Doctor to guide Australian Computer Society

Dr Kerryn Phelps, the former high-profile president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), has been appointed as a consultant to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).Since January, Phelps has been working behind the scenes with ACS president Edward Mandla to define policy issues and to make the ACS more politically astute and media-savvy.

Dr Kerryn Phelps, the former high-profile president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), has been appointed as a consultant to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Since January, Phelps has been working behind the scenes with ACS president Edward Mandla to define policy issues and to make the ACS more politically astute and media-savvy.

"When Edward became president, I was asked to help position the ACS ... I'm working with him to outline ACS' political agenda," Phelps told ZDNet Australia&nbsp in a recent interview.

Phelps said her main role is to ensure that the organisation operates in a way that best reflects its members' opinions. Upon her advice, it has appointed a government lobbyist, whom Phelps said is crucial as the ACS needs a voice in Canberra to increase its presence among politicians.

Her introduction to the Society began last December when she was invited to speak at an ACS function. Her first impression of the organisation was its lack of direction. "The most obvious thing was there wasn't a clear agenda but this has changed rapidly since Edward's appointment."

"I never shy away from a reformist agenda so I think Edward and I are compatible," she said. Her six-month contract ends in June but she suspects her tenure will be extended beyond that period.

On criticism that the ACS is bound by too much red tape, Phelps said it's early days yet but "any system that's cumbersome is being streamlined."

Phelps is largely credited for growing the AMA membership base by 4,000 from approximately 25,000 during her three-year tenure since 2000 -- a feat Mandla hopes to emulate.

"She's my mentor," Mandla told ZDNet Australia&nbsp, adding: "We meet twice a week and it's the best money we've ever spent."

He admitted that the ACS has long suffered a myriad of problems. "I realise we have communications issues but I'm trying to improve the situation."

For the complete interview, click here.