Monday, December 31, 2012

Internet Governance and the ITU

In "What went wrong at WCIT" (Online Opinion, 24 December 2012)  Paul Budde gave his usual insightful analysis of the debate about Internet governance at the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12). WCIT is convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a body now under the UN (but which is actually much older than the UN), which coordinates telecommunications internationally. The WCIT meetings are frequently controversial, as they deal with how telecommunication operates internationally and, to some extent, within countries. But this controversy is usually only noticed by telecommunications professionals, whereas the debate over Internet governance received attention in the popular press.

Paul Budde argues that a key problem is difference in the definition of the Internet between the USA and the rest of the world, with the USA including the information content of the Internet, as well as the telecommunication infrastructure. I am not so sure this is the problem. The main issue is that countries want to control their telecommunications infrastructure and what their citizens use it for (some more than others). The Internet was largely developed by the USA and is still largely controlled by US based organizations. As a result the USA can take the high moral ground about Internet freedom, while being comfortable with the way it is used domestically.

For an understanding of the way the Internet was envisioned and the attitude of the ITU to it, I recommend Carl Malamud's 1992 book "Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue", in which he reports on discussion with Internet pioneers including Vint Cerf and Geoff Huston, as well as ITU bureaucrats.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Australian Government Cloud Service Provider Certification

Glenn Archer, Acting Australian Government Chief Information Officer, has released a "Draft Report on Cloud Service Provider Certification Requirements for the Australian Government" for comment. The report recommends expanding the Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) Multi Use List (MUL) to include cloud services and "cloud like" services. In the longer term the draft Australian Government Commercial Service Provider Assurance Framework would be extended to encompass cloud services.  Also the report recommends looking at the "National Standing Committee on Cloud Computing" (NSCCC) an industry body and the New Zealand Cloud Computing Code of Practice and the CSA Security, Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) Program.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Installing Linux on a HP Pavilion DM1-4108AU

HP Pavilion dm1-4210us

The screen broke on my trusty Kogan Agora and it was not feasible to repair. So I looked around for a similar unit: a low cost laptop with a screen between 11 and 12 inches, which is suitable for running Linux. I chose the HP Pavilion DM1-4108AU from JB HI-FI for $368. This has only 2GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard disk, the disk is upgradable but the RAM is not (there is a HP Pavilion dm1-4210us with 4GM RAM and a 500 GB disk). It has Windows 7 and so was selling a bit cheaper than the newer Windows 8 models. Linux can be installed, with WiFi needing an extra driver and the laptop is good apart from the shiny screen.

The HP Pavilion DM1-4108AU looks a lot more expensive than it costs, with a black and silver case (the silver highlights look like aluminum, but are painted plastic). My Kogan Agora looks down-market in comparison with a lot of plastic and screws, but has survived a fall onto a stone floor and is much easier to upgrade the hardware due to all the screws.

The case over the LCD screen on the HP is a little too flexible for my liking but the biggest problem is the shiny LCD screen and surround, making it more subject to reflections than the Kogan (but most small laptops now seem to have this problem). The HP's keypad is very good and it has a good range of ports (three USB, HDMI and VGA video), which is one reason I did not buy a Chromebook.

After reviewing J.A. Watson's excellent article about installing Linux on a similar HP model ("HP Pavilion dm1-4310e: Swapping Windows 8 for Linux"), I decided to try Mint Linux. This worked well, apart from the problem with WiFi, which Watson had noted. I also tried OpenSuSe Linux, which was equally impressive. To remove Linux and install another version I found the video "How to Safely Uninstall Linux with Windows Dual Boot" by Britecto be useful.

Ubuntu, came with a proprietary driver for the Broadcom WFi hardware BCM43103. I had been avoiding Ubuntu as I don't like the Unity interface (but you can install Gnome in ubuntu). Unfortunately even with the driver I still could not get WiFi to work.

Then I tried Puppy Linux. This was because of a comment on the Puppy Linux Discussion Forum saying that WiFi was slow on the HP DM1-4108 au, but at least it worked ("Wireless hp dm1-4108au Slow"). Normally I would not try such an unusual Linux version, but I was getting desperate. Puppy Linux is designed for running on old hardware and has been criticised for lack of security and applications. It runs fast but the installation process is not as polished as Mint, Ubuntu and OpenSuse.

