Friday, June 29, 2012

The research behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students

"The research behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students" is a UK study of higher education research students (those undertaking a PHD). It is a 45 page document (avialable in PDF and as easy to read web pages) and was released June 2012 by the British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

The study found that students look for text-based secondary material. That is the look for journal articles, books and other published work. A few science students look for published data-sets and in the social sciences, arts and humanities newspapers, archival material and social data may be used. The report's authors suggest this needs further research and may indicate a move away from using original data. But it does not seem surprising, based on my experience of higher education.

E-journals were found to be the primary research resource, with access being an issue for Generation Y students. Unlike older students, almost half of Generation Y will made do with the abstract, if they can't get the full article. The researcher found that open access and self-archived is not understood by the students, with material not published in formal journals being avoided by the students. The researches suggest students are not being trained adequately to deal with these information sources. However, I suggest there is a general failure by academic to accept the new reality of the Internet. This risks the future of academic research, just as the retail industry, newspaper publishing are under threat from new technology.

The researches found that Generation Y students use web technology tools more than older students, but they are still relativity conservative. This seems a reasonable approach to me, given that the students will risk the disapproval of their older supervisors and examiners if they do anything radical, or which is not supported by their institution. As with other professionals, I suggest librarians are still largely in a state of denial about the Internet, propping up obsolete publishing models and effective acting as underpaid marketers for vastly profitable private academic publishing companies.

The researchers found that Generation Y doctoral students generally work alone. This seems to be the major failing with current approaches to the way research supervision is conducted at universities. It contradicts research by CAPA which shows that students collaborating are happier and that most research is now done in teams. This seems similar to the issue with coursework at universities, where many lecturers cling to the idea that the students learn from and appreciate bespoke lectures, which research shows these are a poor teaching technique.

The researchers found that Generation Y students prefer personalize face-to-face support and training. This is not surprising, as we would all like that. Unfortunately the researchers do not seem to have asked the right questions. As an example, I estimated that the amount the student is paying for their higher degree is sufficient to provide them with about eight minutes individual attention from staff, per week. The question then is how to best use that available eight minutes: on individual face-to-face support, or in other ways? In particular, a few minutes of attention goes a lot further when used online, than face to face.

The researchers ask if institutions can have the students support each other. This would not seem to be a question at all, as that is the way online education is already routinely done at university, with students encouraged to learn together. There are well established techniques which online course designers and tutors are trained in. These same techniques should be able to be adapted for research students. Given that most research students are being prepared for a career where they will work in teams, it would seem natural to teach them team skills.

One curious aspect of the report is that I could not find any mention of who wrote it, nor how to cite the report. Given the significant and scholarly nature of the undertaking, this seems a curious omission.


Research Supervision Notes

The ANU Research Supervision Notes provide an overview of issues for those wishing to learn about supervising PHDs and other research students at university. The content was developed with Oxford University (UK) and McGill University (Canada).


  1. Developments
  2. Research Environment
  3. Candidature Stages
  4. Being a Supervisor
  5. Experiences and Conceptions
  6. HDR Candidates
  7. Examination

If the priorities of coursework students are any guide, then perhaps these should be dealt with in a different order, with "examination" first, as that is the top priority for students.

Here is the table of contents from the Oxford Learning Institute (Oxford University) version of the notes:

  1. DPhil students
  2. Being a supervisor
  3. Stages of the doctorate
  4. Examination
  5. Research environment
  6. National and international context
Oxford University also provide a Website overview in a two page (126kb) PDF document. But a web site should not require a separate two page set of printed instructions in order to use it. The problem seems to be that the notes are intended for several different audiences: research students, their supervisors and university staff. It would be better if these groups were specifically addressed on the web page (students, supervisors, other staff ...), rather than having a separate download guide to the guide.

Academic authors are used used to creating conventional printed documents with a hierarchical tables of contents. So it might be better if they used that format for their web pages, rather than trying to be too clever and then having to provide a separate cheat sheet to explain a hard to navigate web site.

One interesting item in the Oxford University Website overview is on Meeting minutes:
"As soon as possible after any formal meeting with your
supervisor about your progress, write a brief descriptive text that summarizes the direction of the discussion including what was clarified, ending with next tasks and timelines. Send this to your supervisor to verify that you have understood exactly what has been agreed. Writing these regularly provides you with a log of your progress."
This is good advice, but seems out of place with the general guidance about how to navigate the web site about the web site. Also it raises the question of where the student logs their minutes. The obvious place for the student to keep the minutes would be in their e-portfolio (I use a Mahara "Journal"). A blog could be used for this purpose, although these do not meet records management standards (the student could go back later and amend the minutes). The question also needs to be asked as to why the supervisor has no obligations for record keeping, given that they are being paid by the university to do the supervision and why the university is not providing an online system which meets standards for electronic records management.

Agora Smart TV HDMI Dongle

Remote Control for Agora Smart TV HDMI DongleAgora Smart TV HDMI DongleKogan have announced an "Agora Smart TV HDMI Dongle", will be available from 31 July 2012 for $99. This is a tiny desktop computer designed to plug into the HDMI video port on a digital TV (or computer monitor) to turn it into a Google Android computer. This would be useful to have at home to complement an Android smart phone. While intended for entertainment, with a keyboard and mouse (or touch-pad) this would be sufficient for undertaking some online courses for school, vocational or university studies.

The device has WiFi, a full size USB socket and a microSD slot. It is powered via a miniUSB socket. One feature lacking from the Dongle is Bluetooth for a remote keyboard, although a TV type hand-held remote control is provided.

Android Deluxe Wireless Keyboard & TrackpadTo use the Dongle as a desktop computer, a keyboard would be needed. Kogan off their own "Android Deluxe Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad", but this is too small for serious typing.

Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Multi-Touch TouchpadThe Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Multi-Touch Touchpad would be more useful. I recently purchased on of these. Despite the "Touch Keyboard" name it has a conventional keyboard, plus a large large touch pad (where the numeric keypad would normally be). This is small enough to sit on the lap but large enough to type comfortably on. Alternatively a low cost USB hub could be plugged in and desktop keyboard and mouse used (I recently purchased a hub, keyboard and mouse for less than $15).

Agora is the brand name Kogan give their low cost computer range. I have the Kogan Ultra Portable Agora 12" Laptop, which has proven very reliable and useful.

Technical Specifications


802.11 b/g/n


1920 x 1080


9.045 x 3.396 x 1.55cm
Android 4.0 ICS


Cortex A9 1GHz
Internal Storage


Card Reader
microSD up to 32GB
USB 2.0
USB drives up to 32GB
Power only




Mali 400

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Expectations of Research Students

Do the expectations of research students match those of their supervisors and of their institution? The "Student Perceptions of Research Supervision" (SPORS) asks both the students and their supervisors what is expected and then compares the results.
  1. Participation
  2. Questionnaire design
  3. Supervisors
  4. Students
  5. Treatment of questionnaire information

It would seem obvious that the institution should set a set of standard conditions for students and supervisors, but this seems not to be the case. The tradition seems to be that each student is expected to negotiate with their supervisor. This seems an unrealistic and inequitable practice. There are limits on the resources which the institution can provide (essentially eight minutes of their supervisor's time per week). If the student expects more, then the cost of the extra resources will have to come from elsewhere. The supervisor may have a funded research project, with the student working as a research assistant.

