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The CIO as peacekeeper

Divina Paredes | Aug. 30, 2013
In the next six months, John Holley will be taking time off from being an ICT executive to work in an area where few, if any, CIOs venture.

In the next six months, John Holley will be taking time off from being an ICT executive to work in an area where few, if any, CIOs venture.

Holley is leaving at the end of this month to become the deputy planning officer for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

"I will be assisting in the planning of UN operations in South Sudan, which is the newest country in the world," Holley says in an interview on the eve of his departure to the east-African nation just established in July 2011.

"The UN's job is to encourage and support a stable government in order to enable progress in good governance, allowing it to develop and flourish, because if you don't have that stability that is where the problems occur," says Holley, who will be based in Juba, the capital.

Holley left his role as general manager operations for Visible Results, to be able to take this mission. He is a reserve officer at the New Zealand Army, and has held several ICT executive roles, including CIO of the Auckland Regional Council.

He says the South Sudan assignment is a 'step up' from his previous assignment to East Timor in 2001, where he was a planning officer for the New Zealand Battalion, with 700 members.

He describes his new workplace as "an amazing country on the banks of the White Nile", surrounded by Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan.

The difference with East Timor? "Bigger arena and different problems," says Holley.

He says South Sudan has oil reserves, so economically East Timor is much more behind. There are similar issues, though, with regards to health and having just basic facilities.

"A lot of the infrastructure is not there, clean potable water is a challenge."

When it comes to how Holley melds his CIO role with that of being a reserve officer in the Army, he says, "I can certainly bring the IT expertise to the army, but certainly I find in my civilian life you don't tend to get the formal training in operational and strategic planning or leadership.

"The army is giving a whole extra set of skills that you will not normally get as a CIO basically."

He says since his junior days in the Army, he has been "trained extensively" on tactical, operational and strategic planning. He has also taught the same at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

"I understand the military but I also understand how the political world works as well and the economics," he says, on what he will bring to the role. "It is an an ideal role for someone in the Reserve forces because you bring your civilian environment and your military background as well and blend them.


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