The "Precise" version of Puppy is designed to be compatible with Ubuntu packages, to address the application issue. The Puppy ISO file downloaded very slowly (70kbps) and was not available from a local mirror site as it is so new (17 December 2012). This reminded me of the old days of dial-up modems, where software downloads could take much of a day. Unfortunately the Precise version did not work and so I tried "Slacko Puppy 5.4 final".

One curious problem I had was that I could not get the usual utility to write the Puppy ISO file to a USB drive. So I ended up using "Linux Live" on Windows 7. The WiFi worked, but was so slow as to be unusable. This showed me the WiFi could work, if I could get a suitable driver, so I went back to Mint Linux, as looked at how to load the correct driver for the Broadcom. The posting " Possible fix for wireless: BCM4313 (14e4:4727) on hp dm1 laptop with Ubuntu 11.10" suggested the wl driver not "brcmsmac":
Then save the file. Reboot, and then go into Ubuntu Software Centre again - search "bcm" and reinstall bcmwl-kernel-source and then broadcom-sta-source and broadcom-sta-common. ...
I then had Mint Linux working with the WiFi. While all this involved downloading many Linux distribution files, it had to be kept in perspective. I did spend a lot of time waiting for various Linuxes to boot. But I spent even more time waiting for Windows 7 to download updates and install them.

The Mint Linux ISO installation file is about 1 GB compares to about 300 MB for most others. But Mint comes with many extra packages which you have to download separately with other Linux distributions. It is still not without problems. It is odd that I still have to search the web to find out how to make the text large enough to read on a small screen for Linux and various packages. Given that there will be more people with poor eyesight as the population gets older, this is something open source developers need to address. Here I am not talking about special magnifier applications, just one place I can set the font size larger and have each application adjust accordingly.

I doubled the Resolution Dots Per Inch  in Appearance > Fonts > Details (making the text twice as large). But this did not make the text large enough to read in received email in Thunderbird, or on web pages in Firefox.

One catch with the HP DM1 computers is that they come with one of two different processors: Intel or AMD. The DM1-4108AU has the AMD processor and according to the "HP Pavilion dm1 Entertainment PC: Maintenance and Service Guide" (page 2) and has two RAM slots, whereas the Intel has only one. See "How to upgrade a dm1-4108au memory to 4Gig?" along with the showing how to get the back off the computer to install more RAM.

Newcastle Startups Revive Inner City

Newcastle, north of Sydney is a major port for coal exports, but it also has some interesting sights for the tourist. Nobbys Beach is is next to the CBD. In the main street (Hunter Street), not for profit Renew Newcastle finds space for artists and other to seel the ware in otherwise vacant buildings. This started with small shop-fronts but has now taken over the former David Jones store into "The Emporium", with the storefront windows becoming individual pop-up stores.

The Newcastle Start House, at 356 Hunter Street, has office space for small businesses, including Cameron Anderson Architects, Imago Media boutique advertising agency, INKids children's apps, Tamale Creative websites, Tiger Financial Group financial consulting services and Tributech software.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Free iPads for Australian University Staff and Students

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has announced it will provide a free Apple 16GB iPad to all new domestic undergraduate students and academic staff in 2013. This is intended to allow the students to access recorded lectures, live web streaming, library services and "apps". The university is not scrapping face to face classes, but instead implementing blended learning (a combination of online and face to face) for all degrees. There is a UWS Strategic Plan for Learning and Teaching 2012-2014 with details.

Universities need to be carefull in locking themselves and their students into a proprietary operative system and hardware platform.  Studentship’s enthusiast for "apps" will quickly disappear when they discover that they can only access their cruse materials from one brand of computer running one operating system. They will not be able to access the iPad cruse apps from a laptop computer, not even an Apple Mac. Students will get annoyed if they have to downland the gigabytes of course material each time the lecturer makes any tiny change. In my view universalities should look first at web based materials, which can be designed to look app-like, but can still be sued on desktop and laptop computers and also can be developed, modifier and delivered in small modules.

In my view an iPad is not sufficient for a university course. You would be hard pressed to conduct literature searchers and prepare large papers on it for example. The student will need an additional computer, or extra hardware to turn the iPad into a desktop computer. A sub-notebook computer, with a screen of about 12 inches is a better all-round device. These are about the size of an A4 pad of paper, but have a keyboard big enough to type comfortably on. These start at around $400.