It strikes me that mature students who have come from a workplace would benefit from being part of a familiar structure. It may be useful to have the students working as part of a team. This could be encouraged by funding agencies in provision of research funding.

Supervision of University Research Students

The role of supervisors for research students at university is becoming more regulated. Universities have their own policies, such as ANU's "Guideline: Candidature and Supervision of Higher Degree by Research Students" (10 May 2011). One issue is how much formal training in supervision the supervisors require. There is also the issue of if teacher training and experience is relevant to supervision.

Less amenable to standardizing is the selection of a good research topic. Perhaps some of the techniques used for selecting inventions for commercial development might be applied. The Innovation ACT program ran budding inventors through a program where they examined their idea and had it reviewed.

One aspect which I suggest has been overlooked in research supervision is teamwork. The research by CAPA shows that students collaborating are happier. Most research is now done not by individuals but be teams. In some fields the teams might be two to six people, and in other fields thousands of people. Having one supervisor working with one student does not seem a good way to foster this group working. Also there is a high risk for the student if they have only one supervision closely involved in their work and that person is no longer available. It seems to me that this idea of a close one-on-one relationship is an academic fantasy which will cause frustration.

One issue universities appear to be failing to address is remuneration for supervisors. The custom in Australia has been that supervisors are not paid. The University of Canberra's "Higher Degrees by Research: Policy and Procedures" (The Gold Book) has provision for payment of the chair a supervisory panel. However, the payment is only $2,000 per year, which would provide about 8 minutes of supervision a week. An international student pays $18,920 per year. If universities really believe that research supervision is important, then them might want to spend more than just 11% of the fees they get from the students on it. The student may have difficulty seeing what they are paying for.

Research Education

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), delivered a report on "The Research Education Experience: Investigating Higher Degree by Research Candidates’ Experiences in Australian Universities" for the Department of Industry, 7 May 2012. Universities are under pressure to produce more work relevant higher degrees. Alongside the traditional PHD and Masters by research there are more programs with coursework and publication.

The expected career paths for postgraduate students is changing. Previously universities assumed that postgraduate education was for an academic career, teaching and researching in a tenured position. Most postgraduates now work in government and industry. There are relatively few secure positions in universities, with teaching being undertaken by part time staff, having no research role.

The same pressures which are changing the way undergraduate courses are provided at universities are now impacting postgraduate education. Online courses are changing the way education is provided. There is no reason not to expect postgraduate research education will move online. I will be examining this issue for the rest of the year.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements 3
  • List of Figures and Tables 5
  • Executive Summary 8
  • Best Practice Key Findings 9
  • Introduction 10
  • The Research Training Experience 12
  • Methodology 13
  • Survey and Focus Group Findings 16
  • Supervision 16
  • Minimum Resources Policies and Practices 20
  • Collegiality 30
  • Focus Group Discussion: Education and Mature-Age Candidates 35
  • Education Focus Group 35
  • Mature-Age Multi-Disciplinary Focus Group 40
  • Case Studies 42
  • James, Early 20s, Full-Time ICT Masters, Regional University 42
  • Billy, Mid 20s, Full-Time Sociology PhD, Regional University 44
  • Nina, Early 30s, Part-Time Physiotherapy PhD, Metropolitan University 48
  • Peter, Mid 30s, Full-Time Tourism MPhil, Regional University 53
  • Nancy, Early 40s, Full-Time Geography PhD, Research Intensive University 57
  • Gina, Late 40s, Part-Time Health Sciences PhD, Regional University 60
  • Dennis, Early 60s, Full-Time Social Sciences PhD, Regional University 64
  • Mary, Mid 60s, Part-Time Creative Writing PhD, Metropolitan University 68
  • Conclusion 72
  • Appendix A: Demographics of Participants 73
  • Survey Demographics 73
  • Focus Group Demographics 75
  • Case Study Demographics 76
  • Appendix B: Survey Questions and Tabulated Responses 77
  • References 80


Executive Summary

This report is the product of a project carried out for the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) by the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). The primary findings of this report are based on the outcomes of a national survey, 12 focus groups and 8 case studies of higher degree by research (HDR) candidates at 31 of Australia’s 39 universities. In total 1,166 students responded to the survey, and 125 were involved in the subsequent focus groups and case studies.

The Australian Government’s Research Workforce Strategy (RWS) and earlier reviews, including the Senate Inquiry into Research and Research Training, the Review of the National Innovation System, and the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education, all identified a number of issues around research training in Australia. While there was a great deal of data gathered by DIISRTE during the development of the RWS, much of it focused on employers and early career academics, with less information collected directly from research students.

A workshop conducted by the CAPA during the development of the RWS on behalf of the then Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research (DIISR), highlighted some of the broad themes of concern to research students, including but not limited to: quality of supervision, quality and availability of minimum resources and funding for the production and dissemination of research, collegiality, and academic independence.

For the in-depth interviews in our focus groups and case studies, we sought to highlight the experiences of HDR candidates at regional universities. If a general claim can be made, it is simply that those in smaller departments were more likely to have quite positive experiences of collegiality with their cohort and with academics, and though this happened in both metropolitan and regional universities, it came through more strongly from regional candidates. The only counter to this was that when things went wrong in very small disciplinary groupings, there was often nowhere to turn for support.

This report identifies how institutional, faculty and departmental policies and practices impact on all aspects of the research education experience, or what can be described as early-career academic life. HDR candidates experience tensions between what is encoded in policy statements and how this plays out in practice, which in turn can impact on progress, timely completions and career pathways. Where policy and practice are more closely aligned, we found HDR candidates having a much more positive research education experience, and more positive attitudes towards a research career.

According to our findings, candidates working within their disciplines, being mentored on research grants or as research assistants, or collaborating in applied research projects within universities or industry, are more likely to express satisfaction with their research education experience. Where there is synergy between the HDR candidate’s research and their employment during candidature, candidates are more likely to say they have felt valued and engaged with the process of emerging as an expert in their field.

What emerges strongly from this research is the need expressed by HDR candidates to feel that their research is valued, and that they personally are valued partners in their educational experience. Often this involves the opportunity to work and research alongside colleagues from other disciplines where they can learn more and broaden their own disciplinary knowledge.

Our findings demonstrate how dependent success and positive engagement are on quality of supervision, the provision of adequate funding for research, physical resourcing such as work spaces, technology, equipment, and access to relevant coursework, and opportunities for publication and presentation of research at academic conferences. HDR candidates expressed a desire for academic support to be mentored into autonomous researchers valued by their supervisors and academic colleagues as professionals with strong disciplinary knowledge and expertise.

Those whose primary enrolment status has been part time reported experiences of some frustration at lack of access to the same level of resources as their full-time colleagues, but for many this is outweighed by the benefits of working to a longer time frame and being able to balance family and work commitments more easily. Taxation of the part-time scholarship was widely criticised.

HDR candidates across our sample claimed to be having positive experiences of academic independence. Whereas the 2009 CAPA workshop cohort raised academic independence as an area of concern, this research investigation did not find it to be an issue affecting many candidates.

Of critical interest to policy makers will be the finding that the risk of attrition seems to be most strongly linked to quality and continuity of supervision, and secondarily to collegiality more broadly. It seems that even in the face of many other institutional barriers to the production and dissemination of quality research, such as lack of resources and facilities and funding issues, the majority of HDR candidates are motivated to persevere. But when candidates have negative experiences of supervision, or to a lesser extent, collegiality with their cohort or within the department or faculty, they are more likely to express considerations of withdrawal. ...

From: The Research Education Experience: Investigating Higher Degree by Research Candidates’ Experiences in Australian Universities, Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) for the Department of Industry, 7 May 2012.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Designing a Learning Commons for Computer Science

The computer labs on the ground floor of the Computer Science and Information Technology Building (CSIT) at the Australian National University are due to be re-equipped. Rather than just replace the old computers with new ones, I have suggested turning the entire ground floor (about 800 square metres) into a teaching and learning commons.

Current Building Design

The award winning CSIT Building was purpose designed for computer science in the mid 1990s, with input by computer scientist Dr. David Hawking.

The building was ahead of its time being designed for high performance computer data cabling and work environments have been provided for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, as well as project work.

The ground floor area originally had a seminar room (the famous N101), two smaller project rooms N118, N102), a computer museum in the foyer (N120), two tutorial rooms (N108, N109), five smaller prac rooms (N110 to N114), and two larger prac rooms (N115, N116).

Later N110 and N111 were re-purposed as postgraduate rooms. Half the dividing wall between the larger prac rooms (N115, N116) was removed to make a larger computer equipped teaching space.

The remaining prac rooms (N112 to N116) are equipped with parallel benches running down the room fitted with desktop computers. There are projection screens at the front of the rooms.

There is a student foyer near the main entrance, this has a notice board shared printers.

Issues With the Spaces

The computer equipment is due for replacement. However, this provides the opportunity to rethink the use of the space.

Changes in Teaching Practice

The facility was designed with a bifurcation of teaching practice on the main axis. There are tutorial rooms on the southern side of the main corridor and prac rooms (computer labs) on the northern side. The tutorial rooms were designed for medium sized groups using conventional face to face teaching techniques lead by a tutor (without computers). The prac rooms were designed for individuals or small groups of students to work, with or without supervision, but without formal presentations.

The prac rooms have now evolved to allow for group instruction, with a presenter at the front of the room, as well as continuing to be used for small group and individual work.

Individual and small group work has different requirements to large group work and there is there for a compromise in the room design. This is seen most obviously in the combined room N115/N116, which has a half wall down the centre of the room. This wall allows the room to be used for two small separate groups, but when used as one large room half the class can't see the other.

Changes In Technology

The ANU Research School of Computer Science is a leader in the development of open source software and operating systems. ANU uses a mix of Apple Mac and Microsoft Windows operating systems. There are also new options with students using their own laptops, net books and tablet computers.

The use of "cloud" computing and web based interfaces is rendering the issues of the desktop hardware and operating system used to be largely irrelevant. It is suggested that students, particularly Computer Science students should be expected to have their own mobile computing device, be it a laptop or tablet. The unviersity then just need to provide wireless networking to the learning management system and major computing resoruces.

Computer Assisted Learning

In the last few years ANU has made a major investment in e-learning with the development of the "Wattle" system using the Moodle learning management system and related software. CECS is a leader in the use of this technology for blended learning with the Engineering Hubs and Spokes Project and for e-learning with the award winning ICT Sustainability course.

As a result CECS will require fewer large lecture theatres seating hundreds of students and more small computer equipped flexible teaching rooms seating 24 to 48 students. Also space will be required for students to work alone or in small groups with computer access.

This creates both an opportunity and a problem. The Colledge will not need to use external lecture theatres as much (these spaces being unsuitable for modern teaching practices) but will require new spaces for teaching. Other colleges, such as commerce and law have constructed new buildings with "Harvard" style rooms for group teaching. However, there is not the space, nor is there likely to be the funding for the construction of these in the CSIT building. Also these Harvard style rooms are not optimal for modern teaching as they do not have a flat floor.

Suggested Approach: Design a Learning Centre

Fitting the conflicting requirements into a small space in the CSIT building is a complex task. However, some recent developments in teaching space design can be adapted. Advances in computer technology can also make the task easier.

The suggested approach is to:

1. Retain Seminar Room: The existing N101 seminar room should be retained essentially unchanged. The previous raised platform at the front of the room has already been removed, to provide a flat floor for the entire space.

2. Re-purpose display room: The current computer display room at the entry to the building is not effective. The exhibits could instead be provided on flat panel wall screen in the foyer and the room used for meetings.

3. Remove Desktop Computers: Using the approach suggested by Dr Kathy Lynch at the University of the Sunshine Coast, the ground floor of the building could be modeled along the lines of a high technology business of the type IT students would aspire to work for (or own). To achieve that look, the central entrance and open plan area could be remodeled as the entrance and reception area. This would provide a place for students to meet and to find out about activities. This area would be also used during breaks in evening courses when the refectory areas of the ANU may not be open.

The current prac rooms have a very low seating density, resulting in great flexibility but limited capacity. It suggested that all desktop computers be removed and students required to bring their own mobile device instead. This will then allow the large fixed benches to be replaced with smaller fold up tables on wheels. It should also allow the space to accommodate twice as many students overall.

The foyer would be equipped as an informal "cafe" with tables and benches equipped with power points for student laptops. Some spaces would be equipped with wall mounted screens for small group work by students. These could be modelled on the UNSW Eora Exchange (by lahznimmo architects) and the Southbank Institute of Technology Library. Other useful examples are the University of Canberra Teaching and Learning Commons, ANU Hancock West, and University of Adelaide Hub Central.

4. TEAL Room: The internal walls would be removed from the western end of the ground floor to create one large 18 x 18 m "TEAL" room, like that at the University of Canberra Inspire Centre. This would accommodate classes of up to 120 students. The TEAL room would open out onto the cafe.

