Monday, February 28, 2011

Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention

The book "Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention" from the World Bank and United Nations, will be discussed 9 March 2011 at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Event Type: Other

Title: Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention

Venue: Canberry/Springbank Room

Date: 9/3/11

Time 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Description: Earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms are natural hazards, but unnatural disasters are the deaths and damages that result from human acts of omission and commission. Every disaster is unique, but each exposes actions—by individuals and governments at different levels—that, had they been different, would have resulted in fewer deaths and less damage. Prevention is possible, and this book examines what it takes to do this cost-effectively.

Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters looks at disasters primarily through an economic lens. Economists emphasize self-interest to explain how people choose the amount of prevention, insurance, and coping. But lenses can distort as well as sharpen images, so the book also draws from other disciplines: psychology to examine how people may misperceive risks, political science to understand voting patterns, and nutrition science to see how stunting in children after a disaster impairs cognitive abilities and productivity as adults much later. It asks not only the tough questions, but some unexpected ones as well: Should all disasters be prevented? Do disasters increase or decrease conflict? Does foreign aid help or hinder prevention? The answers are not obvious. Peering into the future, it finds that growing cities and a changing climate will shape the disaster prevention landscape. While it is cautious about the future, it is not alarmist.

Please RSVP to by Friday, 4 February 2011.
Light lunch will be provided
Inquiries contact Christina Apps 02 6125 0178


02 6125 0178

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Broadband for Environment and Education

Note: this is a HTML version of Submission 17 to the Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network, received by the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, 14 February 2011.

Broadband for a Broad Land: The role and potential benefits of the National Broadband Network the for Environment and Education

Submission to the Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM

PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia t: 0419496150

Version 1, 13 February 2011

About the Author

Tom Worthington is an independent IT consultant, an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science at The Australian National University and a Visiting Scientist at the CSIRO ICT Centre. He has been an expert witness in several court cases involving international patent, computer, web and Internet issues, as well as advising governments and companies on computer problems. He is a course designer and teacher for vocational and postgraduate university courses on e-records management, green ICT, the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. Tom is a Certified Professional, past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This submission is made as an individual and may not reflect the views of any of the organizations mentioned.


This submission addresses two issues: the environmental costs and benefits of the NBN and its role in education.

The Australian Parliament has invited submissions for an Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network (the Inquiry) by 5 February 2011. This is a very important topic, as while billions of dollars have been committed to building a broadband network, little thought or investment has gone into what it might be used for.

The cost of the NBN (about $43B over 8 years) should be seen in perspective with other public expenditure. As an example Australian public expenditure on education each year is 4.5% of GDP (from "Education in Australia", OECD, 2008), or about $56B (based on the OECD States Extract estimate of Australian GDP of $1,253,121.0 for 2009). If the NBN achieved a 10% saving in the cost of education, this would pay for the capital cost of the entire network in eight.

The role of the NBN in chaining the way Australia does business should also not be under estimated. Presently work on reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, even by a modest amount are stalled. In 2008 the Climate Group estimated that ICT could reduce carbon emissions by 15%. Effective use of the NBN could result in a larger carbon emissions saving while lowering costs to the economy at the same time.

Previous Broadband Inquiries

In the mid 1990s a series of Australian parliamentary inquiries looked into the role of what was then called the "Information Superhighway". There was a broad consensus across political parties that policies and investment by government to encourage what became known as the Internet was in the public interest. Roger Clarke wrote "Vision for a Networked Nation" in 1994, with my assistance, and we submitted it on Behalf of the Australian Computer Society to several of the inquiries. Successive state and federal Australian governments drew on the rhetoric and the specific proposals from these enquiries. Most notable was Networking the Nation (DCITA 1996).
Also state and federal government implemented the idea of funding Internet access in public libraries.

Recent public debate has become bogged down in the technical details of how to implement the NBN and its cost. Little tought has gone into how government, households and businesses will effectively use such a service. Of itself the NBN will do little, as people will need training in how to use the NBN to make it of value.

The NBN could greatly benefit the Australian community, culturally, economically and environmentally. Australians will have better access to medical, financial and educational services, particularly in regional areas. However, the NBN will only provide the technical link for households and small businesses. To provide a useful service, cultural, educational, medical, financial and government services need to be provided online and staff trained to use them to provide useful services.

In many cases the necessary network connections are already in place for medium to large organisations to provide services via the NBN, but appropriate software, procedures and trained staff are also needed. The cost of training staff and the community to use the NBN will be higher than the capital of the NBN . However, if that training is incorporated into normal staff training, schooling and community education, the overall cost can be lower. The NBN can pay for itself in savings for education alone.

Terms of Reference

The NBN Inquiry Terms of Reference, listed listed eight areas to examine, in relation to the capacity of the National Broadband Network:the delivery of government services and programs:

  1. achieving health outcomes;

  2. improving the educational resources and training available for teachers and students;

  3. the management of Australia's built and natural resources and environmental sustainability;

  4. impacting regional economic growth and employment opportunities;

  5. impacting business efficiencies and revenues, particularly for small and medium business, and Australia's export market;

  6. interaction with research and development and related innovation investments;

  7. facilitating community and social benefits; and

  8. the optimal capacity and technological requirements of a network to deliver these outcomes.

From: Terms of Reference, Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network, House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, House of Representatives, Australian Parliament, 16 November 2010

The eight areas can be grouped into four broad categories:

  1. Social impacts:

    1. achieving health outcomes;

    2. improving the educational resources and training available for teachers and students;

    3. facilitating community and social benefits;

  2. Regional and environmental impacts:

    1. the management of Australia's built and natural resources and environmental sustainability;

    2. impacting regional economic growth and employment opportunities;

  3. Business impacts:

    1. impacting business efficiencies and revenues, particularly for small and medium business, and Australia's export market;

    2. interaction with research and development and related innovation investments;

  4. Requirements:

    1. the optimal capacity and technological requirements of a network to deliver these outcomes.

The fourth area "Requirements" differs from the other three, in that it is about what is needed from the NBN to achieve favourable outcomes in the other areas.

What is the NBN?