An attractive low cost alternative to tablets and notebooks are low cost Chromebooks. These are essentially a hybrid of the tablet computer and the netbook. The device looks like a very thin notebook with a screen around 12 inches, but had a low power processor and a small amount solid state similar to a tablet computer. They cost about $250 retail. The Chromebooks run Google's version of the Linux operating system and lock the user into Google's on-line services. But a university could use similar hardware, Linux and other open source software for an open education platform.

ps: It is curious Google have not yet scrapped the not very successful Chrome operating system and instead adopted the popular Android for the notepads.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Australian Army Planning for Marine Operations

The Australian Army is restructuring to have three "manoeuvre brigades" which can operate with the Navy for amphibious operations under "Plan Beersheba" (with details in Army News). This will require the Army to relearn old skills. With the delivery of two Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships and Hobart class air warfare destroyers, Australia will have the nucleus for amphibious operations. However, Australia will not have fixed wing aircraft to operate a US style carrier strike group.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

University Merchandise Suggestions

While visiting University of Queensland I browsed through the UQ branded merchandise in the bookshop. Back in Canberra on my way to Indonesia I looked at items in the ANU store. UQ had some useful "bucket" hats and ANU keyring torches. But here is my wish-list for university merchandise items:

Prime Minister Paul Keating and other leaders in Batik shirtsLong sleeve batik shirt: This is referred to as "Territory Rig" in the Northern Territory and is the official dress code for semi-formal government functions. Uin Suska staff wear batik shirts as a uniform (and presented me with one on a visit) and this makes a very sensible alternative to a suit and tie for a hot climate. Perhaps Australian universities could have a batik shirt in their colors for staff and students. This could reduce energy use and carbon emissions, as it would allow the air-conditioning to be turned up a few degrees. Here is a photo of then Prime Minister Paul Keating and other leaders in Batik shirts at the 1994 APEC meeting in Indonesia.

Adjustable Boonie Hat
Adjustable Boonie Hat: This is a soft cloth hat with a broader brim than a bucket hat. The adjustment strap around the hat results in one size fitting most people.

AAA Flashlight
LED Flash-light on keyring  with one AAA battery, such as the MAGLITE K3A016 AAA Solitaire Flashlight. The torch itself doesn't needed to be branded with the university crest, just pair it with a keyring. Many of the tiny torches have button cell batteries which do not last long, are harder to get and cost more than AAAs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Professional Learning Technology Accreditation in Australia

The UK based Association for Learning Technology (ALT) has announced "CMALT Australasia", an extension of the UK Certified Membershipof the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) to Australia. The details of the Australia scheme are not yet released, but presumably will be similar to the UK approach, where the applicant submits a portfolio for assessment.

CMALT looks useful, but as a student of higher education (and someone who helped design a professional RPL process), I suggest that more support will be needed for the average person. Just giving people a template to fill in with their prior experience is a daunting task. Even with a support group, and a mentor, this is a difficult task.

While I am an experienced course designer and university lecturer, as soon as I became a "student" of education, I started to behave like a student: concentrating on what was to be assessed and putting off tasks until just before the deadline. There may be a few self disciplined people who can do it all on their own, but I suggest the average person will needs a push along.

For my graduate certificate final assignment I am looking at integrating an e-portfolio into higher degree programs. Alongside their courses and/or research, students would do an on-line course top teach them how to compose an e-portfolio to present evidence of their skills. Students would then fill out either a generic graduate skills template, or one or more specific templates, such as for membership of a professional body (such as the Australian Computer Society or CMALT). The software used to do this is not very important, Mahara and Moodle would do (that is what I have used on my courses). The important point is to offer the student a framework to help them along.

Core areas of work

1 Operational issues. Candidates should demonstrate both their understanding and use of learning technology. ‘Use’ might include the development, adaptation or application of technology within teaching, training or the support of learning more generally. This should include evidence of:

a) an understanding of the constraints and benefits of different technology;
b) technical knowledge and ability in the use of learning technology;
c) supporting the deployment of learning technologies.

2 Teaching, learning and/or assessment processes. Candidates should demonstrate their understanding of and engagement with teaching, learning and assessment processes. ‘Engagement’ may include using understanding to inform the development,
adaptation or application of technology. This should include evidence of:

a) an understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes;
b) an understanding of your target learners.

