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CIO50 2021 #13: Danushka Abeysuriya, Rush Digital

  • Name Danushka Abeysuriya
  • Title CTO and CISO
  • Company Rush Digital
  • Commenced role August 2019
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 38 staff, three direct reports
  • As founder and CTO of a technology services business, Danushka Abeysuria says he needs to be the constant champion for Rush Digital to prioritise taking on innovative, impactful technology projects and managing the risks involved to ensure they become scaled-up successes, be it in revenue, social impact and oftentimes, both.

    One of the most significant, recent examples is the NZ COVID Tracer app. The level of uncertainty in early 2020 brought a high-risk factor of being involved in such a ground-breaking and substantial project. The company worked closely with the Ministry of Health to deliver a unique decentralised solution which prioritised user privacy and data security.

    The NZ COVID Tracer App remains an important tool to New Zealand in the country's ongoing skirmish with COVID-19. The app is still helping contact tracing speed immensely, while remaining easy to use and crucially, citizen-privacy centered. It’s the first example of a consumer-facing, privacy aware, government app which gives health information and contact tracing control to citizens.

    Along with receiving multiple awards and nominations for this innovation, Rush Digital secured international contracts with the UK’s National Health Service to implement a similar QR code technology solution for the NHS ‘Test and Trace’ app, and the Cook Islands Government to develop the interoperable Bluetooth tracing technology for their app, CookSafe.

    “Along the way, my role inside Rush was to ensure these innovative technologies could be implemented at scale, taking into consideration things such as: technology scalability (serving 10’s of millions of requests per day), security compliance across the UK NHS and NZ Ministry of Health, down to helping solve the architecture for each implementation for cost and DIFOT given the tough delivery schedule that was needed,” Abeysuria says.

    “Our pandemic tech work has also led to RUSH becoming a proud contributor to COVID Green, the Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH) open source software to help public health authorities around the world combat COVID-19 and future epidemics.”

    Another notable innovation is the development of the company’s proprietary R/VISION platform which makes Computer Vision accessible for any organisation by providing a turn-key ‘AI-Enabled’ software and hardware solution. The primary use cases for this technology include business compliance and automation based on vehicle license plates and general object detection. The software is commoditising access to AI automation for tasks such as health and safety compliance, pay-by-plate frictionless payments, digital loyalty, vehicle and crowd analytics, security automation such as stolen vehicle alerting and hazard or trespass alerting.

    Rush Digital ranked 174th out of 500 on the Financial Times Asia-Pacific High-Growth Companies 2021, one of only ten New Zealand companies, and increased forecast revenues and EBITDA despite a significant decrease in spend by our then-largest client.

    Valuing diversity and inclusion

    Abeysuria says that as a child of immigrants ­— his parents immigrated from Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe and then to New Zealand when he was a child — he “deeply values the inclusion of different backgrounds, values, and beliefs within our business as we can challenge our own thinking with varying perspectives.”

    “With a team of nearly 100 people our recruitment, and learning and development programme, ensures everyone is given an equal chance to excel and progress in their chosen fields, as well as providing tools to share feedback and improve,” he says.

    One ongoing initiative is providing opportunities for employees to expand their awareness and exposure to diverse thinking from guest speakers; a recent example being a neurodiverse individual who highlighted the strengths that employees with dyslexia or Autism Spectrum disorders can bring to our workplace. This helps to keep conversations open-ended and allow our employees to feel heard, included and valued. “Rush and I also strive to live what it believes, through supporting the founding and mentoring of initiatives like Take2.org and supporting events and thought leadership through events such as Women in Tech.”

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