The 15 most influential people in Australian IT

The 15 most influential people in Australian ITThey are the titans of Australia’s tech sector – the regulators, executives and entrepreneurs who decide the shape of our tech sector.

For the second year running, SmartCompany set out to find the 15 most influential people in Australian IT, judging them on criteria such as their involvement across the industry and ability to influence developments beyond their own organisation.

They are presented here in alphabetical order.

Matt Barrie, Chief Executive Officer,

Since taking over the online outsourcing service in 2009, Matt Barrie has grown it to become a powerful driver of the redistribution of work around the world. More than 1.15 million jobs have now been completed through the service, with more than US$100 million paid out to freelancers. has this year picked up two AIMIA Awards and two Webby Awards, while Barrie himself has picked up gongs as both BRW‘s and Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur of the year. Despite all this Barrie still finds time to teach classes in technology entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney.

Senator The Hon. Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

Senator Stephen Conroy has been tireless in his promotion of the Australian Government’s National Broadband Network (NNB) and the digital economy it is fostering. From countless appearances at network launches to weathering countless attacks from the Federal Opposition, he has taken every opportunity to promote the NBN and the benefits of better broadband. His efforts have been noticed outside Australia, with Conroy appointed as a founding member of the United Nations’ Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

In June Conroy was honoured by the magazine Global Telecoms Business in London for his personal contribution to telecommunication, with editor Alan Burkitt-Gray describing the NBN as “the boldest, most exciting project in the delivery of fixed and mobile broadband services in the world today”.

Philip Cronin, Managing Director, Intel Australia and New Zealand

Being a frustrated punk rocker has not limited Philip Cronin’s rise in the Australian IT industry. Cronin took over as the head of Intel for Australia and New Zealand in 2004, and in 2010 became one of the few country managers to publicly throw his support behind the NBN, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Intel and the Department intended to boost Australia’s digital economy.

Cronin was also a driving force in bringing Intel Capital to Australia to look at NBN-related investment opportunities. In 2010 he was elected chair of the board of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which has since adopted the tagline of being the “voice of the digital economy”.

Paul Harapin, VP for Business Development and Cloud for Asia Pacific, VMware

Paul Harapin joined VMware in 2005 when it had just four employees in Australia. Today the Australian office employs more than 250 people and has revenue of over $100 million. Harapin has been a driving force behind the introduction of virtualisation technology into Australia, which has saved companies millions of dollars in power costs and greenhouse emissions.

Now he has stepped into an Asia Pacific role where he is seeking to repeat that success by growing the market for cloud computing. Harapin is continuing to drive the environmental message through a seat on the board of Green Kids Global, which seeks to provide sustainable futures for vulnerable children, and on the board of Computers Off.Org.

Michael Harte, Group Executive Enterprise Services, and Chief Information Officer, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Perhaps the most prominent CIO in Australia, Michael Harte has been an outspoken advocate of the role of technology in the transformation of the Commonwealth Bank through the modernisation of its core banking systems. He’s had little problem gaining attention in an otherwise conservative industry, and was named ‘CIO of the Year’ by the AIIA and the ACS.

A passionate advocate of cloud computing, Harte is a participant in the global Enterprise Cloud Leaders Council, and has driven a partnership with the Sloan School of Management at MIT to expose key staff to world-class thinking.

Bob Hayward, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, CSC Australia and Asia

Since arriving in Australia in 1987 Bob Hayward has been responsible for introducing two international technology companies into the market, selling one of them, and bringing the analyst firm Gartner to Australia and subsequently running it for 12 years. He also helped launch the Queensland technology incubator inQbator in 2003, cofounded the Singapore-based start-up Asia Online and held the role of managing partner for IT services at KPMG.

Now as chief technology officer for CSC in Australia he is furthering his reputation as one of Australia’s leading pundits on all things technology-related, and plays a key role in CSC’s global think tank, the Leading Edge Forum.

Mick Liubinskas and Phil Morle, Co-founders, Pollenzier

It is hard to separate Mick Liubinskas and Phil Morle. Together they have built their three-year-old company Pollenizer into a powerhouse of entrepreneurial innovation, taking a business they founded to provide support for start-ups and web projects and growing it into a fully-fledged incubator that has rewritten many rules on founding and funding companies.

They have listened to more than 1,000 ideas and have incorporated 25 new companies that employ more than 200 people, and raised more than $12 million, including $5 million for the company Dealised. Pollenizer works on a mantra of if you are going to fail, fail fast and move on to the next thing.

Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia and New Zealand

Google’s local engineering director brings an impeccable pedigree in technology and entrepreneurship, having graduated from both Adelaide and Stanford universities and founding a successful start-up, NetMind, which was eventually acquired by Nokia.

Two start-ups later he joined Google, where he has been a strong voice for the company and for improving the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Australian schools. In addition to his responsibilities at Google, Noble currently sits on the boards of four universities, and on the national board of the AIIA. He keeps in touch with his entrepreneurial roots as a co-founder of SA Angels.

Dr Ian Oppermann, Director, CSIRO ICT Centre

An internationally respected expert in ultra wideband communications, Dr Ian Oppermann took over the directorship of the CSIRO’s ICT Centre in December 2010. Perhaps it is that background in communications that has driven Oppermann to become a strong advocate of the need for greater communications bandwidth across Australia, and led to his prominent role in linking the Australian IT research and business communities.

Oppermann has chaired the executive committee of the IEEE’s International Conference on Ultra Wideband since 2004, and is a member of the board of directors of the Australian eHealth Research Centre and the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation.

Mike Quigley, Executive Chairman, NBNCo

The man with the biggest cheque book in the Australian technology sector, Mike Quigley has not had an easy time of it since being asked to front the organisation responsible for building the Australian Government’s multi-billion dollar network. Quigley has had to endure several grillings about his role (or lack thereof) in bribes paid in South America by managers at his former employer Alcatel-Lucent.

While none of the mud has stuck, it has been a distraction for the man tasked with connecting every Australian citizen to high-speed broadband in the next decade. With the NBN Co. needing to connect thousands of homes per day to meet its ambitious targets, a successful rollout may yet see Quigley branded a hero.

Len Rust, Executive Director, Dialog Technology Management

One of the most recognisable faces in Australian IT, Len Rust joined the industry in 1963 and has held senior roles in numerous IT services companies. In 1979 he joined the technology analyst firm IDC as managing director, and over the following 19 years became a keen observer of the evolution of IT within Australian business and government, and across the Asia Pacific region.

Since leaving IDC Rust has become an integral component of the Australian IT sector, through involvement with the AIIA and as a driving force behind the Pearcey Foundation. Rust is currently the executive director of the consulting organisation Dialog Technology Management, and he continues to shape the Australian IT sector through his popular weekly Rust Report.

Ann Steward, Australian Government Chief Information Officer

As the chief information officer for the Australian Government Ann Steward is the most senior public servant in a technology role. Working within the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) within the Department of Finance, Seward is responsible for the implementation of the ICT Reform Program that sprang from the wide-ranging Gershorn review of 2008.

In 2009 she was deputy chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, and continues to drive the uptake of Web 2.0 concepts and technologies within government. She also represents Australia on the global stage as the chair of the OECD’s e-government network.

David Thodey, Chief Executive Officer, Telstra

As the head of Australia’s dominant telecommunications company, David Thodey has helped steer the company through some of the most difficult times it has yet seen. He has overseen the telco’s historic $11 billion deal with the Australian Government to transfer assets and customers to the NBN, while also implementing a strategy to transform the company from an infrastructure and engineering business into one more focused on content and marketing – and customer service.

He has also been applauded for his management throughout this time of turmoil, raising revenue with only a small dip in profit.

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Spokesperson for Communications

The man tasked with wrecking the NBN has turned that negative goal into a credible attempt at providing an alternative. Turnbull’s plan for Australian broadband may not promise the lofty speeds of the NBN, and lacks significant detail, but at roughly one third the price it is getting a lot of attention. His case is also helped by his skills as an orator, and also perhaps by his own experience in the technology sector, including his former roles as director of technology company FTR Holdings and as chairman of Internet service provider OzEmail – the sale of which to MCI Worldcom in 1999 netted him a reported $60 million.

Les Williamson, Vice President of Cisco Asia Pacific Area, Cisco

It can be hard to influence a global organisation from a position in Australia, but Les Williamsons appears to have succeeded at Cisco. A 10 year veteran of the company, Williamson played a key role in developing the “partner-led” mantra that now governs Cisco’s global sales process. In June he was rewarded for this and strong sales growth in Australia and New Zealand with a promotion to run Cisco’s newly-created Asia Pacific region.

A strong advocate of telepresence technology, Williamson will run the region from his office in Melbourne, saving the company considerably on its travel costs and carbon emissions.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.