Something old, something new at the ACS

From January 2006, lawyer Philip Argy will step into the lead role at the Australian Computer Society. How will he fare?

commentary Beginning January 2006, lawyer Philip Argy will step into the lead role at the Australian Computer Society.
Fran Foo

A familiar face at the organisation, the senior partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques has previously served as ACS New South Wales Branch Chair, coupled with several terms as vice president.

He will replace Edward Mandla, whose tenure as president was described as "outstanding" by Argy.

"He's [Mandla] probably spent half his life in Canberra," Argy told ZDNet Australia in an interview. "He's definitely lifted the profile of the ACS."

While the corridors of power were being lobbied left, right and centre, however, could it be that someone at the ACS took their eye off the ball? Membership has fallen by 2,000 during the past two years.

At the end of 2003, as Richard Hogg passed the baton to Mandla, membership stood at 16,000-plus, according to the organisation's Web site and previous press statements. As Argy begins his two-year reign, he will inherit 14,000 members.

Does Argy have what it takes to stop the haemorrhage? To those in doubt and to critics who plan to question the lawyer's suitability for the job, he says he's been a programmer longer than a lawyer, having once served as CIO at Mallesons. "I've got my hands dirty in IT," he said.

While Mandla was bent on recruiting non-IT professionals to the organisation, ie anyone who uses a computer, Argy plans to take a different approach -- his main focus will be to improve the professional standing and qualifications of IT workers.

"Thirty years in law teaches you something about professionalism ... can I imbue [into] IT the professionalism lawyers have been brought up with?

"Professionalism is an important risk mitigation strategy and is critical to ensuring that Australia's ICT sector is held in the highest regard by business, government and industry," he said in a statement.

Argy is certainly entitled to his own views but I'm struggling to decide which is worse -- his suggestion that our IT pros lack professionalism or that the workers can learn something from lawyers.

Do you think Philip Argy is correct in saying IT pros can learn a thing or two about professionalism from lawyers? How do you think he will fare as president? Was Edward Mandla effective during his tenure? Will you be renewing your membership? Write in to or talkback below.

Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor.