Friday, November 27, 2009

AARNet and the Internet in Australia

The book "AARNet – 20 years of the Internet in Australia" (ISBN 9780646521114) by Glenda Korporaal was launched yesterday. This claims to document the role of the Australia Academic and Research Network (AARNet) had in introducing the Internet to Australia. Unfortunately AARNet decided not to make their book about the Internet available via the Internet.

This decision is symptomatic of the problems which have plagued AARNet. The organisation has excellent technical skills and is still at the forefront of applying the Internet to research and education. However, AARNet after making a bold move into a new technology tends loose it nerve and fails to follow up and make effective use of the what it has done. In this case they have commissioned a book, but ensured almost no one will ever read it, by not making it available using the technology they advocate.

The message AARnet is sending out to its clients in Australian universities and to its backers (the Australian Government), is that AARnet does not think the Internet is suitable for the distribution of important information: AARnet prefers paper delivery.

AARnet could have provided the book online, as a valuable educational resource. Australian students could have then learned about the role which Australian played in creating the Internet. Instead Australians will be educated using materials from other countries and not know Australia had a role in development of the Internet.

During the early years of the Internet I was asked by MPs and senior policy makers in Canberra (and still am) who were the important people in the world to talk to about the Internet, the web and other IT developments. When asked this in Parliament House I would point in the direction of the ANU, CSIRO and other research bodies saying: "down there". The response would usually be "no we don't want to talk to Australians, we want world leaders". AARNet are perpetuating that problem by failing to get their message out.

As well as not making the content of the book available online, AARNet do not seem to have made the paper book available either. I was unable to find the book on, nor anywhere else on the Internet. About the only way to get the book seems to be ask AARNet and at some time in the future they might tell you where it is available.

1 comment:

eduroam coverage said...

The book AARNet has launched has a limited print run as it meant to be a commemorative keepsake. However, we have limited copies available for sale through AARNet’s website and we endeavour to provide a response to enquiries as soon as possible. AARNet intends to distribute these books to libraries around Australia in the future and we anticipate this to commence from December 2009. Depending on the public’s interest, we may consider making the book available through other formats or distribution channels.

James Sankar