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2017: The year that was

2017: The year that was

A month-by-month look back at who and what made news in 2017


More digital transformation was in the works. Queensland-based motoring club and mutual organisation RACQ overhauled its digital strategy just eight months after completing its $3.9 billion merger with QT Mutual Bank.

On the AI front, an international group of artificial intelligence and robotics experts signed an open letter to the United Nations to halt the use of autonomous weapons they say threaten a ‘third revolution in warfare’.

Elon Musk founder of Tesla, SpaceX and OpenAI and Mustafa Suleyman, founder and Head of Applied AI at Google’s DeepMind were among 116 signatories of the letter, which was issued at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2017) which took place in Melbourne.

In government news, Australia’s biggest hackathon event – GovHack – which took place in August resulted in the submission of 379 projects which included a Facebook bingo game that helps reduce littering to a chatbot that delivers live parliamentary proceedings and allows users to react to vote results.

Meanwhile, the CSIRO boosted its use of public cloud services to support the computing needs of its researchers at 55 sites Australia-wide and its facilities overseas. Under its Cloud Connect program, the CSIRO was initially putting in place ‘AARNET-speed connectivity’ between its locations and Amazon Web Services’ data centres.

Australia Post launched its digital identity service, enabling consumers to verify who they are to companies and government online. The Digital iDTM technology was introduced to Australia’s largest credit union, CUA; foreign exchange company Travelex; Queensland Police Service and job outsourcing marketplace Airtasker.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy’s O Hub – a colocation space where Origin staff work alongside tech start-ups – announced its first project. The home energy solution, the result of a collaboration with California-based tech start-up Bidgely, trialled with 5,000 customers in Victoria.

In people news, a major reorganisation of Qantas Group’s executive team saw the CEO of Jetstar Group lead innovation and digital at Qantas. Jayne Hrdlicka moved from the CEO role at subsidiary Jetstar to become CEO of Qantas Loyalty and Digital Ventures – which now includes responsibility for innovation.

The CSIRO appointed Jayne Leighton as chief information security officer. Leighton is responsible for leading a team of specialists to deliver CSIRO’s cyber operations, policy, training, incident response, risk assessment, contract review, incident prevention, detection and forensics capabilities.

In education news, Swinburne University of Technology paid $4 million for a supercomputer to support its groundbreaking research into astrophysics and gravitational waves.

In financial news, Commonwealth Bank of Australia blamed a software ‘coding error’ for the ‘vast majority’ of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism (AML/CT) financing law breaches it was accused of by AUSTRAC. 

In healthcare, after years of preparation, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital finally opened its doors, and promised to be a genuine ‘high tech hospital of the future.’


In people news, tech executive Veronica Theriault was arrested, charged and sacked from her job as CIO at South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet for alleged dishonesty. According to a report in the Adelaide Advertiser, Theriault was just seven weeks into the job before being dumped by the agency following claims she allegedly used multiple identities, faked a CV and lied to get a job.

Meanwhile, David Black was crowned the new CIO of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), while the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) appointed Trish Leahey to be its inaugural chief information officer. GE Australia and New Zealand’s president and CEO, Geoff Culbert, has quit his post and joined Sydney Airport as its chief executive in January.

In tech news, more trouble for Dick Smith, which closed stores back in 2016. The electronics retailer was pushed into receivership in January 2016, owing its lenders more than $150 million. Every one of Dick's 393 stores closed May  2016.

One of two class actions were also launched against Dick Smith Holdings was set to be endowed with new allegations as fresh evidence came to light. Investor Claim Partner (ICP) which, in partnership with Johnson Winter & Slattery, proposed a class action on behalf of Dick Smith shareholders.

On the research front, we learned cyber attacks cost companies an average of US$11.7 million this year, a 23 per cent increase from 2016. The surge follows the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks that cost global organisations hundreds of millions of dollars, the Cost of Cyber Crime study by Accenture on and Ponemon Institute said.

In government news, the government announced it would roll out a Digital Economy Strategy early next year “to seize the benefits of digital transformation and secure Australian jobs into the future”. The strategy will cover digital infrastructure, digital business capability, and building digital skills and inclusion.

In banking news, National Australia Bank piloted a ‘digital virtual banker’ for its business customers that answers more than 200 questions previously handled by call centre staff.


This month in people news CIO Australia reported the Australian Securities Exchange’s long-standing GM, technology, Mathew Doughty left the organisation, while former GP Synergy tech chief David Anson became the new CIO at business supplies dealer, Office Brands.

In banking news, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and National Australia Bank all announced they are launching a new payments app. The app – named Beem – enables instant payments for all Australians regardless of who they bank with.

Meanwhile, IBM announced a blockchain banking network to help financial institutions process cross-border payments more quickly and cheaply.

Based on the IBM Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger Fabric, the network is designed to reduce the settlement time and lower the cost of completing global payments for businesses and consumers.

On the security front, CIO Australia reported how a hacker gained access to a national security contractor’s system for an “extended period of time” and stole a “significant” amount of data last year. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) first became aware of the breach in November 2016.

In people news, the Victorian Government appointed its first whole-of-government chief information security officer. The appointment of John O’Driscoll, formerly senior manager of information and technology risk at ANZ bank, was announced by Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings.

In government news, state and territory leaders agreed with federal government plans to establish a national facial biometric matching capability, which will bring together passport, visa, citizenship and driver licence images into a single database.

At a special meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on counter-terrorism, government heads agreed to the "21st Century tool", which has been slammed by privacy groups.

In tech news, machine learning continued to capture headlines - and this time for the navy. CIO Australia reported an analytics application developed by CSIRO’s Data61 will be used to predict engine failure and reduce fuel consumption on Royal Australian Navy vessels.

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