The two Key Objectives for the NBN, as set down in the NBN Co. Corporate Plan, are to

  • Connect homes, schools and workplaces with optical fibre (fibre to the premises or 'FTTP'), providing broadband services to Australians in urban and regional towns with speeds of 100 megabits per second - 100 times faster than those currently used by most people extending to towns with a population of around 1,000 or more people;

  • Use next generation wireless and satellite technologies that will be able to deliver 12 megabits per second or more to people living in more remote parts of Australia; ...

National Broadband Network Corporate Plan 2011 – 2013 (NBN Co., 17 December 2010),

The NBN is in essence about delivering broadband to homes, schools and workplaces. The most significant aspect in terms of social policy is delivery to homes. It is likely that this will be the area it has most impact in terms of education, health, the environment, business and employment.

The NBN will deliver two different levels of service: 100 mbps in the city and 12 mbps in the country. There is a risk that this will make greater the disadvantages of distance. Services which require more than 12 mbps will only be available to city residents. However, 12 mbps is sufficient for many current and foreseen online services and so is more likely to lessen the disadvantages of regional areas. Also many online services are now being designed for use with wireless smart phone and tablet devices, which will have much less than 100 mbps capacity, making a 12 mbps connection more than adequate.

Delivery of broadband to schools was already under-way through other government programs and so the NBN will have little direct impact on broadband use on school premises. Similarly, organisations having medium to large offices are able to arrange the installation of high speed broadband and so the NBN will have little direct impact on these. It is in the area of micro and small business and in home users where the NBN can have more impact.

The NBN will have an impact on education, business and employment by allowing greater access from homes. Activities which previously required people to meet at a central location will be able to be done online from home. This will have a profound effect on education, government and business, at a local, national and international level.

The main issues for the NBN are not technological, but social, in terms of how people interact: how much will they use the NBN in place of face to face contact? The NBN can reduce financial, social and environmental costs by replacing travel to school, shop or office with online communication. But how many will use this and what might be the side effects?

NBN and the Environment

NBN can reduce dependence on transport of people and goods, thus reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008 the Climate Group estimated that ICT could reduce carbon emissions by 15%. However, this will not happen without explicit planning and investment. In the absence of planning and investment, there is a risk the NBN will harm the environment through the creation of Electronic waste ("e-waste").

Each NBN fibre optic node in a household will require a battery to provide service in the event of a mains power failure. Without such a backup, 000 emergency phone calls will not be available via the NBN, nor will back to base fire-alarms, or medical alert systems operate. Replacement of millions of batteries in the NBN equipment, containing toxic materials, represents a risk to the environment from improper disposal.

The consumer equipment made obsolete by the NBN will also contribute to e-waste. The NBN will make obsolete millions of ADSL modems, which will require disposal. An example of where this problem is now occurring is with the transition to digital TV. The Australian government has a long term plan to replace analogue with digital TV transmission. However, no provision has been made for disposal of millions of obsolete analogue TVs, which may end up in landfill.

The NBN will also be a major consumer of energy in Australia and may increase greenhouse gas emissions. The NBN is primarily a Passive Optical Network (PON). This is relatively efficient in its use of energy, as reported by Zhang and others in "Energy Efficiency in Telecom Optical Networks" (Communications Surveys & Tutorials, IEEE , vol.12, no.4, pp.441-458, Fourth Quarter 2010). However, for a given technology, as the data rate increases, so does the power consumption. Most of the time, most of the NBN will be carrying little or no data. The equipment used should therefore be designed to switch to a low power mode to conserve energy when possible.

The NBN could reduce energy use in Australia through "dematerialisation", that is replacing physical goods and activities with network based alternatives. Examples of de-materialisation include replacing travelling to meetings with videoconferencing and paper documents with electronic ones. This saves the energy used in transporting people and paper from place to place. However, it requires the people to be trained in how to work effectively online. As an example, Australian MPs are provided with computer networking to their electorate offices, but this system is not used for conducting parliamentary proceedings. Such use would require MPs and their staff to be trained in how to use such a system (and some minor changes to parliamentary rules).

NBN and Education

The NBN could revolutionise education in Australia. However, this requires coordination of education resources and planning. In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia the Prime Minister discussed the need for "Skills for the Future", with education at schools, vocational education at TAFE and university education. However, at present those education sectors are handled in a fragmented way, with duplicated underused facilities.

Australia is a world leader in e-learning, with the Australian developed Moodle open source software being deployed in schools, vocational education and universities. The same software tools, online facilities and educational techniques are applied from school through TAFE to tertiary education. The US Government's "National Education Technology Plan 2010" (November 2010) provides one model for the use of technology to assist education.

A revolution is now taking place in the design of physical educational facilities. "Learning Commons" with flexible classroom designs are being built at schools and universities. However, the different education sectors are duplicating the work needed for both online learning and for physical infrastructure, with the federal and state governments paying for this unnecessary duplication.

As an example of how resources can be used more efficiently, the Australian National University uses Moodle for pure e-learning courses, such as Green Information Technology Strategies COMP7310. The ANU also uses the same software for blended online/classroom Engineering 'Hubs and Spokes' Project in collaboration with the University of South Australia. The allows advanced courses presented by world leaders in their field to be made available to more students. The use of online systems also lowers the energy use and therefore greenhouse gas emissions by replacing classrooms with e-learning and reducing the need for students and staff to travel to a campus. Teaching skills can also be shared between institutions.

The Australian federal and state governments have jointly funded programs to educate school and university teachers on how to use online education, including EdNa and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. These provide the opportunity for not only improving Australian education but also maintain Australia's major export industry in educating international students.

It should be noted that the NBN represents a risk, as well as an opportunity. Not only will the NBN allow Australian students to enrol in Australian courses online, but they can equally choose to bypass Australian institutions and enrol in overseas courses. The international agreements which Australia has concluded for access to education with countries such as India, not only allows Indian students to study in Australia, but allows Australian students to study in India. Students need not leave home to study overseas. If Australia does not continue to innovate in the education sector, it will not only loose the valuable market for overseas students, but will also loose its domestic education market to overseas suppliers.

