Thursday, May 31, 2012

Presentations from ITU Symposium on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change

ITU is running the Seventh ITU Symposium on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change, 29-31 May 2012 in Montreal, Canada.The event is being streamed live online for free (unfortunately it is not being recorded for later playback). The programme and presentation notes are also available.

Here are the notes from some of the presentations so far:
  1. Opening remarks, Malcolm Johnson, Director Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU
  2. Using ICT for Adaption Rather than Mitigation to Climate Change, Bill St-Arnaud, St-Arnaud & Walker Associates
  3. Can ICT Beat CO2?, Daniel Gagne, Bell Canada
  4. The Western Climate Initiative's cap-and-trade program, Robert Nöel de Tilly, Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks of the Government of Québec and Western Climate Initiative
  5. Greenpeace’s Cool IT Leaderboard, Renee Blanchard, Greenpeace
  6. Environmental Sustainability for the ICT Sector, John Smiciklas, MRDJ Assessment
  7. ITU Methodologies for the Environmental Impact Assessment of ICT, Ahmed Zeddam, ITU-T Study Group 5 Chairman
  8. Presentation of ITU-T Recommendation L.1410 on ICT Goods, Networks and Services; Brief Overview of ITU-T Methodologies on ICT projects and ICT in Cities, Jean Manuel Canet, France Telecom/Orange
  9. ITU-T Recommendation L.1420: Is it that difficult to comply with it?, Gilbert Buty, Alcatel Lucent
  10. Greening ICT Infrastructures, Greg Hidley, CALIT2/UCSD

Computer virus stirs cyber espionage fears

On Tuesday I was interviewed by ABC Radio about the Flame virus, see: "Computer virus stirs cyber espionage fears" (transcript and audio, Adam Rollason, ABC Radio, PM Program, Tuesday, May 29, 2012 18:35:00). Essentially I said that this was a sophisticated security threat which was designed to covertly collection information, but Australia had good protections against it, with multiple levels of security.

As far as I know it is just a coincidence that CERT Australia coming to Canberra next Tuesday 5th June 2012, to talk about Cyber Security.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Social Media and Information Security Governance

Greetings from the CSIRO centre in Canberra, where Jo Stewart-Rattray is speaking at an Australian Computer Society meeting on "Social Media and Information Security Governance". Jo emphasized the high level governance, rather than management or technical aspects of social media's use in organizations. Also mentioned was the Australian Government's work on a Cyber-Security White-paper.

Jo pointed out that while technologies may change, many of the governance and security issues are the same: today's cloud server throws up similar issues to last century's computer bureau.

In terms of social media, Jo pointed out that some organizations has set up their own internal social media services. These provide similar features to Facebook, but are for staff only. I have used Yammer in this way at CSIRO and ANU. She cited the
"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" cartoon (by Peter Steiner in The New Yorker, 5 July 1993) and how some people will put on a false personal online.

Jo suggested that external experts are needed for security policy review due to the rapid developments. I suggested for Canberra it is useful to get someone with a uniform on, for credibility. She argued that personnel need some leeway on the use of social networking at work (apart from high security sites), with practical guidelines.

Organizations harvest social media information from the web. Jo pointed out that this information needs to be protected, as it may contain details about individuals, including staff. While the individuals volunteer information online, they may not realize how much information is available. It occurs to me that it might be useful to provide each staff member with a harvested profile about themselves, to increase their awareness of what may be inadvertently released.

Jo mentioned some standards, such as ISO 38500 Corporate Governance of IT, ISO 27002 IT Security Techniques: Code of practice for information security management, COBIT 5.0 (new version this year), and the Business Model for Information Security.

Jo will be speaking in Bella Vista NSW 31 May and Hobart 5 June.

Best of GovCamp Videos

Best of GovCamp, is a collection of short videos from previous GovCamp, GovHack and related events for showing at GovCamp Canberra 2012.

I did not do any editing, as I found there was already an excellent three part video hosted by Senator Lundy, about GovHack. So interspersed this with screen-casts from Mashup Australia and videos from other such events around the world (all of which I found on YouTube):
  • Teapots Animation
  • Behind the scenes at GovHack - Part 1
  • Fridgemate
  • Behind the scenes at GovHack - Part 2
  • NeoGopher Mashup Australia Screencast
  • Behind the scenes at GovHack - Part 3
  • GovCamp Singapore 2.0
This about an hour in total, which should be more than enough. It can be played with the sound off and the "Closed Captions" turned on (but not the auto-capture captions as they are amusing, rather than useful).

Suggestions for additions would be welcome, as would an edited version.