If computer based examinations need to be accommodated, then the TEAL room could be lined with aluminium foil insulation, which would block most external wireless data access. Students could use their own laptop, a specially filtered WiFi system and a monitored, hosted IT system for their examinations. Students would only be permitted to use their laptops as terminals to the examination server, with any data copied from elsewhere detected and reported by the system.

For further items see:
  1. Classroom Design
  2. Flexible learning centre
  3. Learning commons

IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have released a Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business (ABS Cat. no. 8166.0, 26 June 2012). Businesses with broadminded Internet access is up 2% to 99.1%. However busienss which order online is at only 50.8% and which take online orders is a low 28%. Micro-business is lagging online with only 33.2% having a web presence.


    1. About Business Use of Information Technology Statistics
    2. Business Use of Information Technology
    1. About Innovation in Australian Business Statistics
    2. Innovation in Australian Business - Summary
    3. Innovation in Australian Business - Detail
    4. Innovating Businesses
    5. Innovation Still in Development
    6. Abandoned Innovative Activity

Work-Integrated-Learning for an ICT Career

Dr. Dale MacKrell, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering, University of Canberra, will speak on "ICT Career Progression" at the Australian Computer Society meeting in Canberra, 3 July 2012.
Branch Forum
ICT Career Progression

In this session, Dale will outline some of the work integrated learning (WIL) units offered in the Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering (ISE) at the University of Canberra, in particular the Internship program which is now well established. In that context, there will be a discussion of issues of equity and diversity.

In 2010, a WIL project was begun by Craig McDonald and Jennifer Bradley. It involved the mapping of ISE core units in three main undergraduate (UG) courses against identified IT occupational skills and also the SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) workplace skill categories. SFIA is a common reference model for describing IT practitioners’ occupational skills. The purpose of this WIL project is to provide a clearer understanding of ISE study pathways to IT career roles and to assist in the Australian Computer Society (ACS) accreditation process for 2012, which is underway. Progress in this project will be outlined as well.

Biography: Dr. Dale MacKrell

Assistant Professor (Information Systems), Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering, University of Canberra

This year, Dale took on the role of Internship Convenor in the Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering at the University of Canberra. This has provided her with insight into work integrated learning and the value of preparing students for the workplace. One of her other areas of teaching is Business Intelligence. Again, there are benefits from inviting practitioners into the lecture theatre, not only for students but for industry.

Dale came to the University of Canberra just over two years ago. She has been an academic for a decade after completing a commerce degree, a masters degree and a PhD at Griffith University in Brisbane. Her research areas include the adoption and use of agricultural decision support systems in the Australian cotton industry especially by women farmers, research into the readiness of organisations in the not-for-profit sector for advanced technologies, as well as the academic preparation and expectations of graduates.

Date: Tuesday 3rd July 2012
Time: 4:45pm registration for 5:15pm start to 6:45pm

Monday, June 25, 2012

Learning to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Melbourne

The draft notes are available for my presentation "A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online" (and slides), for the 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE 2011), 10:45am, 16 July 2012 in Melbourne. I would welcome corrections and additions.

Also any suggestions on what else to do in Melbourne would be useful. The City of Melbourne was to hold a Digital City Unconference in July, but this has been postponed. Also the Victorian government has announced work on a Whole of Government ICT Strategy.

A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online

Tom Worthington

Research School of Computer Science

Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

For 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE 2011), 10:45am, 16 July 2012, Melbourne, Australia.


Description: Sustainable ICT Courses are being introduced at the vocational training level and more rarely at undergraduate and graduate levels. This paper reports on a graduate level Sustainable ICT Course run for the first time in 2009, as part of a global professional training program. The same course has been run at an Australian university and later adapted for North America by a Canadian university. The course had enrolments from industry based participants from both private and public sector organisation, as well as full time university students, with corporate Green ICT strategies being produced as course assignments. This paper discusses the student population and presents the course structure and assessment. An empirical evaluation of student responses, conducted at the end of the course, has yet to be completed, but some impressions of the differences in responses from graduate students and external participants is presented.

Keywords: sustainable ICT education, postgraduate studies, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, e-learning, work integrated learning.

Reference as:

WORTHINGTON, T. 2012. A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks. [Preprint]. 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education. Melbourne, Australia: IEEE.

Slides for these notes are also available. 也可对这些票据的幻灯片

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Victorian Whole of Government ICT Strategy

The Victorian government has announced work on a Whole of Government ICT Strategy. This follows an Ombudsman and Auditor-General released a "Own motion investigation into ICT-enabled projects" (November 2011).

The Ombudsman and AG looks at ten major Victorian IT projects which were over-budget and under performed. The best known of the problem projects is the MyKi smart ticketing system. The problems found are common to IT projects in the public and private sectors and the remedies will be familiar to any student of IT.

It is well know in the IT profession that many IT projects fail and that these failures are usually due to problems of project governance, not technical issues. When working for the Defence Department I part of a team which did a quick investigation of an IT project each week. These projects had sincere hardworking staff, who in most cases knew what was wrong, but were trapped in a system which would not admit failure.

Unfortunately, these days as an ICT consultant, I am called in only after a project has failed to be an expert witness in court cases, when blame is being assigned. Given a pile of project documents about a metre high, I can usually find the point (about one third from the start of the project), where it started to go wrong. This is where the project plan said the project was to meet a milestone, but did not. Rather than stop the project at this point and rectify the problem (or cancel the project), the management choose to keep going and hope for the best, which does not happen.

This "hope for the best" attitude is something I help teach IT students at the Australian National University to avoid. It will be interesting to see how the Victorian Government's new strategy evolves.

Some excerpts from the 125 page report:
Executive summary
  • Common themes
  • Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects
  • What is ICT?
  • History
  • Investigation
  • Cabinet documents
  • CenITex
  • Report structure
Common themes
  1. Leadership, accountability and governance
  2. Planning
  3. Funding
  4. Probity and procurement
  5. Project management
Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects and recommendations
  1. Leadership, accountability and governance
  2. Planning
  3. Funding
  4. Probity and procurement
  5. Project management
Case studies
  1. Link
  2. HealthSMART
  3. myki
  4. RandL
  5. Client Relationship Information System (CRIS)
  6. Ultranet
  7. Integrated Courts Management System (ICMS)
  8. Property and Laboratory Management (PALM)
  9. HRAssist
  10. Housing Integrated Information Program (HIIP)


Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects ...

Leadership, accountability and governance
• Agency executives are to show stronger leadership; robust governance practices are to be implemented; and project staff are to be held to account for the performance of ICT-enabled projects.
• The role of DTF in ICT-enabled projects is to be enhanced and the value of Gateway as a mechanism for external oversight and accountability is to be capitalised.

• Business cases for some of the projects I examined were not subjected to adequate scrutiny. I have made recommendations to improve the level of scrutiny applied. The government’s ’high-value and high-risk’ process introduced in 2010 also provides for increased
scrutiny of business cases.

