Irishman has been named chief digital officer of Australian city Brisbane

10 Jul 2012

Irishman Kieran O’Hea has been appointed the new chief digital officer of Brisbane as part of the Australian city’s Economic Development Plan 2012 to 2031. Brisbane is the second city in the world to appoint a chief digital officer after New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg appointed Rachel Sterne to make the Big Apple America’s leading digital city.

Brisbane is already powering ahead with its digital city plans and some 22 city parks are to be enabled with free Wi-Fi. The city wants to deliver on its vision of being a modern, enterprising and self-assured city.

O’Hea, who helped develop and implement digital strategies for the European Commission for online projects worth €200m, will relocate from Ireland to Brisbane to take up the job.

O’Hea also developed the online strategy for Tourism Ireland.

“Mr O’Hea will implement and execute a strategy that boosts the city’s digital technology uptake and helps cut red tape for businesses dealing with council,” Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said in a statement.

“Brisbane is growing on a world scale and so are our businesses; they’re the ones that recommended employing a chief digital officer to make it easier for them to do business with council in this 24/7 economy,” Quirk said.

The move follows an extensive and rigorous global search by Brisbane’s authorities.

In a move that should make Irish Government policy-makers, as well as town and city managers in Ireland take note, O’Hea is being tasked with engaging with stakeholders, industry associations and businesses to scope out Brisbane’s digital landscape and ensure they are using technology efficiently and encouraging further digital uptake.

Secondly, he will be responsible for making Brisbane a recognised hub for developing successful digital businesses; and thirdly, a focus on building capacity for Brisbane’s digital economy.

The new position will sit within Brisbane’s economic development agency, Brisbane Marketing.

Advantages presented by the digital economy

Brisbane Marketing CEO John Aitken said there was an opportunity for Brisbane to better capture the advantages presented by the digital economy.

“By recognising the city’s existing and emerging digital industry and providing a direction and vision for uptake of digital technologies, we will reinforce Brisbane as Australia’s new-world city,” Aitken said.

Brisbane advertising executive Adam Penberthy said the number of businesses who thought digital was just about having a website and social media presence was “staggering”.

“The issue for Brisbane businesses lies in that there’s no co-ordinated effort to attract funding to the city for growth in the digital sector, investment in new initiatives, and practical turn-key solutions for mum-and-dad businesses, helping them to go digital,” Penberthy said.

“The chief digital officer role will critically help open the eyes of the small to medium business sector, providing them with new ideas to digitise their businesses, working not only at a local level but on a global level, while also improving business efficiencies, promotion, product innovation and collaboration through a greater digital footprint.”

A report released by Deloitte Access Economics in August last year compared the economic value of the internet as a rival to iron-ore exports.

The report estimated that the internet contributed AUS$50bn, or 3.6pc, of Australia’s gross domestic product in 2010, and the internet’s future contribution to its GDP will grow by about 7pc a year to reach AUS$70bn by 2016.

The shift in value is attributed to the use of internet for efficiency and productivity in supply management, finance, email and communications, and reaching out to new customers via internet channels and interactive websites.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years