Green ICT Standards in Development

The ITU-T Study Group 5 is developing standards and guidelines on sustainable ICT. Unfortunately the draft ITU-T documents which are freely available are very large and poorly formatted. As an example, "Best practices for green data centers" (L.1300) is an 8 Mbyte file, which is much larger than it need be. Other documents are exorbitantly expensive, such as 49 Swiss Francs for Methodology for environmental impact assessment of information and communication technologies goods, networks and services" (L.1410). The ITU-T should follow the practices of the World Wide Web Consortium by releasing efficiently formatted standards documents which are available for free online.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flexibility in learning spaces: physical and virtual

Mason & Bateman prepared an interesting recantation on "Deakin University: flexibility in spaces". The idea being that boith the actual classroom and the online environment need to be designed for flexible learning. Unfortunate the presentation notes are not publicly available. But there is an "Innovative Learning Environments Research Study" report from the same team of researchers. The formal report is a bit hard understand, but their accompanying Learning Spaces Portal has some interesting practical examples of learning spaces in Victorian schools.

Australia Post Parcel Lockers

Australia Post electronic Parcel Lockers Australia Post is trialling electronic Parcel Lockers at the Brisbane GPO, Melbourne Bourke Street, St Kilda Delivery Center and St Leonards Delivery Facility (Sydney). These look like the luggage lockers commonly used at bus stations. Australia Post places the parcel in the locker and the customizer is issued with a PIN to open the locker at any time. Presumably in the future this could be integrated with Australia Post's Post Office Box service, with boxes being allocated as required, rather than one fixed size box having to be reserved for each box holder.

Coles have "Click & Collect" refrigerated lockers at locations around Australia. The customer identifies themselves to staff and are then given a metal key to open the padlock on a refrigerated cabinet with their groceries in them. This low-tech makes sense where the lockers a collocated with a supermarket or service station, which is always staffed.

Government Report Recommends NBN Use in Emergencies

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, released the 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review Report, 23 May 2012. The report includes recommendations for the use of telecommunications, including the NBN, following natural disasters. The report also calls for work to make the Emergency Alert service more effective on mobile phones. Also of note is that the chapter page images are by Robin Eckermann.

Emergency communications

The reliability of communications during emergency situations, especially mobile communications, is a major concern for people in regional areas. Recent natural disasters such as the Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods have highlighted the importance of reliable communications.

There is a concern that many of the communications deficiencies which became clear in the aftermath of these disasters remain unresolved.

The telecommunications industry has a critical role in working with emergency service providers to understand how their priorities can be met and to ensure adequate communications services and strategies are in place.

Disaster management plans need to include a focus on communications and the full range of communication tools which can be used before and during a disaster to communicate with people in the affected area.

There is also a need for effective deployment of temporary telecommunications infrastructure in the aftermath of natural disasters. This infrastructure is vital to recovery efforts and should be a part of all disaster management plans. ...

2.10 RECOMMENDATION — Major telecommunications providers, such as Telstra, Optus and NBN Co, should work with local government emergency management planners to identify critical infrastructure priorities and communications challenges that could affect local emergency warning systems and emergency responses. ...

2.14 FINDING — The suite of telecommunications tools needed to contact people in emergency situations should be a key feature of both individual and regional disaster management plans.

2.15 FINDING — The effectiveness of the Emergency Alert to mobile phones initiative is limited by the mobile coverage in an area. Some peri-urban residential areas, popular tourist spots and highways do not currently have mobile phone coverage. This reinforces the critical importance of having a suite of communication tools to convey emergency warnings. ...

From: 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review Report, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 23 May 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Telecommuting for Education as Australia's Second Export Industry

A recent discussion in the TeleworkAustralia discussion forum has been on the legal impediments to working online. In response, I did a quick web search and found "Telecommuting: Issues in Public and Private Sector Employment", Nicolee Dixon, Queensland Parliamentary Library Research Brief, 2003:
"This Brief will attempt to examine the issues that may explain why the uptake of telecommuting has fallen short of expectations held many years ago. It will discuss, as matters for consideration by workplaces, the perceived advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting in achieving improved business outcomes and client services that are important to the
future of Queensland."
In my view it is not so much the legal issues, but the problem of defining what work is, which holds up telework use. If your boss can't see you "working", then they will have to judge by the results you produce. They might not mind that so much, but then their boss might want to judge them, by their results.

At present I am learning how to design online courses and then will apply that to research supervision.

The same issues arises teaching as with telework: how do you know if the students are "studying" and the teachers are "teaching", if you can't see them in a classroom? The obvious answer is that you get students to exercises and judge what they have learned from that. You judge the teachers by the results of their students and by what their students say about them. This then works its way up, with the school and principal, or university and vice-chancellor, being similarly assessed.

Education may emerge as the major use of telework in Australia. Education is Australia's largest export industry (after mining). As courses go online, it is very natural for teachers to telework.

