TECHNOLOGISTS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, MR PHILIP ARGY FACS ACS PRESIDENT
Phil Argy said that simple word was needed to describe what ICT people do. His suggestion was "technologist" with a selectable adjectives in front of it, such as "software".
He then went on to talk about regulation of the ICT profession. He used the example of programing a robot for safety and argued this is an application where professionalism is clearly needed. He suggested that Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" influenced the movie "2001 a Space Odyssey" with the fictional HAL 9000 computer. They are explicitly quoted in the later film "I Robot", which is loosely based on Asimov's stories. Roger Clarke wrote a two part paper on the application of the laws to computing.
Phil when on to use an analogy with the push for environmental sensitivity in business, arguing employing a professional will show your business is supporting ethical business. Environmental issues in ICT turned out to be a theme which several speakers raised during the conference. Perhaps the ACS should be supporting environmental concerns in the ICT business. Computers and telecommunications (and the air conditioning for them) use a significant amount of energy in business. Routers, broadband modems, and computer in the home are also consuming more electricity. We might even earn some carbon credits from energy reduction moves. ;-)
Phil's quick definition of ethics is: "Doing the right thing even when no one looking". He used the example of including a secret code in software to stop it if the customer does not pay.
His third argument for professionalism was that ICT professionals are needed to support Australian exports. He argued that in three to five years time India and China will need to import ICT expertise and Australians were welcome. He gave the example of China getting10M new mobile phones a month (I saw this first hand on a visit to Beijing. This of course assumes that the Chinese economy does not collapse later this year, as predicted by George Friedman. ;-)
* THE FUTURE OF ONLINE CITIZEN-GOVERNMENT ENGAGEMENT IN AUSTRALIA, THE HON GARY NAIRN MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO AND SPECIAL MINISTER OF STATE
The Minister mentioned his former career as a professional surveyor and made parallels with the ICT profession He said how that profession had regulation for 100 years, with reciprocal licensing across all Australian states and NZ.
The Minister has responsibility for AGIMO. He said he has had a battle with other minsters to get their departments to use the central government web site run by AGIMO for their advertising campaigns. AGIMO mentioned this initiative at a Web Standards Group meeting some months ago. Instead of each agency using a different web address in advertising campaigns, the one standard address is used, with the campaign acronym on the end.
The Minister said the Australian Government Entry Point has 400,000 people a month visiting (which sounds low to me).
The Minister gave the FunnelBack search engine a plug (spinoff from CSIRO). He mentioned a geo-spatial test on the web site. I gave the service a quick try and it seems to work okay. It gives you a map of government services:
"We would appreciate your comments regarding the usefulness or accuracy of the map content; map features you would like to see; how easy it is to use the maps; or any other aspect of the Service Locator Trial. You can complete the Service Locator Trial Survey to provide your feedback."The Minister said that geo-spatial data sets need to be coordinated to help with environment issues, particularly water conservation. This issue came up in Dr Markus Buchhorn's talk later in the day at the ANU. He should chat with the Minister on how to use the technology for water conservation in the Eden-Monaro. ;-)
The Minister mentioned the "single signon" for online government services. This was demonstrated at a WSG meeting some time ago. It would be useful and raises some significant technical and security issues, but far fewer than the Access Card.
The Minister mentioned the shortage of ICT people in the public service and the 75 apprentices in nine agencies. This is a good scheme, provided the apprentices do actually go on to get education and are not lured into just full time work due to the skills shortage.
At the end of his talk the Minister surprised the audience by announcing eight principles for ICT-enabled citizen engagement. There was no media release or document with the announcement, but I gleaned some details from the AGIMO web site.
There was then a question time:
Pat Barrett, Senior Fellow at the ANU and former Australian auditor-general, asked about retention of the apprentices in the public sector, and what would stop them getting jobs in companies after they were trained. The Minister replied this was being considering it, but skilled staff would benefit Australia, even if they were lost to the public sector.
