As the CIO of Essex County Council since July 2011, David Wilde has recently revealed plans to help the council save £515m by 2016. He plans to do this through the use of the cloud and a Public Services Network (PSN) compliant data system.
David has also implemented plans to improve customer access to services through digital means, such as website and mobile apps, and has helped the council introduce technology designed to improve its corporate network and internet speeds.
Before he began working out ways to offer faster access to all those Towie tweets and Facebook updates, Wilde was formerly the CIO of City of Westminster Council.
Wilde's Hot Seat follows those of numerous other movers and shakers in the IT industry, including Wandsworth Council head of IT David Tidey, Newport City Council governance manager Tracy McKim and Bet365 chief technology officer Martin Davies.
V3: What does your day to day role involve?
David Wilde: My role is very varied, no day is the same, which is good in some respects. It always tends to start with clearing email first thing and then finish with checking email late at night. In between, it can be anything from briefing politicians on where we are with big projects like the NGN project with Daisy Updata Communications, making sure some of our large IT projects are on track, and meeting with suppliers and industry leaders to keep on top of what is going on with new technologies.
I will also spend a lot of time advising and educating the council’s workforce on technology and about what is important and how to make sure we are looking after the information we’ve got.
What would be your dream job?
It would be the kind of position that people like Richard Branson are in. A job where I was able to help new companies come up with completely new ways of working and delivering services, and actually being able to facilitate that, I would love to do that. The problem is I haven’t got his money.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?
My personal phone is an iPhone and my work one is a BlackBerry. I’m quite happy having two and they are both fit for very different purposes. The security around BlackBerry is still pretty unique out there and from a personal point of view, there is no getting away from the fact that if you’ve bought a lot of stuff on iTunes, you’ve got to have an iPhone.
I don’t have a tablet at home, I don’t have a need for one. My wife has a Nexus and loves it, but the phones I have are perfectly adequate for my needs. I’ve not been bitten by the tablet bug yet.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
At the moment it would be Michael Dell. Taking his company back into private ownership so he can regain control and take the company to where he wants it to go in the market was a brave step. It reflects one of the real issues in the market, the danger of short-termism, driven by shareholder thinking, which is one of the big reasons why he has taken control back inside and is not bound by quarterly returns.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
WiFi, plain and simple. Wireless broadband has pretty much connected everything and has completely changed the way we live at home and how we work here. I think WiFi is a big unsung hero and it is incredible how it can be used from your device anywhere across the world.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Two really. The first was being chosen as European CIO of the Year in 2011 over in Luxembourg, just as I was leaving Westminster Council. The second was way back in 1998, working with the Cabinet Office’s Central Communications and Telecoms Agency, when we put online the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Debt of Honours Register.
This was one of the first very big internet services, where we put all of the 1.47 million records of information online in a searchable system, in time for the 80th Anniversary of World War One. At the time, broadband hadn’t been invented; it was still 56k modems then. We built the system to deal with 60,000 queries a day, but when it went live we had 65,000 queries an hour. It really gave people access to that kind of genealogical information, letting people find out what happened to great-grandad in the war.
What was your first job?
I was a benefits clerk in an employment benefits office in 1984. Within three years of joining, I was running a benefits office in Battersea. I ended up going into designing finance systems on mainframes, a bit of a mad jump. I took an opportunity to go into a function that was building systems. I had no idea what is was about at the time and I ended up being given a six volume set of Dun and Bradstreet Millennium code manuals, asked to read them and build a general ledger system.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
Working in the public sector is very challenging, with the current financial situation we are in. What we’re finding is that innovation is being driven by reduced budgets in a different way. If you have less money to work with, you become more innovative. Our budget will be 40 percent less than it was three years ago, so we are operating a service on 60 percent of the money we had at that time and we still have to make it better.
What keeps you awake at night?
Information governance and making sure we are getting it right in terms of where the information is being stored. IT is now so complex that you absolutely have to understand the importance of information management and the provenance of the information you are looking after.
What was the last book you read?
Spartacus, written by Ben Kane, an absolutely fascinating book, really brought the story back to life and very well written.
Who is your favourite band?
I really like listening to The Eagles
Where’s your favourite place for escape?
My allotment, which is five minutes' walk from home. I love the peace and quiet and the fact there's no technology in it. Totally relaxing.
I really like It’s A Wonderful Life.
Windows or Mac OS?
I use Windows.
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