3     The wider context. Candidates should demonstrate their awareness of and engagement with wider issues that inform their practice. This should include evidence of:

a) understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards.

4     Communication. Candidates should demonstrate their knowledge and skills in communication either through working with others or through interface design.
This should include evidence of either (a) or (b).

a) Working with others.
b) Interface between human and technical systems.

Specialist option(s)

As well as the core areas, candidates are required to demonstrate evidence of independent practice in one or more specialist options. Here is an indicative list of
specialist options:
  • producing learning materials/content/courseware;
  • project management, including resource management;
  • training, mentoring and developing others;
  • evaluating projects;
  • research;
  • designing tools and systems;
  • institutional development/strategic work;
  • knowledge and application of standards and specifications for learning technology;
  • assistive technologies;
  • VLE administration and maintenance;
  • interface design;
  • managing and sourcing content;
  • copyright. ...
From: CMALT Prospectus, Association for Learning Technology, 2012.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teaching Development in Higher Education

The report "Impact of teaching development programmes in higher education" by David Parsons, Inge Hill, Jane Holland and Dick Willis, was released by the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA), September 2012. It aims to be a "... state of the
art, evidence-based assessment of the impact of HE-based teaching development programmes and initiatives...". While looking at the UK, much of what is found could be applied in Australia.

The researchers found:
•     There is a positive association between participation in teacher development programmes and individuals’ propensity to develop (or enhance) learner-centred teaching methods.  This is important since a range of wider scholarly and pedagogic-
centred research studies have shown such methods are in turn associated with stronger student outcomes in HE. 
•     Impacts on teacher knowledge and skills are less clear but seem to be positively affected by a combination of longer duration programmes, integrated support (especially for newer teachers) and continued formal inputs from continuing professional development.
•     Impacts may be more readily achieved for established teachers but the available evidence suggests there is substantial potential for transfer to practice among ‘novice’ or aspiring teachers where a critical mass of pedagogic knowledge is achieved. ...
Interestingly the researchers suggest "... there is much that can be drawn in the UK from school-based teacher improvement, and specifically from other post-secondary teacher development including within further education.". However, I have found that university academics are very reluctant to acknowledge that there is anything they can learn from the vocational education (TAFE) sector or from professional education activities of bodies such as the Australian Computer Society.

From clicks to bricks and mortar

Looking for a way to power a portable router from USB, I bought an adaptor from Swamp Industries some years ago. The company mostly sells electronics for musicians. It was a pure mail order business based in Canberra. But in a reversal of the current trend of stores to online, they opened a shop-front in Fishwick, Canberra, this weekend.

University Websites Must Allow for Difference of Opinion

In "3 idioms reveal the truth about university websites" (13 December 2012), Dey Alexander argues that universities need a single coordinated web presence, not just a collection of sub-sites and there should be a clear boundary between what is boundary between internal and external content. However, universities are not corporations devoted to profit, they intended to educate and produce new knowledge, which requires differing views to be debated.

Education and research require that different views of the world be explored, debated and tested. There cannot be one central unified view on what is true at at university: everything has to be open to debate. The World Wide Web was developed by researchers in order to foster new knowledge. Unlike previous online information systems, it was designed to allow for diversity of view, not having any single point of control and allowing documents to be created ad-hoc. Tim Berners-Lee , the inventor of the World Wide Web will be speaking at the Australian National University in Canberra, 31 January 2013.

Here are the functions of the Australian National University, as set down in legislation:

(a)  advancing and transmitting knowledge, by undertaking research and teaching of the highest quality;
(b)  encouraging, and providing facilities for, research and postgraduate study, both generally and in relation to subjects of national importance to Australia;
(c)  providing facilities and courses for higher education generally, including education appropriate to professional and other occupations, for students from within Australia and overseas;
(d)  providing facilities and courses at higher education level and other levels in the visual and performing arts, and, in so doing, promoting the highest standards of practice in those fields;
(e)  awarding and conferring degrees, diplomas and certificates in its own right or jointly with other institutions, as determined by the Council;
(f)  providing opportunities for persons, including those who already have post‑secondary qualifications, to obtain higher education qualifications;
(g)  engaging in extension activities.
(2)  In the performance of its functions, the University must pay attention to its national and international roles and to the needs of the Australian Capital Territory and the surrounding regions. ...