• Agencies are to adopt a whole of life approach to costing and funding major ICT systems and DTF is to assist by establishing a maintenance and replacement fund for these systems.
• The government is to consider refining how projects are funded to make agencies more accountable to government throughout the life of major ICT-enabled projects.

Probity and procurement
• Agencies are to adopt stricter probity practices.
• Agencies are to adopt robust approaches to purchasing ICT systems; DTF is to explore the potential to harness best practice procurement practices from other countries; and the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office is to examine and endorse all proposed contracts before they are signed to ensure the contract protects the interests of the state.

Project management
• Agencies are to adopt established project management methods.
• DTF and the State Services Authority (SSA) are to develop strategies to recruit and retain skilled ICT staff within government and better monitor the quality of work provided by contractors. ...

3. myki

Key issues
• The project is at least $350 million over budget and at least four years behind schedule.
• The Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA) was overly optimistic in believing it could achieve a two-year delivery of the system: less than half that achieved elsewhere in the world.
• The project proposed an ‘open architecture’43 solution: an approach not previously undertaken, heightening associated risk.
• The ‘outcomes-based’44 agreement proved problematic to manage and led to ambiguities and specification ‘creep’.
• Two Chief Executive Officers departed the TTA shortly following failure by the TTA to meet key delivery dates.
• Initially, the TTA board did not have the requisite number of appointees with relevant experience when needed.
• The Department of Transport (DOT)45 had responsibility for ticketing policy issues, but did not have a representative on the board. In my view, it should have.
• The TTA was highly critical of the quality of the project managers employed by the vendor. ...

From: Own motion investigation into ICT-enabled projects, Victorian Ombudsman and Victorian Auditor-General, November 2011

Friday, June 22, 2012

Entertaining Mr Sloan in Sydney

Entertaining Mr Sloane opened last night at the New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney. Joe Orton's 1964 black comedy is disturbingly funny. Alice Livingstone plays a wonderful Kath, the slightly mad amorous middle-aged landlady, with designs on the young Sloane (Brynn Loosemore). Pete Nettell is less successful as Ed, who reminded me a little too much of Eric Idle, playing a Spiv in Monthy Python. Rosane McNamara's set perfectly recreates a faded home full of faded memories.

Re-heel School Shoes With Recycled Soles

Articles such as "How to Resole Shoes", describe the process for dress shoes. But something more radical is needed for repairing school or walking shoes with deep treads.

The Replacement Heels you can buy for shoes are usually a thin sheet of plastic or rubber, with little tread. This is not enough for a heavy duty school or walking shoe. The shoes can have so much wear the replacement is not thick enough.

Shoes with thick soles can be repaired with a more radical approach. Shoes normally wear out at the heels first, so you can use the sole from an old shoe to make the heel for another.

First use a small wood saw to cut the sole from an old shoe. You may have to saw through the leather of the shoe to get at the sole and then use the saw to cut the inner lining from the sole of the shoe. Leave the sole larger than the heel you are repairing, as you can trim it to size later.

Now use a saw to cut the bottom off the heel of the shoe you are repairing, to match the thickness of the sole you are using to replace it. You may have to cut 5 mm, or more, from the heel. Don't worry if the heel has voids in it, or is not completely flat.

Normally Contact Adhesive is used for gluing shoe soles, but it requires very flat surfaces to stick. Something thicker is needed for more radical repairs, where the surfaces are uneven and there are holes to fill. I found that the Silicone Sealant, as used for windows and around bathtubs, works well. This sticks to rubber, plastic and leather and also is thick enough to fill in holes and uneven surfaces.

Select a colour of silicone to match the shoe sole (usually black). Buy the large corking gun tubes of sealant, as you get a lot more silicone for your money this way.

Make sure you are wearing old clothes and have gloves on, as the silicone sealant is very messy, particularly in black (it sticks well to clothing).

Smear a generous amount of the silicone to the shoe heel, filling in any voids (some shoe heels are hollow). Now smear silicon on the replacement heel and press it in place, lining up the tread.

Leave the sealant to dry, which may take up to a week. It is important to leave the sealant to set all the way through. It may look set around the edges you can see but still liquid in the centre. If you try to walk on the heel in this state it will slide off the shoe, which could be dangerous.

When the sealant is set, carefully saw the excess from around the heel. You can clean this up with steel file.

The result will not be as pretty as a new shoe but will be very serviceable.

Solar Powered NBN Co Discovery Truck

HINO Hybrid TruckThe National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co), have a "NBN Co Discovery Truck" touring Australia to promote broadband use. The schedule says the truck is at Toormina today and then will be at Penrith (NSW) on 26 June. I saw the display in Canberra this week. This is a good display, but I suggest NBN Co need a smaller version of the truck for urban areas.

Co Discovery TruckThe NBN truck is a very large semi-trailer which requires a specially qualified driver, wide roads, a large set-up area and several staff. Also the display needs considerable amounts of electricity from a diesel generator.

I suggest NBN Co commission a smaller truck for inner urban areas. This could be small enough to be operated by one person with an ordinary car licence and use solar, or mains power, when set up for display.

Smallest trucks can have their engines "de-rated" so they can be driven with an ordinary car license. A small display on the back of such a truck could be powered from batteries, charged while driving and supplemented by a small solar cell. An ordinary outdoor power cable could be used to run the display for extended periods and a small generator used intermittently when there is no mains and no sun.

The display could be secured and automated so that one person could set it up and oversee it, but would not need to be present all the time.

Several companies make small hybrid trucks using similar technology to the Prius hybrid car. These small trucks are popular with parcel delivery companies and local councils, as they are most efficient for stop start traffic. One of these would generate enough electrical power to run a display for a day. One is the Hyno Hybrid Truck, from Toyota's truck subsidiary.

It should be noted that the idea of a traveling display of telecommunications technology on a truck around Australia is not a new one. Digital video expert, George Bray, ran the "TechTrek", around Australia, in 2002. George used a converted camper-van, sponsored by the Australian Government and technology companies, to survey the use of the Internet and demonstrate its benefits. This was reported by the BBC. The "TechTrek Final Report" (George Bray, May 2002) is available.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obtaining a Melbourne Tram Ticket

Next month I am speaking at an international conference in Melbourne. Most of the other delegates are from China and will be staying at the conference venue. I am staying in the city and so need to get to the venue. The Melbourne tram network is extensive and they has introduced a smart transit card ("Myki"). But working out how to actually buy a ticket has proven much more difficult than getting the equivalent electronic ticket in Istanbul.

There are plans for a Tourist Pack, for visitors, preloaded with $8. But currently if you click "visitor" on the "Which MyKi is for you?" page, you are advised to buy the regular MiKi card. Curiously, while full fee paying passengers are told that the card will cost $6, visitors are not told of this cost.