I will be discussing some of this at the 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE 2011) in Melbourne (Australia), mid July 2012:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Learning to Unravel Complexity

The Australian National University runs a series of "Vice-Chancellor's Courses", to encourage students to look beyond their own discipline. Courses now open are:

Unravelling Complexity

Dr Shayne FlintConvener: Dr Shayne Flint

This course takes up this challenge by offering latter year students from any part of the ANU the opportunity to explore a series of complex issues. The connections between economic, historical, social, legal, scientific, engineering, environmental and moral dimensions of complex problems will be explored.

The course will examine the linked themes of ‘collapse’ and ‘resilience’. Case studies will include global financial crises, the collapse of empires, contemporary ‘failing’ states, pandemics, engineering and network failures and the moral and legal dimensions of these issues.

Creating Knowledge

Dr Mary Kilcline Cody Convener: Mary Kilcline Cody

We will explore:

In February 2013:

Design of RPL Assesment

Recently I was asked to design some test questions and a guide for the evaluation of experience of people who don't have a degree in IT. This is called "Recognition of Prior Learning" (RPL) and usually applies in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, but is increasingly used in higher education as well.

There are some helpful documents available from the WA Department of Education and Training:

  1. Designing assessment tools for quality outcomes in VET, WA Department of Education and Training, 2008
  2. Recognition of Prior Learning: An assessment resource for VET practitioners, WA Department of Education and Training, 2009

Templates from WA Department of Education and Training

Preparation for RPL

  1. Example - Units of Competency clustered into skill sets/qualification
  2. Template 1 - Units of Competency clustered into skill sets/qualification
  3. Example - Evidence matrix
  4. Template 2 - Evidence matrix


  1. Example - Instructions for candidate of demonstration/observation
  2. Template 5 - Instructions for candidate of demonstration/observation
  3. Example - Reporting and recording of observation/practical task
  4. Template 6 - Reporting and recording of observation/practical task


  1. Example - Interview question bank and recording document Example - Self-evaluation form for candidate
  2. Template 4 - Interview question bank and recording document Template 3 - Self-evaluation form for candidate

Self-evaluation by candidate

  1. Example - Self-evaluation form for candidate
  2. Template 3 - Self-evaluation form for candidate

Further supporting evidence

  1. Example - Third party evidence report
  2. Template 7 - Third party evidence report

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Senator Bob Brown on Leadership

Great_Hall, ANU University_HouseGreetings from the Great Hall of University House, Australian National University in Canberra, where the Postgraduate and Research Students' Association (PARSA) is hosting a Leadership Forum. The draw card for the event is Senator Bob Brown (Australian Greens). Also speaking are: Professor Ian Young (ANU Vice Chancellor), Dr. Chris Peters (Canberra Citizen of the Year), Chamonix Terblanche, (Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations), and Dr. Christine Fejo-King (Australian College of Social Work).

Professor Ian Young spoke first. He mentioned that leaders need to cope with the fact that what they say me blogged a few minutes later, so I had better post this. ;-)

Senator Brown started by saying he had stayed at ANU University House over ten years, when visiting Canberra and so feels at home. He said he did not set out to be a "leader" and that it needs to be kept in mind that leaders are ordinary mortals. He recounted the difficulties which leaders have in relating to large numbers of people and suggested a little humor helps.

Senator Brown suggested leaders need to also enjoy themselves and recounted how he became an environmental activist after rafting down the Franklin River. As a doctor he pointed out that much illness is caused by stress and the natural environment can reduce stress and directly improve health. He urged everyone to have the courage to think beyond commercial materialism, reduce arms spending and improve health in developing nations.

Senator Brown reminded the students that there are many challenges in the world but that they could not solve all the world's problems at once. He related meeting David Hackworth in Hobart who urged immediate action on nuclear disarmament. Rather than rushing out to action, the Senator's response was to go home and read a book (the senator described David Hackworth as a former US Marine, but the wikipedia lists him as being an army paratroop).

Dr. Christine Fejo-King discussed her childhood in an aboriginal community and how her elders made her go to school. She pointed out that for her English was a language she had to learn (from audio tapes), this not being her first language and not the language spoken at home. This is an interesting point with the Australian Government funding of OLPC computers for students in remote communities. Part of the benefit of that may be in teaching English.

Dr. Fejo-King discussed the difficulties caused by the government intervention, which took control of money out of the hands of aboriginal people. She related how non-government networks of people were able to provide support over the Christmas period to relieve the suffering caused by the government policy. She related how being a leader required doing things which you may not be comfortable with, such as public speaking.

Dr. Chris Peters commented how he most enjoys his current role on the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry because of its local focus. He related the stresses of travel in a national position: waking up in a hotel and having no idea where he was (it was Beijing).

Dr. Peters discussed support for the community after the Canberra 2003 brushfires. The voluntary community organizations and charities had difficulty coordinating their efforts. He argued that as this was an disaster, it required a new more coordinated approach. That is something I don't agree with: disaster management needs to be planned and practiced in advance.