Some early use of the technology provides pointers for the future. Australian educators are pioneering the use of online education. This shows that online education cannot completely replace face-to-face teaching, particularly for younger students. A blended (hybrid) mode of education has been adopted in many areas. With this the student undertakes part of a course online and partly in a classroom. However, provision of broadband at home and in educational facilities is the simplest and least expensive part of the process.

The blended mode of education will require retraining of teachers, restructuring of courses and the remodelling of buildings. The cost of this restructuring of the Australian education sector will dwarf the cost of the NBN itself. The logistical and political complexity of changing the education system will be far higher than for the implementation of the NBN.

The cost and complexity of remodelling Australian classrooms to take advantage of the NBN will be far larger than the $14.2b Primary Schools for the 21st Century component of the Australian Government's "Building the Education Revolution". It has been assumed that providing broadband to schools involves providing a fibre cable to the premises and perhaps some re-cabling to deliver it to classrooms. However, to gain educational benefit from the broadband requires a change in the way education is done and the redesign of the classrooms to accommodate this, turning them into "learning commons".

One aspect of the change to education which will be less difficult is the curriculum. The work by federal and state government on a National Curriculum for Kindergarten to Year 12, will provide a useful framework for work on integrating online education into schools. This will allow resources to be shared across geographic and organisational boundaries. Students in different locations can share the same course materials, take part in the same classes and be part of study groups. Use of online educational facilities can greatly enhance the national curriculum, reduce the cost of its implementation and speed its introduction.

Australian Learning Commons Proposal

As an example of policy to augment the NBN, it is suggested that all Australians be offered free online publicly accessible education from pre-school to university level. This would be supported through a program of multi-use schools, vocational education and university campuses equipped to provide public facilities.

Multi-use school buildings

The current model of education in Australia is that students enrol in a educational institution associated with exclusive use of a particular physical location. This should change to so that a student enrols in a course online and then attends face-to-face classes, when necessary, at the most convenient physical facility. Schools, public libraries, vocational and unviersity education can all be provided in the same shared buildings. This will lower the cost of education and increase access to education.

The new $72.4 million Gungahlin College in Canberra provides a good example of this approach. The College will accommodate 900 upper secondary students and includes a CIT learning centre (for vocational TAFE education). The college library will be available to the community, providing learning rooms for both child and adult students.

The Gungahlin College is planned to have a 5 Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. The ACT Government aims to install photovoltaic (solar power) systems at all public schools over the next four years. One enhancement I would suggest is extra investment so that the solar panels can provide emergency power to the buildings during blackouts. This way the schools can be used as emergency centres during disasters. As recent flooding in Queensland has highlighted, standard solar panels cease to provide power when mains power is lost.

Online educational materials available to all Australians

eLearning Services at the Queensland Department of Education and Training has made ‘virtual classroom’ spaces available for students where the January 2011 floods have disrupted normal classes. This, and similar initiatives, could be expanded to to provide educational resources to students across Australia. Rather than online support for education being a special exception made in an emergency, materials and support could be made as a normal and routine part of education at all levels.

The Queensland Department of Education is providing Maths, English & Science materials, including:

  • Resources - self-paced digital learning resources by year level

  • Activities - self-paced structured lessons by year level

  • Programs - self-paced vodcasts or daily scheduled multimedia events by year level

There is also a special collaborative project Healing words - Helping hands for Education Queensland teachers to discuss the floods and share experiences.

Despite work on a national curriculum, educational system (state or non-government), individual teachers have to find materials to teach. Sharing of materials can be facilitated by the use of Creative Commons licensing, which allows any teacher to use the materials produced by any Australian educator, without the need for separate permission or payment of fees.

References and Background

This document contains hypertext links. Please check the committee web site for an electronic copy with the links:

Background on preparation of this submission is at:

Note: this is a HTML version of Submission 017 to the Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network, received by the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, 14 February 2011.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Designing for Dialogue

Lyn Stephens, Director of the Australian Centre for Dialogue Project dropped in on Friday. The project's aim is to provide facilities people to discuss issues of public interest. Lyn wanted to see how technology could help foster discussion, both in real and virtual spaces, so visited me at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Purple Pickle

First stop was the Purple Pickle Cafe. Located in the sports building opposite the engineering building, this provides an informal place for people to meet and discuss ideas. The Cafe is serviced by the university wireless network, so hand held computers can be used. But this is primarily a place for people to people communication. The lack of walls allows people to have seemingly chance encounters which would not be feasible in offices or meeting rooms. A similar function is carried out by Aussies Café in Parliament House.


Next stop was the famous room N101, the seminar room shared by the Research School of Computer Science and the CSIRO ICT centre. This is in the purpose designed Computer Science and Information Technology Building. Room N101 has been the location for numerious seminars, some of which have changed the direction of the computer industry, the Austrlaian government and society. Some events were Senator Lundy's Public Sphere #1 – High Bandwidth for Australia, and BarCamp Canberra 2010.

The room is shaped like a wedge of lemon, with the point cut off. There is floor to ceiling glass around the curve and doors allowing events to flow out into the gardens. For formal presentations, chairs are arranged in curved rows focusing on the front wall.

The front wall was previously painted white, with three video projectors forming a wall to wall floor to ceiling high resolution Access Grid node. However, the access grid proved inflexible for general use and has been replaced. At the same time a small platform at the front of the room has been removed, making a completely flat floor.

N101 is now equipped with a standard unviersity computer console and screen. This provides a computer linked to a video projector which can be used to present and to also record a podcast (using ANU's bespoke Digital Lecture Delivery System). There are microphones on the ceiling to record audio, along with whatever is projected.

The built-in computer can also access the ANU's Wattle Learning System, allowing the same materials which students use individually on their own computers to be displayed to a group. This includes the Moodle Learning Management System used for providing content and hosting text based forums. There is also access for webinars (web based video and audio real time conferences).

One important aspect of N101's setup is that the same software used for education can also be used for a conference, or for a dialogue. This removes the need to find, install, learn and maintain special software. The same technical support staff who look after the software for the learning system can also support seminars, conferences and dialogue sessions.