From section 5, Functions of the University,

In universities, as in the corporate world and in government, individuals are not free to publish whatever they like. There are rules as to what you can say as a member of the organisation. However, academics are given a level of freedom to express their views. Unlike company employees and public servants, academics are encouraged to speak publicly on areas within their area of expertise. There is no requirement for an academic to seek approval for what they say, but with that freedom comes responsibility.
Academic Freedom
  1. The University recognises the concept and practice of academic freedom as central to the proper conduct of teaching, research and scholarship.
  2. Academic and general staff are expected to use this freedom in a manner that is consistent with a responsible and honest search for knowledge and its dissemination.
  3. Academic freedom does not extend to behaviour that is harassing, disruptive and intimidating or that interferes with the academic or work performance or freedom of others ...

    From: ANU Code of Conduct, Policy 200103912, Vice-Chancellor , Australian National University, 26 March 2012

The situation with government is not that different to academics. While there are more secrets for public servants to keep, there is still an obligation to release information. In 2010, the then Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, issued a "Declaration of Open Government" via a Blog. Freedom of Information legislation, overseen by the  Australian Information Commissioner. The most tangible change is the release of government information under a Creative Commons Licence. What has yet to change is a culture of rigid hierarchical control and hoarding of public information, prevalent in much of the public service. Ironically, during my time working as a civilian in the Defence Department, I found that the military personnel were better equipped to deal with distributed decision making than the public servants, as the military trains it officers to consult, decide and then act.

Open Government, like education and research at universities, is something which requires differing views to be expressed within reasonable bounds. Australian universities, in particular the ANU, had a key role in introducing the web to government. They can again have a key role in fostering a more open and efficient form of government. These techniques will be increasingly applicable to the corporate world as well. With the ubiquity of the Internet and rapid distribution of information, companies do not have the luxury of waiting for a rigid hierarchy to make decisions.

There will be an Open Government  Min-Conference, at the ANU in Canberra, 29 January 2013, as part of Linux Conference 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tim Berners-Lee at in Canberra 31 January

Tim Berners-Lee will be giving the keynote address at at 2013 in Canberra, 31 January 2013. The inventor of the World Wide Web will be in Australia from 27 January to 5 February 2013:
  • Thursday 31st January: keynote,
  • Monday 4th February: Public lecture at the University of Melbourne,
  • Tuesday 5th February: Public lecture, Sydney Town Hall.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Did you see me voting in Canberra?

I have received a letter from the ACT Electoral Commissioner claiming I did not vote in the 20 October 2012 ACT Legislative Assembly election. I filled in an online form at the "Failure to Vote" web page to say I voted at the Belconnen Community Centre. I actually cast a pre-poll vote about a week before the election. I recall asking directions to the polling booth from Wayne Berry, who was campaigning with his  daughter Yvette Berry. If anyone remembers seeing me at the polling booth, please let the commissioner know.

Curiously while I was not offered a receipt for having voted and so cannot prove I did, the electoral commission system issued me with a receipt for having filled in the "Apparent failure to vote" form. 

ps: The ACT Electoral Commissioner needs to change the name of the "Failure to Vote" web site, as at least in this case, it is a failure of the voter recording system, not a failure to vote. I used the electronic voting system to cast my ballot, so hopefully that has been recorded correctly.

Information Security Course

ABC Radio Darwin is interview me at 10:15 am about the hacking of medical records. This follws from an interview with ABC South East  . Since then there has been a report of 20,000 student records being obtained from ADFA and published. It happens that the ACS has an Information Security Course starting in the online CPE Program on 20 January 2013. Of course as I said on radio, business can take basic precautions themselves, such as regular backups, having systems software, anti-virus and spam software up to date.
Information Security takes you on a journey through governance, management of information, how to develop strategies, responses to incidents, and information risk management. It has been based on the Information Systems Audit and Control Association’s curriculum for information security, and developed to help you work towards an information security management credential.
It includes five modules, which explore:
  • Governance and information security
  • Developing an information security strategy
  • Information security risk assessment and management
  • Developing an information security development roadmap, common challenges and measuring success
  • Incident management and response. ...
From:  Information Security Course, ACS, 2012