I attempted to purchase a MiKi card, with MiKi money already loaded on the card. Also I chose a registered card, which allows topping up the money online and a refund if the card is lost. This required filling in not only details of where I wanted the card sent, but my email and phone details, a user id, and password. The first few times I tried this the system rejected the transaction after I had completed several screens full of information. The text on one screen was overlapping and unreadable and in other cases the text I was trying to enter would not fit in the boxes, due to poor web page design.

After several attempts I was able to order a registered card. I then tried to order a non-registered card for someone travelling with me. In this case I could not work out how to order a card with money on it. I could order a card with no money on it, but that would be of no use, as there would be no way to use it for travel. Perhaps this as done for security reasons, as the anonymous card acts as essentially like cash. But it seems silly not to allow at least a small amount of money on the card, as without it the card is useless.

Several Australian cities have, or are introducing, smart transit cards. All these cards use the same technical standards and are capable of being interoperable. The Australian Government could boost tourism and lower carbon emissions by encouraging the state governments to allow their transit systems to accept each other's smart cards (just as toll roads accept interstate electronic tags). This would allow interstate visitors to use their current card and international visitors to pre-purchase a card.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NBN Demonstration in Canberra

Co Discovery TruckThe National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co), have a "NBN Co Discovery Truck" touring Australia to promote broadband use. The truck is located behind Old Parliament House in Canberra today, so I went along this morning for a look (individuals can just turn up but groups should book). There is a standard 20 minute demonstration for a group of about a dozen. I was impressed how the demonstrators were able to explain a complex technology in simple terms.

The "truck" is a semitrailer, with a diesel generator built in (the generator could do with some more vibration isolation) and two telescopic sides, making a relatively spacious display room. Visitors enter via stairs at the rear (there is also a wheelchair lift) and exit at the front. One wall of the interior is wide-screen display made up of a 2 x 6 matrix of high resolution flat panel screens. The other wall has examples of the NBN equipment.

The interior is very plain white and shiny metal, with a rubber floor, clearly being designed for heavy use by many visitors. The space reminded me of a mock-up of the International Space Station which I saw at NASA.

The demonstrators showed the NBN website where details of the roll-out are provided. Canberra's northern satellite town of Gungahlin is being cabled first, which makes sense as this missed out on the Transact fibre optic system in other parts of the city.

There are three examples of the NBN hardware displayed: fibre, wireless and satellite. The fibre system has three boxes installed in the home: one on the outside wall where the fibre terminates, a power supply and a box inside the home which phones and computers are attached to. The power supply has a large lead acid backup battery in it (same size as used in UPS and security alarms) to keep the phones working during a blackout. There is provision for two phones and up to four separate data services.

The NBN equipment looks well engineered. One addition which I suggest householders in bushfire prone areas make is a metal cover for the fibre optic cable and box outside the house. The cable and box are plastic and would melt due to radiant heat in a bushfire, cutting off communications (the cable itself would survive as it is underground).

After the demonstration there was time for questions. Normally with such a demonstration for the public I wince about the oversimplification and inaccuracies which creep in. But the NBN demonstration staff did a very good job under extreme pressure. The audience in this case was not your usual members of the general public, including people from the Government's National Digital Economy Strategy and myself (I helped write the public Internet policy for Australia).

A video is shown during the presentation, which I was amused to find featured Tony Windsor MP's electorate office.

The truck will next be travelling to Coffs Harbour on 21 June 2012. I recommend a visit, when the truck visits you.

There is also a NBN Co Discovery Centre in the Innovation Building, 1010 La Trobe St, Docklands, Melbourne (bookings required).

Many questions remain with the NBN. One of these is about the relative merits of fibre optic cable and wireless. While much of the debate over the NBN has been about the merits, or otherwise, of Fibre To The Premises (FTTP), many regional households in Australia will get wireless, not fibre. The use of wireless was also a key part of the current opposition's policy, when they were in government (and it is likely that a future such government would have a broadband program with the same technology as the NBN, but different political branding). The use of wireless in regional areas and fibre optic cable in more densely populated urban areas makes engineering and financial sense. The question then is where should the boundary between the two be and if they should overlap.

Master of Climate Change

Just noticed that my ICT Sustainability course is available as part of the Australian National University's Master of Climate Change, by coursework:

Master of Climate Change

Offered By: Crawford School of Economics and Government and ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment

Minimum: 48 units

Academic Contact: A/Prof Janette Lindesay and Dr Frank Jotzo

Academic Plan: 7824XMCLCH

CRICOS Code: 064772D

Areas of Interest: Environmental Studies

The Master of Climate Change is an interdisciplinary coursework or coursework and research degree that allows students to develop a program of advanced learning suited to their individual interests and skills in the area of climate change. The degree is jointly offered by the Crawford School of Economics and Government and the Fenner School of Environment and Society.

The program comprises a minimum of three compulsory courses in core topic areas covering climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, climate change economics and policy, and methodological approaches; elective courses can be selected from a wide range of topics to meet individual student needs and interests. Master of Climate Change graduates can expect to:

  • gain both a high level of knowledge in particular aspects of climate change, and a broad knowledge of the current issues in and approaches to climate change vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation;
  • develop their independent learning, analytical and research, teamwork, and oral and written communication skills;
  • develop networks relevant to their academic and professional interests; and
  • be better placed to respond to the challenges of climate change through their chosen careers.

The Master of Climate Change program allows students to take courses from across the ANU, to draw from the University's breadth and strength in the science, economics, law, policy and governance aspects of climate change vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation. The flexibility of course requirements allows programs to be tailored to meet individual interests. Students must discuss their proposed program with a Fenner School or Crawford School Convener, who will assist in developing the tailored program and must approve it. ...

Program Requirements | Summary of Courses

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What is Real on The Internet?

Greetings from the Australian National University "Information & Human Centred Computing" where Dr Sabrina Caldwell is talking on "Digital Image Credibility".

To provide credible photographs Dr Caldwell suggests camera could record biometric information about the photographer, characteristics of the image sensor of the camera (to identify the camera), the processing of the image in the camera, and later. The image could be watermarked or have a digital signature to prevent tampering.

One technique which occurs to me is that the characteristics of the lens used could also be used to identify the camera used (this would work on old analogue cameras as well as digital ones).

What was not clear to me is why it would be considered to be worth preserving the false impression the public has that digital photos can be relied on. It would seem to me to be better to educate the public that digital photos are easily manipulated and should not be relied on for more than entertainment. It would be useful to have ways to authenticate photographs used for legal and scientific evidence.

Dr Caldwell suggests wrapping extra metadata up with an image, to show how it was constructed. This could be very useful.

There may be alternative ways to verify how "real" an image is. For example truth could be crowd-sourced: rather than depend on one photo, a large number of photos claiming to be of the same thing could be compared.