On the day Lyn visited a software engineering workshop was taking place, so the furniture was arranged seemingly randomly, with groups of students clustered around wireless laptops, while some used the main screen to rehearse a group presentation. The most important technology in the room is invisible: the wireless networking.

CIST Common Room

Next stop was the CIST staff room. This is a wedge shaped room, the mirror image of N101, on the opposite side of the building. It is usual for the catering for an event in N101 to be provided in the common room. This provides a break from the formality of the seminar room.

A quirk of the design is that there are two septate doors next to each other labelled "ANU" and "CSIRO", but with both doors leading into the same room. The room is mirrored with the CSIRO kitchen on one side and ANU on the other and no physical barrier between. This allows the two organisations to have their own "space", but to literally meet in the middle. A similar subtle form of zoning is now used in learning commons at universities to mark areas for different purposes, without using walls.

Ian Ross Building

Next to the CIST Building and linked by a bridge is the Ian Ross building, which is notable for its passive cooling and movable wall partitions. The ground floor has a space which can be divided in different ways as required, although the new trend is to divide spaces with glass, rather than opaque partitions. The building also holds a Graduate Teaching Room, with the same computer console as N101 and modular tables. The tables can be arranged in rows like a classroom, but are usually arranged cabaret style, for groups of six students.

Engineering Building

Across another link bridge and last stop on the tour was the
Engineering Building. This has a lecture theatre equipped with a power point for each seat, along with the same type of wireless network and computer console as N101.

Floors for the Future

Also I showed Lyn a sample of Cable Management Flooring. While wireless data communications can now be mostly used for data, there is still a need for cables for power in a room. Instead of having fixed locations for wires, these can be run anywhere under the raised floor panels. The panels can also be laid over an existing floor, allowing old buildings to be refurbished.

Flat Floors and Straight Walls Work

The engineering buildings at ANU do not look as exciting as some meeting venues, such as the interactive and multimedia environment used at Greenbuild 2010. Susan S. Szenasy in "Luminous Buildings, Sleepy Rooms" describes this as a "theatre-in-the-round" with visuals projected on a cube hanging from the ceiling. However, Sean Penrith pointed out some flaws in this design in "Greenbuild 2010: EPS Goes TED", with the presenters having to walk and turn to face the audience completely surrounding them, while on a narrow raised platform. They also have to pass one hand held remote control for the projection system between multiple presenters. Rooms such as ANU's N101 provide a practical flexible space. The flat floor, a wedge shape and a well equipped multimedia console, provide for traditional presentations and group interaction.

ps: Build a Library

One aim of the Australian Centre for Dialogue Project is to build a landmark building beside Lake Burley Griffin, near Questacon and the National Library. This is the same location proposed by the Australia Forum for a meeting centre. The two projects are seeing how they can achieve common aims and incorporate online technology to provide meeting facilities beyond a building in Canberra.

One aspect of the proposed location which neither project seems to have incorporated is the adjacent National Library of Australia (NLA). This is one of the world's leading centres in the use of computer based systems for interacting with the public. The NLA was key to the implementation of web sites for the Australian Government, hosting the first government "home page". The library runs regular computer enhanced events and also interacts with the public directly online.

The library is also seen to be at arms length from the Parliament and so could host public discussions, free from the perception of government interference. This is a traditional role for libraries, as dramatically demonstrated by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which played a part in the recent overthrow of the Egyptian government.

Canned Bega Cheese

An unusual souvenir I picked up at the Bega Cheese Factory was a can of Bega Processed Cheese. The 113g tin of cheddar style cheese was $1.20 in the visitors centre. This is exported around the world (the label is in English and Arabic) has an official shelf life of two years. Larger 200g cans are sold individually and in cases on The case seller claims a shelf life of more than 15 years, with it being "idea for outdoorsmen, survivalists and campers".

The cheese factory visitors centre is worth a visit, if you are in the area. The process of making the cheese is traditional, with milk, lactic acid bacteria, rennet, and salt used. The same cheddar style cheese is used for the various styles, with different aging and then later processing.

The high tech part of the process then starts, with large blocks of cheese wrapped by a machine, stacked by a robot and moved to the maturing store by an automated truck. Blocks are cut for traditional cheddar style cheese, with different lengths of maturation. Cutting cheese can be difficult at high speed so ultrasonic cutters are used. The less mature cheese is processed into sticks and slices. Even more high tech is the whey powder plant, which converts the by-product into power for export.

Flood Relief Payments Delayed by Manual Processing

The Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, has apologised for delays in processing of payments from the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal. The Premier has ordered that the process be overhauled. Unfortunately, it appears that the processing was being done manually and there are no plans to change this, so it is unlikely the process will be significantly improved.

The Premier explained that about 100 people were working on processing applications and directed more people be put on this if needed. However, more people are unlikely to greatly speed up a manual processing system. Also diverting government staff to this task will mean they are not available to assist flood victims. Using automation would allow the process to be done in minutes, rather than days.

To Apply for Premier’s Disaster Relief Funds applicants are required to fill in a seven page form. The Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal emergency assistance form is provided as a 54 Kbyte PDF file which can be downloaded. The instructions say "Please use black or blue pen" and to return the form by Fax, Post or in person.

There is no provision to fill the form in online and return it electronically. As a result there will be delays while the form is delivered to the processing centre and further delays and errors as staff then manually transcribe the details from the form into systems to record and check the details.

The Queensland government should consider providing an online version of the form. This could be completed directly by the applicant using their own computer or smart phone, or by staff in a Community Recovery Centre. Much of the processing could then be carried out automatically.

The form could also be made much simpler and easier to fill out by making use of existing government databases. Rather than ask the applicant for details which are then checked against government records, the needed information could be simply extracted from those systems. This would particularly be of use where applicants copies of documentation have been lost in the disaster.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Role of Broadband

There are 47 published submissions to the "Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network" on on the the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications web site. Some which got my attention were:The number of submissions by councils is significant:

AARnet and Two Universities:

Other Organisations:

Others were from individuals:

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Amphibious Ship for Earthquake Relief

    The Royal New Zealand Navy reported that multi-role vessel (MRV) HMNZS Canterbury was alongside in Lyttelton when an earthquake struck on 22 February 2011. The ship was able to immediately begin relief operations.