Digital Economy Industry Action Plan NSW

The NSW Government has issued a Digital Economy Industry Action Plan (12 December 2012). There appear to be few amendments from the Draft, leaked by the Sydney Morning Herald in June("Heavy fog on information superhighway as action plan scorned as 'fluff", Asher Moses, 12 June 2012). There are seven initiatives in the plan (down from eight in the draft):
  1. Achieving Digital Leadership (was: International Digital Leadership)
  2. Building Digital Skills (was: "Digital Skills")
  3. Connecting Regional Communities
  4. Implementing Open Data Innovation (was: "Open Data Innovation")
  5. Growing Sydney’s Digital Precinct (was: "Digital Precinct")
  6. Improving Finance and Investment Channels (was: "Finance and Investment Channels")
  7. Driving Infrastructure Productivity (was: "Integrated Port Logistics System")
The dropped initiative is "SME-Corporate-Government Networks".

The first initiative of "Achieving 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. GovHack/GovCamp (which I am helping organize), provides a 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 making local libraries "epicentres of digital activity". This is not exactly a new idea, being suggested by the ACS in "Vision for a Networked Nation" in 1994 and subsequently implemented by Australian local, state and federal governments. However, libraries are now reinventing themselves as places for informal learning and this should be supported by the NSW government. Libraries provide a natural place for learning circles to meet and for people who are doing formal online study to get togehter for mutual support. This would complement the proposal to encourage vocational education and training providers to "deliver digital programs into regional areas".

While students can learn online, it helps if they have a group to help them and access to information professionals (that is librarians). The ACT Government has implemented this strategy in a bricks and mortar, by including a public library and TAFE campus in the one building in the Gungahlin Library and Learning Centre.

The NSW Digital Economy Taskforce was established by the NSW Government in 2011 to develop an Industry Action Plan to outline a vision and strategy for the state’s Digital Economy over the decade to 2021. The period to 2021 will be one of unprecedented change: increased demand and competition from emerging economies; a growing and ageing population; rising healthcare costs; the need for new skills; demands on ageing infrastructure; and the requirement for improved productivity. These are just some of the challenges facing NSW. A strong and vibrant Digital Economy will be an essential factor in helping to address these challenges and drive economic growth in NSW.

Underpinning the Digital Economy is the widespread adoption and effective exploitation of ICT. Today, ICT pervades many aspects of our lives, from the way we work and interact, to how we entertain ourselves. Looking forward, those organisations that can most effectively exploit ICT to transform the way they do business, develop new products and services, improve their efficiency and better serve their customers will be leaders in the Digital Economy.

The Digital Economy Taskforce has considered a number of issues that impact growth in the Digital Economy including: export opportunities; innovation; productivity; investment; skills; employment and workforce participation; business conditions; and global competitiveness. Based on an extensive consultation process, we have developed seven major recommendations and allied actions for immediate consideration:
  • Achieving Digital Leadership
  • Building Digital Skills
  • Connecting Regional Communities
  • Implementing Open Data Innovation
  • Growing Sydney’s Digital Precinct
  • Improving Finance and Investment Channels
  • Driving Infrastructure Productivity

Achieving Digital Leadership

We need to position NSW as a global leader in the Digital Economy in which ICT is central to productivity, innovation and competitiveness across all sectors. A future NSW Digital Economy will foster new ideas, create opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs, revolutionise the delivery of government services and transform value creation across all industries.

Building Digital Skills

For NSW to remain competitive in the next decade, it needs a vibrant, competent and technically literate workforce. The Taskforce recommends improving the digital skills and technology knowledge of NSW citizens, the development of a new technology curriculum; exploitation of e-Learning and digital technology; and improved availability and quality of digital skills through industry-led initiatives to engage and educate the future workforce.

Connecting Regional Communities

Improving access to digital services will drive growth in regional economies and enhance the quality of life in regional NSW. The Taskforce recommends stimulating the Digital Economy in regional NSW communities by improving technology access and literacy, and by encouraging regional stakeholders to develop local digital strategies. Implementing Open Data Innovation Open Data access will empower citizens and organisations to use public data to drive innovation and create new and unique solutions in areas such as transport and health. The Taskforce recommends focussed and effective implementation of the NSW ICT Strategy 2012 including the identification of priority government datasets in consultation with government, industry and the research community; implementing an open access licensing framework across NSW government; and investing in the necessary IT infrastructure to support efficient access to data.