At question time I asked the panel to what extent leadership skills could be learned through formal courses, such as those run by ANU and how much was about experience. Senator Brown responded that leadership required "Having a go". Dr. Peters responded that leadership was mostly about experience and only a little about formal training. In answer to the next question Dr. Brown commented that a good skill he acquired as a medical student, was how to listen.

Business Rules Management Software for Clean Energy Regulator

The Australian Clean Energy Regulator has issued a Request for Tender for a "Business Rule Management System". The description of the system includes mention of a diagram of "the conceptual use of rules engine" but there is no diagram in the tender announcement. A commercial off the shelf system (COTS) is required, with a start date of June 2012. The regulator is tasked with overseeing the new carbon pricing scheme which comes into force from that date:
Provision of Business Rule Management System Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Software Package
ATM ID RFT CER2012/456
Agency Clean Energy Regulator
Category 43230000 - Software
Close Date & Time 1-Jun-2012 2:00 pm (ACT Local time)
Publish Date 23-May-2012


A Business Rules Management (BRMS) is a complete set of software components for the creation, testing, management, deployment, and ongoing maintenance of business rules in a production operational environment. A BRMS contains elements targeted at developers and other ICT staff as well as elements intended for less technical users. These BRMS features give business users and business analysts the ability to make routine changes and updates to the business rules that drive Decision Services, while freeing IT resources to concentrate on higher value-added projects and initiatives.

The business processes this BRMS addresses are very rich in rules which involve complex mathematical formulae as well as those that are event / workflow / logic based. The need is to find or develop a rules engine capability that is oriented towards easy creation and management of mathematical formula based rules. These rules take inputs from fields on a screen and calculate values to be output into fields in a database that are then displayed on a screen. The diagram below illustrates the conceptual use of rules engine modularisation

Other Instructions

This RFT was previously advised in the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency's Annual Procurement Plan for this financial year as agency reference Jan-12 (Business Rule Management System software package).

The RFT documentation can be obtained by sending an email ...

The resultant Contract is expected to commence late June 2012.
Estimated Value (AUD) From $400,000.00 to $450,000.00 ...

Monday, May 21, 2012

City Edge Park in Autumn

City Edge Park in Autumn, O'Connor, Canberra, AustraliaHere is a photo of City Edge Park in Autumn. This is a private park (which I own part of) in the center of the City Edge apartment complex in O'Connor, Canberra. The oak trees were previously on the site and were retained with the new apartments and town houses built around them. The small park is similar in atmosphere to private parks in London, but has no fence around it. One oak have grown so it almost touches the ground on the northern side of the park, forming a natural canopy. In autumn the leaves turn golden for a few days, before falling. There are occasional picnics and there has been one wedding under the trees in the park.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sydney Writers’ Festival

The 2012 Sydney Writers’ Festival is being held at Piers 2/3 and 4/5, Walsh Bay, Sydney. The easiest way to get to the festival is to walk from Circular Quay along the foreshore, past The Rocks and under the south pylon of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The two finger wharfs are joined by a link building with cafes and restaurants (there are more places to eat in the wharfs). The prime spot is a deck chair half way between the two piers, overlooking the "green room", where you can do some celebrity spotting.

There are volunteers roaming the area handing out programs. Many of the events are free. There is also a bookstore to browse and writers to talk to. I talked to Indira Naidoo about her book "The Edible Balcony", unlike other authors she was also handing out samples of the tasty pesto made with ingredients grown on her balcony (more in the Blog, "Saucy Onion").

The reason for visiting the writer festival today, apart from soaking up the atmosphere, was to attend "Old Scrags and Other Sheilas", featuring authors Susan Johnson, Kerry Greenwood and P.A. O’Reilly, with Kerryn Goldsworthy chairing. The authors discussed their female characters, particularly Loretta Boskovic in The Fine Colour of Rust (P.A. O’Reilly’s ) and Kerry Greenwood's Phyrne Fisher. They discussed the problem of being a female author who gets pushed into either having to write male characters or being pushed into "chick lit".

Kerry Greenwood mentioned that a new series of the TV adaption of Phyrne Fisher is to be made, that the actor selected for the role deliberately had an older appearance. She also commented that the Unresolved Sexual Tension (UST: a term from the X-Files), with Detective Inspector 'Jack' Robinson will be maintained. Kerry Greenwood will be appearing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival again, tomorrow, Sunday, May 20 2012 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM. As well as hare Phryne Fisher Series, Kerry Greenwood's Books include the Corinna Chapman Mysteries and Delphic Women.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Science Makes Us

Yesterday I took part in the ABC News 24 Future Forum on "How will science shape what it means to be human?". This was chaired by Dr Norman Swan, with Peter Singer (Ethicist, Princeton University), Paul Davies (Physicist, Arizona State University), Liesl Capper-Beilby (CEO, MyCyberTwin), Kate Reynolds (Social Psychologist, ANU), Glenn Wightwick (Chief Technologist, IBM Australia), and Julio Licinio (Director, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU). They discussed what effect the Internet, robotics and gene therapy is having on the future of the human race. The program will be broadcast live of ABC News 24, 10pm EST, 7 June 2012 and streamed online.

