Name: Abel Pires da Silva
Institution: Australian National University, Canberra.
Course of study: PhD Information Systems
Dr Abel Pires da Silva, Australia Awards Alumni and Member of Parliament, has big plans to develop Timor-Leste’s Information Technology. He started his journey to improve his countries information and communications technology when he was just 12 years old and first realised how much he liked computers.
At 14, leaving his Aldeia in the mountains of Suai, he came to Dili to enrol on a computer course where he was top of his class.
Abel went on to study in Indonesia, graduating with a BA in Engineering. In 2005 he secured his first Australia Awards scholarship to study for a Masters in Information Technology at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. And then in 2009 he was awarded a second scholarship, gaining his doctorate in Information Systems at The Australian National University, Canberra.
Abel credits his studies in Australia as transformational. Not only did the experience change his perspective, but it also trained him to challenge assumptions and to see problems from different angles – skills which he’s finding invaluable in his current role as Head of Infrastructure Committee in Timor-Leste’s National Government.
Abel wants to use technology to support his countries development. In 4/5 years’ time he’s aiming to integrate data across the civil service via a national database and to ensure faster internet connections supporting online shopping and delivery. His ultimate goal is to use IT to develop a sustainable “Knowledge Based Economy” in Timor-Leste, helping transform the country’s current oil and gas based economy to one which is more sustainable.
His ambitious plans are not without challenges, the biggest he currently faces is getting decision makers to understand the benefits of adopting a long-term vision for information technology projects.
When he was young, during Indonesia times, Abel was an activist, but now as a member of parliament in Asia’s youngest democracy he’s learnt a different persuasive approach is required. He recognises that if he’s going to change things and be able to propose new policies and ideas, he needs to be in the system to influence decisions.
At 41, Abel is one of the youngest members of the National Parliament. His advice to Timor-Leste’s youth – currently 60% of the population – is to ‘follow your heart and focus on things which are good for you and for your community’.
It’s clear that Abel is not only a great role model for young people, but is also an inspiring ambassador for the Australia Awards.