I then asked: "Minister, there is a limited trial of electronic voting planned for the next election. So I set the ethics of this as an assignment for my computer students at the ANU. In the process I noticed that the Australian Electoral Commission does not appear to have made much progress setting up for the trial. Are you confident they are giving the project sufficient priority?"
The Minister replied there were to be two trials: one for Defence personnel, working via a Defence secure network and one for disabled people at 30 booths around Australia. He emphasized these are no Internet voting trails. He said it better be ready as he is the responsible minister. The AEC is aiming to be ready by 4 August, which is the earliest plausible election date.
Someone then asked about the public's confidence in the security of single signon. He replied that education was needed, as the security of the online systems was in many cases much higher than current paper based systems and much better than commercial ones.
The minister did a very credible job, showing a grasp of the topics and willingness to answer some tricky questions and answer them well.
* A NEW ERA FOR CUSTOMS IT, MR MURRAY HARRISON, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE
Murray Harrison started his talk by demonstrating the security of his password protected Windows Visa Laptop and flash drive. He showed how the new customs system will allow secure access for officers around Australia.
I was a little skeptical of the demonstration and would not put that level of faith in this technology. He gave as a example using the system in a QANTAS airport lounge. I laughed at this point and he asked why, so I asked him if staff were going to be trained in keeping their information secure, given a senior military officer suffered embarrassment after leaving sensitive information in an airport lounge. He said this was being done in conjunction with system introduction. Perhaps Customs need to make a bulk purchase of lanyards to secure their electronic security tags. ;-)
Murray talked about what Customs were planning to do with ICT in the future, but did not go into detail. This contrasts with his presentation to the 2004 conference, when he discussed the "Implementing the Customs Cargo Management Reengineering System" in detail. That project now seems to be largey over the criticism it suffered.
* SHERYLE MOON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION THE 5TH UTILITY, MS SHERYLE MOON MACS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AIIA
Sheryle talked about AIIA initiatives with industry and government, including those to address the skills shortage. She mentioned the CSIRO water saving shower which "hollows out the water". She also she mentioned energy use by computers as an environmental issue and NICTA's work on water management technology.
On the topic of the skills shortage, Sheryle pointed out that there are few statistics on how many students have a second degree in IT.
On the topic of globalism, Sheryle said that AIIA are having a Borderless World Conference:
Built on collaborative innovation, integrated production and outsourcing to specialists, the new model corporation bases its services where the expertise and skills lie, disregarding geographic borders.On a less serious note, Sheryle mentioned the high rate of use of communications in modern families, with spouses e-mailing, phoning and SMSing to remind their forgetful partners of tasks. I have arranged for Sheryle to talk at ANU next week. A team of students is programming a GPS smart phone, so perhaps they target it at family applications:
- How do these borderless enterprises reshape geopolitics, trade, leadership, workforces and education?
- What is Australia’s place in a borderless world?
- How does this new model affect the Australian SME?
- How do SMEs and MNCs collaborate in this new world?
- What is Australia’s innovation value proposition?
"... the built in phone would refuse to take any calls while your car was in motion. The automated voice response system would say on your behalf "Yes dear, I am on his way to pick up the kids, ETA is 2 minutes. I have parking slot 3 reserved in the school queuing system. Press 1 if you want me to get some milk on the way home, press 2 for bread ...". ;-)* THE FUTURE TRENDS AND CHALLENGES OF HIGH TECH CRIME INVESTIGATIONS, FEDERAL AGENT NIGEL PHAIR, TEAM LEADER AUSTRALIAN HITECH CRIME CENTRE
Nigel gave the most entertaining talk of the morning, with diagrams generated by the intelligence analysis software used by crime investigators to track online attacks. He talked about the risks of criminality online, including to children in services such as Second Life. He mentioned the use of money transfer services by terrorists. One comment was the problem with jurisdictions where Spam laws are "opt out" unlike Australia's "Opt In" laws.
About then the batter started to go in my laptop and I decided to sit back and enjoy the event.