Growing Sydney’s Digital Precinct

Growing Sydney's Digital Precinct will support the development of an ‘innovation ecosystem’ for NSW. By bringing together industry leaders, entrepreneurs in emerging technologies, relevant research and academic partners, the Digital Precinct will become a force of innovation and entrepreneurship, attracting our best and brightest, and generating a substantial new source of economic activity. The Taskforce recommends additional investment to support the growth and development of the Digital Precinct focusing on infrastructure, work spaces, global identity and connectivity.

Improving Finance and Investment Channels

Difficulty in accessing finance has been identified as an impediment for high-growth small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups. For NSW to grow the Digital Economy and underpin its future, it will be essential to open new, and expand existing, funding sources. The Taskforce recommends increasing funding opportunities for NSW-based high-growth companies, both by diversifying the sources of capital available to these companies and by attracting international investors.

Driving Infrastructure Productivity

ICT is transforming many sectors of the economy including healthcare, education, transport and logistics. NSW can achieve significant productivity gains through the use of ICT in infrastructure design, operation and optimisation. The NSW Government should ensure that all state infrastructure projects should integrate ICT to deliver smart infrastructure. This represents a significant opportunity for Government and the private sector to explore ICT driven productivity gains from investment in a range of major infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, ports and hospitals, and in Sydney a new international convention and exhibition centre, and Barangaroo. The Taskforce recommends piloting programs in this area, with initial focus on an integrated port logistics system. ...

From: Executive Summary, Digital Economy Industry Action Plan, NSW Government, 12 December 2012

Problems with Macquarie University Website

If Macquarie University wants to recruit students, then they need to design better web pages. I clicked on an advertisement for Macquarie University Information Day and got a web page which said "Thursday 3 January 9am to 4pm" but provided no other information.

Examining the source code of the page, it appears there is information about the open day, it just doesn't display with my Firefox 17 web browser. The W3C Markup Validation Service reports 20 errors on the page. The W3C mobileOK Checker gives the page a score of 0 out of 100 (the worst possible), with 5 errors described as "critical". One odd error is that there is a PNG image with a file name of ,jpg (indicating it is a JPEG image).

The AChecker web accessibility tester reports 14 problems with the W3C WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) guidelines. Interestingly the AChecker displayed an advertisement for Monash University alongside the Macquarie University results and that web page worked fine.

ps: I would have sent a note about this to Macquarie University, but  when I clicked on "Contact Us" on their web page I got another blank page, with no contact details.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hybrid Water/Building Solar Heaters

Nicole Miller gave a thought provoking talk on "Economic Feasibility Study of Electric-PV Heating System" at the Australian National University today. She is looking at if a rooftop photovoltaic system (solar panel) can be used to power a heat pump for cost effective water and space heating in a home. Normally a PV panel would not be used to heat water, as gas boosted solar water is cheaper. But as the cost of PV solar panels drops, so does the cost of the electricity they produce. There is no cost effective way to store large mounts of electricty, but hot water can be easily stored.

Study of Sustaining Collins Class Submarine

The Australian Department of Defence has released a "Study Into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability". The report identifies poor maintenance practices as a cause of the unreliability of the submarines. The report makes sensible recommendations. However, these are recommendations which any final year engineering student would be expected to be able to make in an assignment.

The report fails to address the systemic cause of the problems, which is a lack of competent senior management in Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. It is not sufficient to have senior staff who are civil service managers and military warriors. The defence force relies on complex systems which require skills in project management, engineering and ICT. The public service and the defence force have personnel who are competent in those disciplines, but too few are being promoted to senior levels. As a result large complex projects are overseen by senior staff who are not competent. More junior staff are well aware of the problems and make recommendations, but these are then not acted on.

One of the other systemic probes with the Collins class submarine is that it was custom built for the Australian Navy. For the follow-on, a proven design should be selected, with the minimum of modifications. The first few boats should built in an overseas shipyard with proven submarine experience. Later vessels can have some local Australian construction.

The report was released in a poorly formatted PDF document, so I have extr5acted the executive summary (minus the figures).

Executive Summary 

My Phase 1 Report into the sustainment of the Collins Class was published in December 2011 and put into the public domain. This Report incorporates the work undertaken during Phases 2 and 3. The Phase 2 work was undertaken between March and June 2012 and Phase 3 between September and November 2012.

