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Friday, 04 December 2009 11:12

Microsoft donates $2m worth of emergency email

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The NSW State Emergency Service has pushed through an arrangement with Microsoft to provide around 7,500 of its active volunteers with a new email system by the end of January.

In a press release issued today NSW Emergency Services Minister, Steve Whan, said that each active SES volunteer would receive their own email address and 15 GB of data storage as part of a technology upgrade which was worth $2million a year to the SES. The email services are being delivered through Microsoft’s Live@edu network which was originally established to provide communications services to tertiary students.

Microsoft acknowledged that; “Live@edu has been designed primarily with education institutions in mind and this sector will continue to be the core focus for the solution. That said, we’re very committed to the community sector and will continue to work hand-in-hand to provide solutions that best match the needs of individual organisations. Given the vital role that SES plays in NSW, we’re pleased to be able to offer our support to help over 7,000 volunteers better connect and collaborate.”

SES CIO Andrew Edwards said that in the past the organisation had to reply on a combination of fax, telephone, SMS and newsletters to reach its 10,000 volunteers in 250 locations.  The email services will be provided to the 7,500 active volunteers he said.

“Our primary job is to respond to floods and storms, and we’ve picked up tsunamis,” said Edwards. SES volunteers also provide road crash response services where required and provide back end logistics services to the Rural Fire Service.

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Edwards added that the organisation was embarked on a campaign to make technology a point of differentiation for the SES as it worked “toward becoming a tech savvy organisation.”

The announcement today follows yesterday’s change of leadership in NSW which saw Kristina Keneally replace Nathan Rees as the State’s premier.

Besides announcing the SES deal Steve Whan today made a public bid to hold onto his emergency services portfolio in an interview with the ABC saying he had supported Keneally’s appointment in a caucus vote.

While the Government’s media release is opaque regarding how much the NSW Government was actually paying for the email system, Andrew Edwards confirmed that the email services were being provided pro bono by Microsoft.

SES Commissioner Murray Kear noted in the release that: “We are delighted to have the support of the State Government and Microsoft in the provision of this cutting edge technology, worth $2 million annually to the Service.”

Whan meanwhile claimed that: “This system will enable our volunteers to receive and share important SES information more easily and quickly, helping them in their vital work to protect the community during floods, storms and other disasters.” It will also be used to provide volunteers with information in training, health and safety, community education, search and rescue techniques and operational response activities.


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