    Unfortunately Media reports indicate that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has no comparable ships available to assist, with all in for repair.

    This would be an ideal use for Australian designed high speed multi hull vessels. The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) used the Australian designed high speed catamaran “Huakai” to deliver aid to Haiti. The US military are acquiring up to ten similar Fortitude class Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) designed by West Australian based company Austal. Unfortunately the Australian Government has no plans to acquire any of these ships for the Australian Defence Force.

    The Internet and Australia parliamentary democracy

    I was a little surprised to find myself mentioned in "The Internet and Australia parliamentary democracy" by K Magarey (Parliamentary Affairs, Oxford University Press, July 1, 1999):
    Tom Worthington, an influential IT policy commentator, has reflected that the process of the government’s entry to the on-line environment amounted to a process of ‘reconciling traditional bureaucratic culture to accept the anarchic ways of the

    The indispensable university

    "The Indispensable University: Higher Education, Economic Development, and the Knowledge Economy" by Eugene P. Trani, Robert D. Holsworth (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010) discusses the role of the unviersity in the twenty-first century economy. I happened across this book because it references my summary of The Cambridge Phenomenon (on pages 22, 153 and 265).

    Product Description

    The Indispensable University describes the innovative transformation of institutions of higher education (HEIs) across the world, in response to the emerging realities of the twenty-first century global knowledge-based economy, as well as describes how HEIs are defining many of today's economic realities on a regional level. HEIs continue to drive economic development through their traditional roles of purchaser, employer, real estate developer, workforce developer and community developer. But these roles now must be executed more strategically and collaboratively. Also, the twenty-first century economy offers universities unique opportunities to generate the intellectual and financial capital that drives emerging knowledge-based industries. Case studies are drawn from: urban America; rural America; Europe; the Middle East; and emerging countries. Some of the topics covered include the following: the role of university presidents as change leaders; the relationship between higher education institutions and the political leadership of cities, states, and nations; successful models of partnerships between higher education and the private sector; and future challenges and opportunities facing the modern university.

    About the Author

    As the fourth president of Virginia Commonwealth University and the president and chair of the board of directors of the VCU Health System, Eugene P. Trani positioned the university as a key driver in regional and statewide economic development. Currently president emeritus and university distinguished professor at VCU, Trani has authored, co-authored, annotated, and edited eight books and published more than one hundred articles and op-eds, including two major books on foreign policy. Robert D. Holsworth was the founding director of both the Center for Public Policy and the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has authored or co-authored five books and numerous articles on American politics and public policy. His observations on national and Virginia politics have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and numerous other media. He runs the non-partisan political Web site and is a principal in two research and planning groups.

    Product Details

    • Hardcover: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (March 16, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1607090791
    • ISBN-13: 978-1607090793

    Digital Education Revolution Report

    The Austrlaian National Audit Office has issued a report on the "Digital Education Revolution program -- National Secondary Schools Computer Fund". The auditor found the administration of the fund generally sound with school principals generally positive about it.

    The report provides a useful Summary of the Digital Education Revolution. Most of the $2.4B funding for the Digital Education Revolution (DER) is for the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund (NSSCF), which aimed to provide a computer for each secondary student, at a cost of $2.2B.

    The remainder of the DER was for the High Speed Broadband to Schools initiative ($100M) and the Digital Strategy for Teachers and School Leaders initiative (teacher education) $40M. It is unfortunate that less than 2% of the funding was spent on training teachers to use the technology.

    Another area not receiving sufficiency attention is the development of curriculum and content. An investment of a few hundred million dollars would provide very large benefits to the student's education. This would also pay for itself in the reduction in imported content from overseas and boost one of Australia's major export industries, which is education.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    AContent Best Educational Content Authoring Tool

    Dr Lachlan Blackhall presented a free seminar on "Educational Content Authoring Tools" at the Australian National University in Canberra today. He reviewed tools which might be suitable for the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science and concluded by recommending AContent.

    I had not heard of AContent
    before. But it is sponsored by The Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC) who also are behind the very good ATutor Learning Management System (LMS). Like ATutor, AContent is free open source and so universities (and others) can simply download a copy and use it without having to worry about paying anyone anything.

    Also like Atutor, AContent is designed to produce educational content which complies with accessibility guidelines for the disabled. This is to be expected, as ATRC are a world leader in the accessibility field. Jutta Treviranus, then manager of the ARTC was Bruce Maguire's expert witnesses in the case "Bruce Lindsay Maguire v. Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2000", which established that web accessibility was required under Australian law (I was the other expert witness).

    Dr. Blackall argued that it would be preferable to be able to author educational content independently of the LMS. He suggested it should be feasible to use AContent to create the course content and then use that content in the existing ANU Moodle system. He also argued that content should be prepared using standard formats and recommended used of the IMS Global Learning Consortium standards, which AContent supports.

    This all makes sense to me. At present I use the Moodle Book Module to create course content. While usable, it has severe limitations and I would like something with more features.

    Learning presence

    Greetings from the Austrlaian National University where I am in a reading group discussing "Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of a communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments" by Shea and Bidjerano:
    In this paper we examine the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) suggesting that the model may be enhanced through a fuller articulation of the roles of online learners. We present the results of a study of 3165 students in online and hybrid courses from 42 two- and four-year institutions in which we examine the relationship between learner self-efficacy measures and their ratings of the quality of their learning in virtual environments. We conclude that a positive relationship exists between elements of the CoI framework and between elements of a nascent theoretical construct that we label ''learning presence''. We suggest that learning presence represents elements such as self-efficacy as well as other cognitive, behavioral, and motivational constructs supportive of online learner self-regulation. We suggest that this focused analysis on the active roles of online learners may contribute to a more thorough account of knowledge construction in technology-mediated environments expanding the descriptive and explanatory power of the Community of Inquiry framework. Learning presence: Towards a Theory of Self-efficacy, Self-regulation, and the Development of a Communities of Inquiry in Online and Blended Learning Environments.