The ABC built a TV set in the foyer of the John Curtin School of Medial Research. This building looks like something from science fiction normally, with swept windows and labs visible through glass walls. It looked like a move set with a stage and tiered seating assembled, along with lights and cameras. It is curious why this was done in the foyer, when there is a perfectly usable lecture theater in the building. But we did provide entertainment for the people lunching in the adjacent Vanilla Bean Cafe.

As I have been selected to ask the panel the first question:
"The Internet provides an efficient form of communication, but will it change who we are? By having all communication mediated by a computer, do we risk becoming more like a computer and less like people?".
This was my second attempt at a question, as the organizers did not like the first version which was specifically about e-learning making people less human.

Liesl Capper-Beilby answered, saying that she thought that robots would become more human, rather than people less so. I thought that a glib answer, but the questions was discussed in more depth later. I asked a follow up later about e-learning, asking if we could teach social skills to scientists and engineers to make them better communicators and leaders.

The recording was in two phases, the first was for the broadcast part of the program and the second was extra material for online streaming. The first part had an introduction from the chair, panel discussion, two recorded segments and some vetted questions from the studio audience. The second part had un-vetted audience questions.

What was interesting was how structured the process was, even though the event was being recorded and would be edited later. I have practiced being a camera operator and director for a live studio broadcast with three cameras, when learning video production at CIT. The ABC used much the same traditional approach. We were not permitted to sit down until shortly before the recording was to commence. There was a timed countdown to the second at the start and at the end. The audience could not move from their designated seats during the whole session and there were no breaks.

It seems to me that the format makes for professional looking, but dull TV. Perhaps a format like a GovCamp is needed, which is more free flowing. This could have robot cameras with no operators, so a couple of people could record multiple parallel sessions. This would require rooms specially set up for TV, but that could be done in a TEAL room (such as at the Inspire Centre where GovCamp is being held), which is like a TV studio, in that it has a large flat floor and high ceiling, allowing space for cameras and lights.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NBN Applications in the 2012/2013 Federal Budget

The ABC has pointed out some projects to use the NBN in the federal budget (NBN facts and fallout from the Budget, David Braue, 16 May 2012). Obviously none of the initiatives labelled as using the NBN are actually dependent on the NBN and will work just as well on existing high speed networks. If the NBN did not exist, the government might well be doing exactly the same projects, just without the NBN branding. But they do point the way to how government can provide better and cheaper services where ubiquitous high speed networking is available. Also exactly how to deliver services online, build software and train staff will take many years, so it is good to start before then NBN is widely deployed. Another NBN related item is re-stacking the radio spectrum freed up in the switch to digital TV. This will make available large sections of radio frequency ideal for mobile digital communications, ideal to provide a wireless complement to the fixed NBN infrastructure.

Virtual English Tuition for Migrants

The Government will provide $5.0 million over three years to pilot virtual English tuition via the National Broadband Network (NBN). Starting in 2012, the service will support new migrants living in Regional Australia with a distance learning package that complements the Adult Migrant English Program.

The trial will have two phases. Phase one will provide enhanced distance learning online resources for teachers and home tutors while phase two will deliver interactive services in communities connected to the NBN.

The program will be reviewed in 2013‑14 to test the viability of expanding the services nationwide.

Provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 7 February 2012 issued by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children program

The Government is providing $4.9 million over three years to improve access to allied health and education services to an additional 125 children with hearing and/or vision impairment in outer regional and remote Australia. This program will be delivered across Australia in 2012‑13.

Utilising the National Broadband Network (NBN) where available, children and their families will have access to information, guidance, support, and skills development from qualified allied health and education services where such expertise may otherwise be scarce in regional and remote locations. The program will be delivered via a combination of high definition videoconferencing, mailed packages with lesson plans, information sheets, multi–media resources, telephone, fax, and email. In regions where the NBN is being rolled out, the government will provide for upgrades to existing videoconferencing infrastructure to ensure it is of high definition quality.

Attorney-General's National Broadband Network Regional Legal Assistance Program

The National Broadband Network (NBN) Regional Legal Assistance Program provides grant funding to trial NBN-based initiatives that seek to strengthen and increase legal assistance delivery in regional and remote areas. Legal assistance providers will be funded to trial the use of the NBN in innovative service delivery as well as to support regional or remote legal assistance staff. The total Program funding is $4.0 million over four years.