GovCamp NSW Co-Lab

The University of NSW CBD Campus is hosting "NSW is GovCamp NSW Co-Lab" 25 June 2012. This is free one day informal "unconference" where the general public, industry and government people can redesign government processes. Register online.
Topics for each 20 minute mini-session will be nominated by the attendees on the day. At GovCampNSW Co-Lab topics will be influenced by the participants’ collaborative discussion around innovation for public service.

As a guide, topics discussed may include:

  • Innovation and agency resilience
  • New ways of doing public service delivery
  • Collaboration and co-creation
  • Policy development and citizen participation
  • Policies relating to Gov 2.0 implementation
  • The impacts of “mobile” on government
  • Online community engagement
  • Open data standards, copyright and use
  • Location intelligence and geospatial strategies

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Future of University Research

Margaret HardingGreetings from the Australian National University, where ANU Research-Fest is underway. Professor Margaret Harding, the new ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at ANU is talking about "Measuring High Quality Research Training". Professor Harding pointed out the definition of "quality" for research will differ depending on the stakeholder. The Graduate Research supervisor, the government, the student and their parents will have different goals from research. She suggested that an important skill is for researchers to be able to explain what their research is about and why it is important in terms a layperson can understand. She joked that a topic like Byzantine History may be hard to explain (it turns out ANU does run courses in Byzantine art, cultural institutions and patronage from AD 330 to AD 1204).

Professor Harding defined a PHD as a significant and original contribution to knowledge. She suggested that students should look to how the work in their field is disseminated. This could be respected journals or publishers. Some commercially valuable material might need to be protected before publication.

Professor Harding discussed the difficulties of communally used measures of quality: "Forcing students to go to courses does not make a good supervisor". She suggested it was not a good idea to use a lack of criticisms from reviewers of a thesis as a measure of quality, as this is part of the academic process.

The Group of Eight Universities (which includes ANU) has issued papers on Research Performance in Australia and Maintaining an effective research environment in Australia. Professor Harding suggested that students should have access to support to training courses on how to do research but one rigid program is not suitable for all students. Next semester I am looking at how to do research supervision online. My previous efforts at using Moodle for supervising short student projects, suggests that something more flexible will be needed.

Professor Harding looked at what PHD students themselves thought was important, citing the work "PhD Graduates 5 to 7 Years Out: Employment Outcomes, Job Attributes and the Quality of Research Training" (Matthias Kubler, 2007). She pointed out that one benefit of the ANU's reputation for research was the large number of world class visitors and urged students to take advantage of this. She urged all students to have a 60 second pitch and 3 minute talk on their work ready at all times, should the opportunity to talk to a decision maker arises (this is something I get my students to practice).

This was an inspiring and also down to earth talk. About the only lack I saw was it only addressed PHDs and research. This is a very high level of study which few people can aspire to. It would be worth looking at other forms of postgraduate education, which enables more social inclusion. The ANU offers a Master of Philosophy (Mphil) as well as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by Graduate Research.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NBN Co Discovery Truck

Co Discovery TruckThe National Broadband Network Company(NBN Co), have a "NBN Co Discovery Truck" touring Australia to promote broadband use. The truck is located behind Old Parliament House in Canberra, until Wednesday (group bookings are being taken for demonstrations). The truck will next be travelling to Coffs Harbour on 21 June 2012.

There is also a NBN Co Discovery Centre in the Innovation Building, 1010 La Trobe St, Docklands, Melbourne (bookings required).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

USQ Online Pedagogy Course

This week I completed the course "Online Pedagogy in Practice EDU8114" at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). This is my second and final unit at USQ, before returning to the Australian National University to complete postgraduate studies in online tertiary teaching and research supervision.

Overall, the pedagogy course was similar to my previous experience with USQ's "Assessment, Evaluation and Learning" (EDU5713). USQ is well set up for supporting online students and my experience of online education was far superior to previous face-to-face studies, as well as superior to other online courses I have taken. The course materials are excellently designed, the tutor was expert and enthusiastic. However at times the tutor seemed overloaded with students.

The course content on the web site did not match the course notes, which caused confusion every week. The course forums were not used by more than a handful of students, as the forums were not integrated with the content and assessment for the course. These are curious flaws in a course which is about designing online courses.

The course content had few surprises for me, as it follows the same approach advocated by Professor Gilly Salmon, which I have used to design a course for the Australian Computer Society. One disappointment was that I selected USQ, partly because Professor Salmon had recently moved there, but she had left by the time my course commenced.

USQ's implementation of the Moodle Learning Management System and Mahara ePortfolio were reliable and effective. Some of the other USQ online systems worked only intermittently or not at all. In particular there were major problems with accessing online readings via the USQ library and I used other university libraries instead of USQ. Wimba Classroom is used for live online classes at USQ, but I was unable to get this to work reliably and had to dial in by phone for every session.

USQ has an excellent centralized online help facility. Unfortunately this system does not cover IT support, for which there is an online system which students do not have access to. So I had the frustrating experience of the IT support system sending me automated messages, inviting me to log-on to a system I was not authorized to use.

USQ is interested in student feedback, but I seemed to get a survey to complete every week, and in the last week of the course, a survey every day. This became more than a little annoying. So each time I got another survey I would lower my rating of USQ. As a result, the surveys may be lowering student satisfaction, rather than helping improve it.

Overall studying at USQ was worthwhile. But contrary to the impression given by TV ads, any university study is hard work and a very frustrating experience much of the time.

What was most useful for me, as a student of education, was the experience of being a student again. As an ICT professional, web designer, university lecturer and an award winning e-learning designer, I though an online course in online pedagogy would be easy. But being a student is not easy and I discovered I still have much to learn about improving the experience for my students.

NSW Digital Economy Industry Action Plan

The Sydney Morning Herald has released what they claim to be the full text of the "Draft NSW Digital Economy Industry Action Plan". The SMH reported criticism of the draft plan and the makeup of the industry committee in "Heavy fog on information superhighway as action plan scorned as 'fluff" (Asher Moses, 12 June 2012).

The plan is 53 pages long (415 Kbytes) and proposes eight initiatives:
  1. International Digital Leadership
  2. Digital Precinct
  3. Connected Regional Communities
  4. Digital Skills
  5. Finance and Investment Channels
  6. SME-Corporate-Government Networks
  7. Open Data Innovation
  8. Integrated Port Logistics System
Having been involved in preparing such plans before I can understand how frustrating it can be and how hard not to just come up with the same bland platitudes as previous plans.
The first initiative of "International Digital Leadership" would be better described as "Marketing NSW As a Place for Creative Industries". That is, the state needs to market itself as a place where digital businesses can set up. The obvious way to do this is to showcase major digital organizations already located in NSW. One way I suggest the NSW Government do this is to sponsor events particularly less formal free "un-conferences", at places such as Google Sydney, the Australian Technology Park and NSW universities, vocational training centres and cultural institutions. The recent GovHack/GovCamp (which I helped organize), provide an excellent model for showcasing Australia to the world. One venue with considerable potential is the "National Centre for Creative Learning" at the new Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art Building.
The task force recommended creating a "NSW Digital physical and virtual precinct". This is not a particularly new idea, the NSW government invested a considerable amount in the "Australian Technology Park", with some limited success. Government attempts to build "virtual precincts" have been even less successful. The plan's recommendation of "Building multi-disciplinary teams including thought leaders from government, business, academia and community will produce pioneering digital research and industry-applied solutions." is an example of the sort of nonsense language which can harm, rather than help such initiatives.