    I confessed to the group that I only just made it through the abstract and did not actually read the paper. I had so much difficulty understanding the jargon in the abstract that it put me off reading it. Some responded that it got better after a while.

    It may just be that this is a field of research I am not familiar with, or perhaps as a practitioner I should not expect useful information in research papers. But perhaps there is a need for more practically orientated research findings in this field.

    One of the group recommended "Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses" by L. Dee Fink.

    We got on to a discussion of the different types of communication and how "face to face" in the same room differed from a video conference (which we are suing to Unviersity of Sooth Australia at the moment). This reminded me of Dr. Brian Corrie's seminar on Monday. The work he has done on collaboration using technology should be directly applicable to education

    Also this reminded me of the Time-Place Matrix used to classify eLearning technologies. For the next reading group I suggested exploring the issue of how the Computer Mediated Communication is a different experience which different to a face to face experience in the same place.

    University Web Rankings

    Webometrics have released a 2011 ranking of the websites of universities around the world. Not surprisingly, MIT, Harvard and Standford top the world list. The top 11 universities are US, followed by National Taiwan University. Also, not surprisingly, the Australian National University tops the Oceania List. The top nine universities in the region are Australian, followed by University of Auckland.

    The ranking process is intended to measure and encourage universities to use their web sites to provide open access to information, but not just formal academic papers. It uses some measures similar to those used for ranking universities, such as size and number of publications. However, the web ranking uses the size of the university's web site and the number of publications on Google scholar, rather than size in terms of staff/students and number of formal papers. The web ranking does not include number of Nobel prize winners the institution has produced. However,, it is interesting that the results for the web ranking and general university rankings are similar.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Ecotile Anti-static and Cable Management Flooring

    Tim Hopcraft just dropped in some samples of Cable Management Flooring from Ecotile. He also showed me anti-static interlocking floor tiles. I was interested in using these for a learning commons, so that the cabling for computers could be changed easily.

    Normally carpet tiles would be placed over the recycled plastic panels which cover the cables. But an interesting option is to use the interlocking anti-static floor tiles, which can be finished to look like stone, wood, or have logos on them.

    Half seriously, I suggested to Tim he offer tiles with a military camouflage pattern on them. Apart from use by the military for temporary headquarters, this might be popular for Mercedes-Benz SUV showrooms. This would reflect the fact that the Australian Defence Force has selected Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens to replace its Land Rovers.

    Educational Content Authoring Tools

    Dr Lachlan Blackhall will present a free seminar on "Educational Content Authoring Tools" 1pm, 23 February 2011, at the Australian National University in Canberra. This is part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, "Education Innovation Series" (check the CECS Seminars List for others in the series).

    Educational Content Authoring Tools

    Dr Lachlan Blackhall (CECS, ANU )


    DATE: 2011-02-23
    TIME: 13:00:00 - 14:00:00
    LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, Computer Science and Information Technology Building, The Australian National University

    The authoring, storage, delivery and reuse of educational content is rapidly becoming a significant problem in the tertiary education sector where significant content is generated for the plethora of courses delivered each year. Effectively being able to manage this authoring process (authoring, storage, delivery and reuse) will offer significant advantages for the tertiary education sector. The challenges being faced in the content authoring process in tertiary education sector can be summarised as follows:
  1. Little or no archiving of content (each lecturer redevelops content).
  2. Tools used are content developer specific.
  3. Content types supported depend on the platform used by each developer. Important standards are not necessarily supported (i.e. WCAG, SCORM, etca).
  4. Content is typically recreated for each delivery mode (i.e. PDF, PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, etca).
  5. Content cannot be updated easily.
  6. This report focuses on the specific requirements of the authoring, storage, and re-use, and delivery of education resources of a variety of types. The report is limited to the authoring tools that exist either as standalone systems or as authoring tools within a variety Learning Management Systems (LMS), both open source and commercial.

    Of all the content authoring tools AContent conforms to the most useful standards whilst offering a simple and effective authoring tool. The tool itself is uncluttered, offers the ability to include all the necessary content types and conforms to the important accessibility standards developed by the W3C. It creates modules that are compatible with most existing LMS through the use of standards based export mechanisms. Importantly AContent allows the creation of metadata that describes the content being developed.

    Lachlan Blackhall was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. He received a Bachelor of Engineering (Aerospace) and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Sydney in 2007. He has previously worked for the Australian Centre for Field Robotics and as an electric propulsion engineer for Alta Space in Pisa, Italy. He was a student in the Systems and Control Group in the Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering at the Australian National University where he pursued research on dynamical network theory, fault tolerance and diagnosis for networked systems and systematic complexity reduction. He recently submitted his PhD, and will soon take up a Post Doc position in Lund University, Sweden.

    PDF Education Sessions for Government

    Adobe are running a series of education sessions on "PDF Accessibility Education Sessions for the Australian Government" in March 2011. These are to help Australian Public Servants with PDF authoring skills, after an AGIMO/Vision Australia study which was critical of the accessibility of Portable Document Format documents for people with a disability.

    In my view the main problem is not with PDF itself but the design of the documents. Better training for document designers will help. But this training need not be specific to PDF. The same techniques will work with other formats, although each document format has its own idiosyncrasies.

