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There’s an older, silver-haired gent in the second or third row at most of the major ICT conferences; at press events; at industry gatherings.  Over the last 40 plus years Len Rust has carved himself a unique niche in the Australian ICT landscape.

At 77 he still makes only half-hearted nods at the notion of a retirement any time soon.

“I’d like to go on until I’m 80,” he says, but my guess is the pipe and slippers shouldn’t expect much of an outing then either.

Today he runs the eponymous industry newsletter the Rust Report, is a board member of the Pearcey Committee, and works with the ACS Foundation to try to find companies which are prepared to sponsor and mentor young ICT students and graduates.

His passion is for Australian IT stories and Australian IT visionaries, and for poking the “multinational gorillas” to find out how they are working with local organisations.

“The thing I’m interested in is who is winning in what market segments, what products and services are winning – and also to see who has gone to China, to Europe, who is showing leadership in the world?

“Australian technology – if you dig down - we really haven’t done that well. We’re doing OK now in social media, Silicon Valley exercises. But we’ve got to build up Australia so we do have a certain skills set here that’s unique in the world.

“Ten, 15, 20 years ago we were showing good opportunities around the world – but over the last few years a lot of them have been more interested in building, selling and moving on. Overall have our exports grown very much? No not really.”

Rust is also critical about the lack of Government focus on the sector. “The sad thing is, we don’t really have a minister for IT.  We had Kim Carr who was useless - he wouldn’t even know how to spell IT.

“The only IT minister we’ve ever had was John Button and we all keep going back to him – he was passionate, he understood the industry.”

Rust’s own understanding and knowledge of the sector is encyclopedic.

“I remember the time I first sized the market and IBM with revenues of $200 million in Australia. I can still remember when (Lou) Gerstner (then CEO of IBM) met us outside of New York and he gave a presentation and said that when he analysed IBM its margins were getting so skinny it was going out the door so they had to transform it into services and if you think about today that’s what Lenovo, Dell, HP are trying to do.”

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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