The report recommends "stimulating the Digital Economy of regional NSW communities by improving technology access and literacy to allow communities from across NSW to connect". This would be an excellent complement to the implementation of the NBN. However, it will require investment and some politically difficult changes to current government services. As a example, school teachers will require retraining to use online educational techniques. This will improve access to education in regional areas, but will also result in the closure of some face-to-face teaching facilities.

The report correctly identifies the importance of digital skills and education for them. However, there are no proposals to bring this about. One area of need is digital skills for senior management in government, the commercial sector and academia. While more junior staff are learning how to implement digital initiatives, they are being held back by a lack of basic understanding by their superiors. Formal courses at business schools and also less formal "un-conference" events tailored for senior executives would valuable to help them "get it". The less formal events can also be used for marketing NSW as a digitally literate place. A live web cast of senior NSW executives at an event on digital industry, with the camera panning to take in the view of the Sydney Opera House, would be a powerful marketing tool.

The plan's proposals for Finance & Investment Channels and SME-Corporation-Government Networks do not appear to be workable. It would be more cost effective for the NSW Government to remove impediments for business generally and provide support for staff straining and basic infrastructure.

The last two of the plan's proposals appear to not fit with the previous six and may have been added at the last minute. Open access to government data is worthwhile, but is unlikely to have a major effect on NSW industry. Integrated port logistics would be useful, given NSW's lack of investment in this area, but has little to do digital issues generally.
Here are some excerpts from the plan:

The NSW Digital Economy Task Force was established by the NSW Government to develop an Industry Action Plans to position this key sector of the State's economy for strong growth over the next decade.

Industry Action Plans are an important element of NSW 2021, the Government’s 10 year strategic plan. The decade to 2021 will present both opportunities and challenges for our cities, towns, businesses and communities. For example, our position in an increasingly connected global economy, with fluid markets and consumer demand, advances in new technology, and a growing and ageing population, are just some of the mega-drivers that we need to navigate. Industry Action Plans will help NSW industries meet these challenges as well as capitalise on opportunities.

This Industry Action Plans has been developed with the aim of ensuring strong growth, resilience, improved innovation and productivity, global competitiveness, and new investment opportunities for the NSW Digital Economy over the next decade.

The task force has considered a significant number of potential recommendations and examined the impact and achievability to arrive at eight areas that will have significant potential for the NSW Digital Economy to 2021. The recommendation categories are:
• International Digital Leadership
• Digital Precinct
• Connected Regional Communities
• Digital Skills
• Finance and Investment Channels
• SME-Corporation-Government Networks
• Open Data Innovation
• Integrated Port Logistics Systems

International Digital Leadership

Positioning NSW as a digital global leader will attract business opportunities here by promoting the state’s digital product and service capabilities – particularly in sectors where the State enjoys competitive advantage such as media and mobile.

The task force recommends positioning NSW as a global leader in the digital space by demonstrating innovation, increasing activity, promoting & celebrating success stories, forming partnerships and increasing exports.

Digital Precinct

Establishing a digital innovation precinct with both a physical and ‘online’ presence will supports the growth of an innovation ecosystem across NSW. Building multi-disciplinary teams including thought leaders from government, business, academia and community will produce pioneering digital research and industry-applied solutions.

The task force recommends creating a NSW Digital physical and virtual precinct so that communities from all over NSW can connect.

Connected Regional Communities

Access to digital services will drive regional economies, improving access to services, and improving the quality of life in regional NSW.

The task force recommends stimulating the Digital Economy of regional NSW communities by improving technology access and literacy to allow communities from across NSW to connect.

Digital Skills

For NSW to be competitive in the digital age, it needs access to a stable, competent and expanding workforce; encompassing high calibre technical and business skills, and the ability to take full advantage of the Digital Economy.

This recommendation aims to improve availability and quality of digital skills through targeted engagement and education throughout the community.

Finance and Investment Channels

Difficulty in accessing finance has been identified as an impediment for high growth SMEs and start ups. This recommendation aims to improve Finance & Investment Channels through various funding innovations.

SME-Corporation-Government Networks

Collaborative networks that efficiently link technology-based small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to corporate and public partners will facilitate investment, trade, procurement and acquisition opportunities, including leading online solutions for the provision of government services.

The task force recommends creating active and collaborative SME / Corporation / Government Networks to increase opportunities.

Open Data Innovation

Open access will empower citizens and organisations to use public data and information to drive industry innovation and unlock valuable solutions e.g. information on bus locations.

The task force recommends facilitating access to open government and public data to drive innovation and unlock solutions.

Integrated Port Logistics Systems

Development of integrated port logistics will optimise the passage of freight from producer to consumer, build best-in-class infrastructure and boost NSW economic productivity.

The task force recommends piloting programs in this area. ...

Industry Profile 12
Trends and Outlook 13
Industry Issues 14
Challenges & Risks 15
Submissions 18
Regional Forums 20

Education and Research

The presence in Sydney of the headquarters of National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) and the CSIRO ICT Centre, as well as five national centres of excellence, and two cooperative research centres in ICT–related research fields, forms an essential element of the diversity of the ICT sector.

Private R&D also flourishes in NSW, with foreign multi–nationals locating their research facilities here.

Our higher education system and strong vocational training institutions have supported the development of a highly skilled ICT workforce. In 2009, for example, there were over 14,000 students studying Information Technology at the 11 universities in NSW, and a further 14,400 students were studying information technology at NSW TAFE Colleges and through other vocational education and training providers in 2009. ...

Skills Shortages

Research suggests that major Digital projects such as the National Broadband Network and the increasing use of Web2.0 will generate significant future demand and competition for Digital talent.

The workforce and environment of the ICT and Creative Industries are dynamic. Issues such as changing technology, labour market variation, offshoring of ICT and Creative Industries and evolving business needs present ongoing human capital challenges.

Since 2004, enrolments in higher education ICT courses have declined by 6 per cent per year. Over the same period, enrolments in other courses have increased by 4 per cent per year. ...


Contributors felt that skills were an issue for the Digital Economy, both from the point of view of delivering and interacting with the Digital Economy, and also in the use of technology for delivering education more generally.

The skilled workforce, and consumer and business skills
to interact with the Digital Economy featured widely, as did access to education, technology in schools, and the workforce of the future. ...

From: "Draft NSW Digital Economy Industry Action Plan", NSW Government(?), 2012.