    In line with Principle 7 "Open and accessible formats online" of the "Draft Principles on Open Public Sector Information" from the Australian Information Commissioner, I suggest it would be better for the Australian Government to concentrate on accessible web pages and make that the primary format for government publishing. PDF versions could still be produced, but automatically generated from the web version, but just as a format for printing. E-book formats based on web technology could also be provided as an alternative to PDF, with little additional effort.

    ps: While educating public servants on accessibility is a worthwhile aim, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has exceeded its authority in endorsing this Adobe activity. The name of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, are displayed below a banner headline on the Adobe web page about the PDF sessions. The page is marked "Copyright © 2011 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved". This is contrary to the guidelines for the use of the Arms.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Google Page Rank Sparks New Computing Paradigm

    In Map-Reduce and its Children today at NICTA in Canberra, Professor Jeffrey Ullman discussed the wider uses for the approach Google uses for calculating "PageRank" for web sites:
    Abstract: Since its publication by Google researchers in 2004, Map-reduce has proven to be a significant advance in programming methodology that offers resilient, easy-to-code parallel computation on a modern computing cluster or "cloud." It has led to a variety of systems that improve it in different ways. One direction is raising the level of abstraction, especially to support relational-database operations. A second direction is increasing the generality, while maintaining the programmability and resiliency in the face of partial failures. We shall review the environment of NICTA a map-reduce system, give some examples of how it works, and discuss the various extensions and the technical problems they posed.
    From: Map-Reduce and its Children, NICTA, 2010
    Professor Ullman started by introducing Distributed File Systems, as popularised by Google. He described how they are large (many Terabytes), divided into chunks (typically 64mbytes). These databases are usually added to (with few random updates). Chunks are replicated at compute nodes in racks connected by switches. Apart from the Google File System (GFS), HDFS and CloudStore.

    On the distributed file system is built Map-Reduce, Key-Value stores and SQL. Map-reduce (such as Hadoop) is alongside the object store (key value pair).

    ap reduce allows for large numbers of highly parallel processing tasks. It must allow for failure of nodes without having to restart the entire job. Previously failure could be though of as a rare event, but with tens of thousands of nodes, it is common.

    Key-Value pair databases (a throwback to pre SQL relational databases?). SQL-like implementers are PIG, Hive, Sawzall and Scope.

    Map-reduce has two functions: map and reduce. Large numbers of tasks are created for each to run in parallel and the results combined. Each map task operates on a distinct portion of the input file. The map tasks produce pairs of values. These are then passed to the reduce tasks, with pairs with the same "key" pass to the same reduce task, where they are combined. The result of the reduce tasks then are placed in the file store.

    Clearly this design is intended for tasks such as indexing web pages for searching. It is good for matrix multiplication and relational algebra (such as a natural join). It assumes there are not many updated of data in place, just data added (that assumption works well for many web applications).

    The process for dealing with a failed task is simple: restart the task. Professor Ulman commented that on real systems about 5% of failures are due to software problems (such as the version of Java not being upgraded).

    Map reduce can be generalised to allow any number of tasks to be strung together. Despite the complexity, such a system can be designed to be fault tolerant: either the processing is still underway or it has finished successfully. This sounds good, but still seems to be at the experimental stage. The simpler map-reduce is easier to get to work as there are just two tasks before the results are safely stored in the file system.

    It would be interesting to look at how generally applicable these applications are. Normally you would think these would work for web applications, such as indexing web pages, but not traditional databases, such as bank records. Financial records in a bank require frequent update in place of data (such as the current balance). However, banks have to keep transaction records. Normally these transaction records are seen as less important that the current updates and just something needed occasionally. But if the client has access to their bank account on-line, they are more likely to be looking at the history. This makes the transaction records important. Also "cloud" based applications may result in more aggregations of data which suit this approach.

    The Professor argued that recursion is now key to web based applications, such as Page-Rank and web structure. However, this appears an area for research, not practical implementation.

    Online Collaboration for Science in Canada

    Greetings from the famous room N101 at the ANU, where Dr. Brian Corrie, Technical Director IRMACS, is talking on collaboration infrastructure in Canada. The Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Centre (IRMACS) provides rooms equipped with computer technology for people to work together remotely.

    The IRMACS Centre is 2,300 square meters, with offices, meeting and conference rooms: 100 seat Presentation Studio, Boardroom, meeting rooms (10908, 10940, 10917.2) and breakout rooms. Also there is the "lab space" and visualization lab. In his presentation, Dr. Corrie emphasises the availability of support staff, to make sure the equipment works when needed. Support is also provided for administering research grants.

    The IRMACS floor plan provides an interesting template for such a facility. While intended for research, not teaching, the rooms are also used for conferences and workshops, meetings, colloquiums, seminars (and social functions), as well as training, thesis defence and live performances.

    Dr. Corrie has published research detailing how collaboration using technology works. He has found that even experienced users were not using the advanced technology to transmit gestures effectively. It occurred to me that what was needed was something like a large iPad. This is more than just an interactive whiteboard. The iPad has a surface which invites touch, whereas the average interactive whiteboard required the user to press. One way around this might be t provide a smaller more comfortable touch screen for the presenter and then relay that to a large non-interactive screen and remotely. We used something like this for the ACS Canberra 1995 Conference.

    Dr. Corrie pointed out that as well as IRMACS being used for scientists to collaborate with each other it has been used for collaboration between scientists and government on policy. He also suggested colloboration between IRMACS and ANU. This might provide a useful model for a centre in Canberra to provide a place for public policy discussion, as envisaged by the Australia Forum and the ANU's Australian Centre for Dialogue.

    Title: Collaboration in the Computational Sciences: Why, Where, What, and How

    Abstract: Research, as an activity, is fundamentally collaborative in nature. Driven by the massive amounts of data that are produced by computational simulations and high resolution scientific sensors, data-driven collaboration is of particular importance in the
    computational sciences. In this talk, I will discuss our experiences in designing, deploying, and operating a Canada wide advanced collaboration infrastructure in the support of the computational sciences. In particular, I will focus on the importance of data in such collaborations and discuss how current collaboration tools are sorely lacking in their support of data-centric collaboration.

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Privacy Act Declaration of Emergency

    A little known aspect of Australia's Privacy Act (1998) is provision for Declaration of emergency. The Prime Minister or the Attorney General can make a declaration so that the usual restrictions on collection and use of personal information can be relaxed. The Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet website has a page to list emergency declarations. There are currently two listed, for the Queensland 2011 floods and Victorian 2009 brushfires.

    Principles for Open Public Sector Information

    The Australian Information Commission proposed ten Draft Principles on Open Public Sector Information. Comments are invited via a blog by 1 March 2011:

    1. Open access to information - a default position

    Information held by the Australian Government is a valuable national resource. As recommended by the Government 2.0 Taskforce, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, access to that information should be open, that is:

    • free
    • based on open standards
    • easily discoverable
    • understandable
    • machine-readable, and
    • freely reusable and transformable.