Digital Productivity — putting museums online for public access

The Government will provide $2.4 million over two years from 2011‑12 (including $0.4 million in capital funding in 2011‑12 and $0.02 million in 2012‑13) to provide online remote access to national cultural institutions to help demonstrate the opportunities offered by the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Using the high bandwidth capability of the NBN, visitors will be able to undertake virtual tours of these institutions via mobile robots. Users will be able to engage and interact with local visitors and tour guides and will be provided with a range of additional on‑screen information to enhance their experience.

Funding for this measure was included as a 'decision taken but not yet announced' in the 2011‑12 Budget.

This measure is part of the Government's broader digital economy strategy.

National Broadband Network — regional and remote information

The Government has provided $20.0 million in 2011‑12 to improve public understanding, address misconceptions and provide updated information about the National Broadband Network (NBN).

These activities will be focused on regional and remote areas where access to the NBN will be provided through fixed wireless and satellite services.budget

National Broadband Network — support for NBN Co‑Telstra Definitive Agreements

The Government provided $321.6 million on 30 March 2012 to Telstra to support the Definitive Agreements between NBN Co and Telstra, as agreed in June 2010.

In June 2010, NBN Co and Telstra entered into a series of agreements regarding the use of Telstra's infrastructure and the progressive migration of Telstra's customers to the National Broadband Network. In support of the agreements, the Government committed to provide approximately $2 billion of value through a series of public policy reforms and a payment to Telstra, the value of which equated to $190.0 million post‑tax in net present value terms.

Provision for this funding was included in the Contingency Reserve in the 2011‑12 Budget.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 7 March 2012 issued by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Human Services Video Conferencing

The Government, through a collaborative effort, will pilot an initiative—Digital Productivity — leveraging the NBN infrastructure—to enhance service delivery through video conferencing. The pilot aims to increase equitable access to specialist face-to-face services via high-definition videoconferencing, for people in regional Australia who connect to the NBN from their residential homes, or connect to the NBN via a regional video access point. A budget of $6.2 million has been allocated to the Department for the pilot over the four financial years to 2014-15. The pilot will be designed collaboratively with citizens, service providers and other third party organisations such as community, education and healthcare providers.

Digital Television Switchover — spectrum restacking

The Government will provide $143.2 million over five years (including capital funding of $0.4 million in 2013‑14 and $0.3 million in 2014‑15) to ensure free‑to‑air commercial and national broadcasters vacate the digital dividend spectrum in a timely fashion. This funding will assist broadcasters to replace and retune existing transmission equipment and allow the digital dividend spectrum to be cleared as soon as possible after the switch‑off of analog television services on 31 December 2013.

This measure includes $26.1 million to research, develop, and conduct a communications campaign for the purpose of informing communities about the process. The measure also includes $9.7 million to be provided to the Australian Communication and Media Authority and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to conduct research and an evaluation of the process, respond to inquiries about the digital switchover, and maintain the mySwitch website to provide information about reception questions.

Funding from this measure for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service is not for publication to protect the national broadcasters' position in any future negotiations with service providers.

The cost of this measure will be partially offset by a provision of $53.0 million previously included in the Contingency Reserve for assistance to broadcasters for spectrum restacking.

Further information on the digital dividend can be found in the press release of 24 June 2010 issued by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Microsoft Introducing Corporate Carbon Tax

Microsoft has announced that they will introduce an internal "carbon fee" on all business divisions, with the aim to be carbon neutral from 1 July 2013 ("Making Carbon Neutrality Everyone’s Responsibility at Microsoft, 8 May 2012 12:01 am). Microsoft's approach is very similar to the carbon pricing scheme which the Australian Government is introducing.

Microsoft also have:
  1. Smarter buildings pilot at the Microsoft Redmond campus
  2. CarbonSystems to monitor and report environmental metrics.
  3. IT Energy Whitepaper
  4. Software Enabled Earth Blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guide to Public Sector Environmental Management

The Australian National Audit Office issued a Better Practice guide to Public Sector Environmental Management, 27 April 2012. This may not have got much attention as did not include the title of the report on the web version. The report has a curiously non-intuitive table of contents: click on "Introduction" and you don't get the introduction, just a picture of the word "Introduction". Here is a table of contents for the document which actually works:

Human Error in the Health System

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where former Royal Australian Air Force test pilot, Robyn Clay-Williams (UNSW Centre for Clinical Governance Research in Health) is peaking on "Human Error in Complex Systems". Robyn asserted that error is part of human behavior which has to be managed, not just an aberration. Using the "Invisible Gorilla Test", she demonstrated the effects of situational awareness (or its opposite "Inattentional blindness"). When an individual concentrates on part of a task they have a loss of awareness of other aspects. In the "Invisible Gorilla Test" subjects are asked to concentrate on one team in a video of a basketball game. About 25% of subjects then fail to notice a person dressed in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the game, stop, wave to the audience and walk off. Analogously airline pilots who concentrate on an instrument malfunction can fly into the ground due to inattention, as happened with Eastern Air Lines Flight 401. Flight crews are now trained to allocate tasks so that one will keep the plane flying, while another tries to solve the instrument problem. Also the air crew are trained to say aloud what they are doing with standard terminology and for junior staff to question the actions of their superiors.

