powerful Aussie expat network Advance.

Mr Turner is understood to have been pressing Mr Elix to take an active role at Data61 as an advisor. With his appointment co-chair of a well-funded effort to build cyber industry capability, Mr Turner has got his man.

There were many winners from the cyber security strategy unveiled by the Prime Minister a week ago, but probably none more so than Data61. The $30 million set aside for the Cyber Security Growth Centre – which is actually more of a federation of multiple facilities across the country – in large part falls into the lap of Data61.

The first two cyber growth centres will be all but co-located with Data61 – at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney and the Goods Shed in Melbourne (where it will co-locate with Data61 and the Oceania Cyber Security Centre (Oxford University’s global cyber security capacity centre.)

Cyber is fundamentally a data issue, and it makes sense that the nation’s premier data research and commercialisation body should be a large part of such an industry program. Data61 will also be expected to tighten its already close relationship with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO). The two already share premises in Sydney.

And having Doug Elix on board is not a bad thing either.

The other personnel changes that came with the cyber security strategy was the appointment of Alastair MacGibbon – a former head of the Australian Federal Police’s High Tech Crime Centre and security chief for eBay in the region – as a Special Adviser on cyber security with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mr Turnbull has previously worked with Mr MacGibbon through his current role Children’s eSafety Commissioner. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is an independent statuatory body that reports through the Prime Minister’s former portfolio in Communications.

Mr Turnbull will also appoint an Assistant Minister for Cyber Security, although sources inside the Prime Minister’s office say this position won’t be filled until after the election.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will appoint a Cyber Ambassador to lead the nation’s international engagement in advocating for an open, free, and secure Internet, based on the core values of free speech, privacy and the rule of law.

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