Elizabeth Sparrow was born in Ealing, in 1952, and throughout her education did well, especially at maths, which she found relatively easy. She studied at Southampton University, (1970 - 1973) and, after achieving a BSc Honours degree, did one year’s practical work experience at the Science Museum, before doing a Master’s Degree in Information Studies at Sheffield University.
Elizabeth initially worked at the British Library in bibliographic services, where she could use her information analysis experience. She was involved in computerising their library catalogues. She later took over a role as a systems analyst at the library, which was her first step into an IT role. In 1980 she suggested that the process of converting the many catalogue records over to a new standard could be computerised. Her final role at the British Library was Head of Management Information.
Elizabeth moved on to The Crown Suppliers, a self-financing business within government that provided anything that was needed by civil servants, embassies, and even spies. She was recruited into The Crown Suppliers finance division to be their representative on a major IT project, then promoted to Head of the Secretariat of the Board. At the same time, Elizabeth took the opportunity to get herself a certified diploma in accounting and finance.
Later, when the government tried to privatise the IT department of Crown Suppliers, Elizabeth got promoted to be the IT director for this organisation. Unfortunately, the government failed to find a buyer and closed the organisation down prompting Elizabeth to move to the Home Office where she was the project manager for a new integrated corporate accounting system called BASS.
Elizabeth was eventually promoted to be Head of IT at the Home Office. While there, Elizabeth introduced a completely new approach to upgrading the infrastructure, resulting in a migration of two and a half thousand users onto an up-to-date Windows platform in less than six months.
At the beginning of the new millennium she resigned from the Civil Service to set up her own consultancy business - Sparrow Associates. Her clients included NatWest Bank Card Services and One2One mobile.
In 2003 Elizabeth wrote her first book, Successful IT Outsourcing, followed a couple of years later by A Guide to Global Sourcing.
A member since the 1990s, Elizabeth set up and chaired the Offshoring group, looking at the whole question of how offshoring would impact on the IT profession in the UK; still very relevant today.
Elizabeth held various roles until she eventually became BCS President in 2009. Whilst in office she worked on a series of public engagement projects - Information Pioneers, Savvy Citizens, the Information Dividend, and Digital Revolutions.
Elizabeth has been actively involved with various charities, including AbilityNet and WaterAid. Elizabeth is currently a director at Healthwatch City of London, and a trustee at Barts Guild, the Friends of Barts Hospital. She provides both with help and advice on their IT needs.
Elizabeth was a member of the group that set up the Charity IT Association, which provides consultancy help to small charities that can’t afford to buy in IT expertise. She currently chairs the School of Computing and Communications Industrial Advisory Board within the Open University.
Elizabeth feels the opportunities for IT professionals are limitless, but that one of the challenges is to recognise and embrace the rapid pace of change in technology. She feels that we all need to widen our horizons to see how much we can achieve for society by applying IT in an intelligent and well-informed way.
Archives of IT is a registered charity no. 1164198 which receives support from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and the charity of The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.