One lesson research is that auditory attention lessons when staff are concentrating on one problem. This is an issue in hospitals where a large variety of audio warnings; these can tend to be ignored. I wonder if medical personnel should have the equivalent of the stick shaker in an aircraft, which physically vibrates the controls in the pilot's hands. The vibrator in a smart phone could be used to alert medical staff to urgent matters.

One of the lessons from air accident investigation is that most accidents occur from honest hardworking people making a mistake. Simply finding someone to blame does not reduce the accidents in the future. Instead the accident needs to be looked at from the point of view of the team of people involved and what they perceive.

It occurs to me one example of what not to do are the recent royal commissions into Australian bush-fires.

Robyn pointed out that if there are pressures on staff they will tend to work outside the normal safe operating environment, this can result in very unsafe practices creeping into common use.

It occurs to me that it should be possible to monitor the delivery of health care in hospitals every easily. Hospitals keep detailed records which are now computerized. It should be possible to monitor the actions of the staff and the outcomes automatically across all hospitals in Australia. Something like this is already done with GPs, through automated examination of Medicare claims.

At discussion time we got on to the different philosophies of aircraft control between Boeing and Airbus: Boeing gives ultimate control of the aircraft to the pilot, whereas Airbus has computer controlled limits which the pilot cannot override. A local example is the room at ANU used for the talk, which has a bright yellow power switch installed at the instance of the computer scientists, whereas other rooms have the computer system in complete control of room functions.

One well know aircraft problem

F-22 Raptor fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft
While attempting its first overseas deployment to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on February 11, 2007, a group of six Raptors flying from Hickam AFB experienced multiple computer crashes coincident with their crossing of the 180th meridian of longitude (the International Date Line). The computer failures included at least navigation (completely lost) and communication. The planes were able to return to Hawaii by following their tankers in good weather. The error was fixed within 48 hours and the F-22s continued their journey to Kadena. ...
From: F-22 Raptor, Wikipedia, 10 March 2007
Robyn recommended, The Human Contribution, Safety and Ethics in Healthcare: A Guide to Getting It Right, Patient Safety: A Human Factors Approach.

Join Online Discussion of ICT Skills at World Summit

Elearning practitioner Brenda Aynsley, will take part in an online panel at the World Summit on the Information Society, to discuss global professional standards for computer staff. Brenda is chair of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), a not for profit organization, which has set a common standard for IT professional education, currently used by eight nations. The event in Switzerland will be available online at 12:15:00 AM, 17 May 2012, Australian EST (UTC+10).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lessons for Planning Canberra from Great Cities

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor James Weirick (UNSW) is speaking on The Art of City Design: Canberra and the planned capital’s movement. This followed last week's talk on "China’s Canberra: The past and future of Changchun". Professor Weirick started by pointing out it is almost 100 years since the design by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony was announced as the the winner for Canberra's plan.

Griffin's first action on being appointed was to select an eminent international panel of architects to select the design for the Australian Parliament House. But the competition was suspended on the outbreak of World War One. Later Griffin wanted Victor Laloux, architect of the Gare d'Orsay, to design the parliament building.
Musée d'OrsayMusée d'Orsay cafe in old clock towerProfessor Weirick argued Laloux's railway station design was revolutionary, as it integrated the platforms into the main building, instead of being out the back. This was possible as these were clean electric underground trains. The building is now the Musée d'Orsay (with an excellent cafe in old clock tower).

Professor Weirick pointed out the original plan for Canberra had a similar underground railway, which would have brought trains into the city centre.

Professor Weirick then pointed to the "Burnham Plan" of 1909, a "Plan of Chicago" by Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. This clearly influenced Griffin's Canberra plan, with roads radiating out from a symbolic centre, with a land axis perpendicular to the shore of a body of water.

Burnham also produced a 1901 plan for Washington and San Francisco. The latter plan had the main axis ending with a casino and aligned with a prominent mountain, as Griffin later did with Canberra. Notably more of the Canberra plan was built than those of Burnham. Also Burnham proposed a large statue on the mountain overlooking the city, fortunately Griffin proposed noting so ostentatious.

The plans of Paris, Washington and San Francisco all have an echo in Canberra, just as the Chinese city of Changchun (长春) resembles Canberra. But as QINGHUA GUO pointed out in "Changchun: unfinished capital planning of Manzhouguo 1932–42" (2004), the plan is a Chinese grid with a Beaux-Arts overlay. The same could be said of other plans of the time, Canberra is distinguished not so much for its design, but it is one of the few cities built on a greenfield site and thus expressing the Beaux-Arts plan to the maximum.

