University of Wollongong technology chief Fiona Rankin has taken out the Education category of the 2017 iTnews Benchmark Awards for her efforts to break down barriers to learning.
Rankin's Early Start program equipped 41 early childhood centres in rural and remote areas of Australia with technologies like video conferencing, iPads, and smart whiteboards and tables to give every child "the best start in life" regardless of their location.
The university also built a facility at its own campus that educators and students can attend physically or remotely link into to access research and discovery tools and experiences.
The project has already started to generate income from commercial research.
However, the less tangible benefits will come from giving remote students and their teachers the kind of learning and research opportunities that previously would have been out of reach.
"There are so many people and organisations that have contributed to the vision of the Early Start Program and made it reality - including the Abbott foundation, state and federal governments and funding from the University of Wollongong," Rankin said.
"I accept this award knowing I’m surrounded by creative, exceptional, insightful, and talented professionals who are deeply committed to good outcomes. This includes the amazing UOW researchers and academics.
"I have to thank the IT team which includes the unique Karen Love, my technology project manager who was and remains a true hero."
Rankin rose to the top of a competitive category that included Deakin University CDO William Confalonieri's cARdiac ECG augmented reality application for medical students, and the University of Queensland's David Abramson for his MeDiCI data storage fabric.
Winners were announced at the iTnews Benchmark Awards held as part of Adapt Venture's CIO Edge Experience at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.