    This places a proactive and pro-disclosure obligation on agencies to:

    • use information technology to disseminate public sector information, particularly by publishing information online
    • maximise the amount of information that is published voluntarily, rather than waiting for specific requests under the FOI Act, and
    • apply a presumption of openness when deciding whether and how to publish public sector information.

    2. Effective information governance

    Information held by Australian Government agencies is a core strategic asset that should be managed effectively by:

    • a senior executive information champion, such as a Chief Information Officer within the agency, who is responsible for agency information, management and governance, and
    • an information governance body with responsibility for:
      • maximising the integrity, security and availability of the agency's information
      • establishing and maintaining strategic planning processes for information resources management
      • providing leadership and direction in the preparation of the agency's plan for complying with Part II of the FOI Act under s 8(1)
      • ensuring the agency's information management policies incorporate open access principles and authorise the routine and proactive disclosure of information, and
      • ensuring that the agency engages appropriately with stakeholders about access to information.

    3. Robust information asset management frameworks

    Effective management of information throughout its life cycle can be achieved by:

    • developing and maintaining inventories or registers of an agency's key information assets
    • identifying the custodians of those assets and defining the custodians' responsibilities
    • adequately describing information assets using appropriate metadata
    • documenting known limitations on data quality and caveats on data use
    • deciding in advance whether information is suitable for publication
    • preserving the agency's information assets for appropriate periods of time
    • training staff in information management, and
    • protecting information commensurate with the risk of harm that could result from the loss, misuse, or unauthorised access to or modification of such information.

    4. Findable information

    In keeping with the principle that public sector information is a valuable national resource, potential users should be readily able to discover the information an agency has published, and identify assets the agency holds but has not published. This can be achieved by:

    • ensuring that published information has high quality metadata through implementation of the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) Metadata Standard
    • applying search engine optimisation strategies to ensure that all published information can be indexed by search engines, and
    • publishing the agency's information asset register to enable both internal and external users of information to identify the available information resources from a single source.

    5. Sound decision-making processes

    Sound agency decision-making in relation to open access to public sector information can be achieved by:

    • ensuring clear lines of authority to make information publication decisions
    • establishing mechanisms for potential users of information to apply for release of unpublished information outside of the FOI Act
    • making timely decisions
    • embedding the presumption that agency information should be published free, on open licensing terms, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary
    • identifying where relevant appropriate alternatives to not publishing information, such as publishing subject to caveats or disclaimers, and
    • imposing controls to avoid personal information being published inappropriately or inadvertently in a data set.

    6. Transparent complaints processes

    Agency decision making about information publication should be transparent. This can be supported, within the agency's information governance framework, by an internal complaints procedure to handle complaints from the public about agency publication decisions outside the requirements of the FOI Act. A transparent complaints procedure will:

    • be published
    • explain how complaints will be handled
    • set timeframes for resolving complaints
    • identify possible remedies and outcomes of complaints, and
    • require decision makers to provide written reasons for all decisions.

    7. Open and accessible formats online

    The economic and social value of public sector information is enhanced when it is published online in formats that are human-readable and compatible with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines endorsed by the Australian Government in February 2010. Information should so far as possible be published in a format that is:

    • open
    • machine-readable, and
    • searchable and indexable by commonly used web search applications.

    8. Appropriate charging for access

    The principle of open access to public sector information requires that the cost of access to individuals is not unreasonably restrictive. Appropriate charging for access to information can be achieved by:

    • not charging more than the additional marginal cost of providing access to published information, and in particular excluding from calculation cost associated with producing the information
    • using methods of publication, particularly online publication, that minimise the cost to the agency of providing individual access to the information
    • not imposing charges except as authorised by law, including the FOI Act, and
    • supporting any charges that are imposed for agency publications or information in an agency policy that explains the basis for charges and is published and regularly reviewed.

    9. Clear reuse rights

    The economic and social value of public sector information is enhanced when it is made available for reuse on open licensing terms. The Statement of Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies requires government agencies subject to the Financial and Management Accountability Act 1997 to consider licensing public sector information, upon release, under an open access licence.

    10. Engaging the community

    In keeping with Australian Government policy that agencies embrace online engagement in policy design and service delivery, the community can participate in agency decision making in relation to publication of public sector information. This can be done by:

    • consulting with the community in deciding which information an agency will
    • prioritise for publication
    • encouraging the community to identify errors in published information, to give feedback to the agency about the quality, completeness and usefulness of published information, and to tell the agency about productive reuse of the information, and
    • responding, either individually or in a public statement, to any comment received from the community.

    From: Towards an Australian Government Information Policy, Australian Information Commissioner, November 2010.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Broadband facts, fiction and urban myths

    For those following the debate over Australia's NBN, Rodney Tucker's paper "Broadband facts, fiction and urban myths" is worth a read:
    There has been a lively debate surrounding the Australian Governments plan to build a fibre-based National Broadband Network. Unfortunately, a variety of urban myths about the NBN have evolved and spread over the past 12 months. Some of these myths are based on misunderstandings of the capabilities and limitations of broadband technology and some are out of alignment with experience in countries where broadband access is more advanced than in Australia. The objective of this article is to correct some of these misconceptions, to debunk some of the more common urban myths and to provide some basic facts for the lay person on the capabilities and limitations of various broadband technologies.

    From: Broadband facts, fiction and urban myths, Rodney Tucker, Telecommunications Journal of Australia, Volume 60, No. 3, 2010, First published online August 2010
    This is published by the Telecommunications Society of Australia (TSA), now the Telecommunications Board of the Australian Computer society (which I am a board member of). The Telecommunications Journal of Australia (TJA) is now published online. Most papers require either ACS, TJA membership, or payment of a subscription. But some papers are free, including this one.

    The TJA provides article in the form of web pages for online viewing (as well as PDF for printing) using the Open Journal System (OJS). The web versions display better on screen, particularly on a mobile device and use less bandwidth. This is a good example of the web based format I suggest could be used for academic research and government reports.