A train of the Intramural Railway World's Columbian Exposition 1893Professor Weirick then returned to the role of transportation in planning, pointing out that the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was integrated into the Chicago's public transport system, with heavy steam railway and an electric railway (the "Intramural Railway").

Professor Weirick damed the National Capital Authority with faint praise by saying the analysis of Griffin's original transport plan for Canberra was the most useful part of "The Griffin Legacy". He pointed out that if implemented, Canberra would have an integrated public transport system (at last week it was noted that Changchun got a tram in the 1940s and now has light rail and a high speed train station).

Professor Weirick moved on to the "The Vienna Plan of 1860", with its ring road. Otto Wagner designed the stations for the metro, including Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station. Professor Weirick ended with Helsinki Central railway station, by Eliel Saarinen, who Griffin wanted to involve in the planning of Canberra. Professor Weirick joked that Saarinen design for Canberra, which came second, perhaps should have won (there are similarities to Griffin's design, but no lake).

This was a refreshing and relevant tour of designs realized and unbuilt, for great cities of the world. Professor Weirick combined a discussion of the design aesthetic elements of the planning and the practicalities of modern planning, as it was in the early 20th century. Canberra is to day grappling with the issues of where the city should go: out or up, where to put the public transport and how to resolve public good and private land ownership. The cities of the past which inspired Canberra still have much to tell us today.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Green ICT Obligations for Corporates

I will be speaking on "Green ICT Obligations for Corporates", at the Australian Computer Society Green ICT Special Interest Group, 5:30pm for 6:00pm, 23 May 2012 (Register online):
Green ICT Obligations for Corporates

Meeting the green obligations of your organisation with ICT - Tom Worthington FACS CP, Adjunct Lecturer ANU and Member of the ANU Climate Change Institute.

Large organisations in Australia are already required to report carbon emissions each year and from 1 July 2012 carbon pricing will be introduced, effecting all organisations. What are the impacts for business and government; for example how will e-Waste regulations effect the disposal of equipment in future. Tom will be undertaking a review of the Greening of Australia and both the responsibilities and the opportunities for individuals and organisations.

Tom Worthington is the designer of the ACS Green ICT course and also the ANU ICT Sustainability course. He will discuss how ICT professionals can have a role, or even a new career, in helping their organisation meet its green requirements.

For more details see the free online edition of Tom Worthington’s book "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future":


Tom Worthington is a computer consultant and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

Tom teaches green computing, professional ethics and electronic document management and is also a member of the ANU Climate Change Institute. He was previously a senior IT policy adviser at the Australian Department of Defense. In 2008 Tom was commissioned by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) to design the world's first globally certified online postgraduate course in Green ICT. He was recognized for this work with the award of "ICT Educator of the Year for the ACT" in 2010. Tom is a Fellow, Past President, Honorary Life Member and Certified Professional of the ACS.

Tom is a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Designing Visual Notations in IT Practice

Daniel Moody, Director of OZemantics Pty LtdDaniel Moody, Director of OZemantics Pty Ltd, will speak on "The Physics of Notations: A Scientific Approach to Designing Visual Notations in IT Practice" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 4pm, 21 June 2012.

The Physics of Notations: A Scientific Approach to Designing Visual Notations in IT Practice

Daniel Moody (Director, OZemantics Pty Ltd, Sydney)


DATE: 2012-06-21
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: Seminar Room (N101), CSIT Building (Building 108, North Road)

Visual notations are pervasively used in the IT field, and have dominated both research and practice since its earliest beginnings. They are used in all areas and all levels of practice, from IT strategic planning down to integrated circuit design. For example, UML, the industry standard language for modelling IT systems, consists of 13 related visual notations. Yet historically, researchers and notation designers have ignored or undervalued issues of visual representation. In evaluating and comparing notations, details of visual syntax are rarely mentioned. In designing notations, the majority of effort is spent defining notation semantics, with design of graphical conventions largely an afterthought.

This presentation describes a theory for visual notation design, called the Physics of Notations, as it focuses on the physical (syntactic) properties of notations rather than their logical (semantic) properties. It consists of two related theories: a descriptive (Type IV) theory, which defines how visual notations communicate, and a prescriptive (Type V) theory, which defines a set of principles for designing cognitively effective visual notations. The principles can be used to evaluate, compare, and improve existing visual notations as well as to construct new ones. The principles have been proposed as an international standard for designing visual notations across engineering disciplines, so could have implications beyond the IT field.

Daniel has held senior IT positions in some of Australia's largest corporations and has conducted consulting assignments in 12 different countries. He has also held academic positions at some of the world's leading universities and published over 100 scientific papers in the Information Management & IT field. He holds a PhD in Information Systems from Melbourne University.