The Collins Class Sustainment Study has investigated whether the evidence supported the observations made in the Phase 1 Report by the Review Team, which it did. In essence, we set out to answer the following questions:
  1. What is wrong now with the Collins fleet sustainment performance?
  2. What caused the current problems with sustainment performance?
  3. Will improvement initiatives address these issues?
  4. What are the recommendations to resolve the remaining issues?
These questions were tackled using a structured, fact-­‐based investigative approach and employed skilled practitioners in the fields of strategy and management, organisation and personnel, business operations, planning and project costing. To complete the work the study team reviewed over 2,500 documents, interviewed over 200 people across the Collins Class Sustainment Program and conducted a Commitment and Culture Survey which 665 leaders and personnel from across the Collins Class Sustainment Program completed. The study teams were supported in their work by the leadership of the four participants involved in the program, the RAN, DMO, ASC and Finance. We recognise that this work could not have been delivered without their committed support to the study. In Phase 3, we considered new reports into international benchmarking of comparator navies, the Collins service life evaluation program and details of initiative programs of the RAN, DMO and ASC. The findings of the study teams are summarised in this report.

i. What is wrong now with the Collins fleet sustainment performance?

Setting the Requirement
The lack of an unclassified statement of the operational requirement is significant. Although the details are classified and must be protected, a broad unclassified statement of what the RAN requires from the Collins Class would enable a greater understanding of the requirement for all of those involved in the sustainment program. For example, from a fleet of six submarines it is reasonable to expect “two ready to deploy 365 days a year”. It would also be reasonable to expect two to be in deep maintenance at all times. This should be achievable if three submarines are materially available 90% of the time: a level that the Collins Class should be capable of meeting. It is clear from our analysis that this requirement is unlikely to have been met in recent years. This concept is illustrated in Figure 1. Figure omitted Figure 1 -­‐ An example of a clear operational objective Note: The RAN, informed by conclusions of the Phase 2 work, has now promulgated an unclassified statement of availability.

Comparison to other Navies’ whole platform availability

To assess the effectiveness of the Collins Class Sustainment Program, it has been compared with data supplied by international navies as reported in the International Benchmarking Report produced by the DMO. Benchmarks of this type have many variables such as differences in program availability definitions, the specific complex features of submarine fleets and their differing demands and operating environments. Nevertheless the differences in availability performance between the comparator navies were sufficiently narrow to develop a reliable benchmark. The comparator submarine fleets used were similar in fleet number and size to the Collins Class. The Collins Class Sustainment Program performance from FY06/07 to FY10/11 is compared with the average performance of each comparator submarine fleet in Figure 2. The analysis indicates the availability performance of the Collins Class has been slightly over half that achieved by the comparable international programs; the time in planned maintenance was about one third greater than other nations; and the maintenance overruns and the percentage days lost due to defects were approximately double that of the comparators. Figure Omitted. Figure 2 -­‐ Collins performance compared to other international navies Relative to international comparators


Collins Class availability compared to the international comparators reduced between FY06/07 and FY09/10, as illustrated Figure 3. The availability reduction is a result of a combination of factors related to legacy design and build issues, reliability problems and the way in which sustainment is organised and managed. There has been an improvement in availability since FY09/10, but the rate of improvement in FY10/11 has not been maintained subsequently. The program appears to have stabilised, but this is too early to confirm. The level of performance at 56% of the international comparators was significantly below the RAN’s requirement for FY11/12. Figure omitted. Figure 3 -­‐ Comparative Availability Low level materiel availability is driven by three key factors:
  • Long planned maintenance periods;
  • Overruns to planned maintenance periods;
  • and Defects to the submarines when they are outside of maintenance periods (poor reliability), which can be exacerbated by inadequate availability of spares.
The relative contribution (opportunities) of these factors to improve availability performance to match the Material Ready Days (MRD) benchmark is shown in Figure 4. Figure omitted Figure 4 -­‐ Opportunities to improve availability to MRD benchmark This data indicates that fundamentally changing the usage-­‐upkeep cycle and shortening the maintenance periods, and managing them in a way that reduces time overruns will yield the biggest contribution to improving the number of MRDs achieved. The MRDs due to defects cannot in practice be eliminated altogether. All nations lose some MRDs to defects. However, when operational days are lost they have a far more disruptive effect than days lost in maintenance and it is still very important to improve reliability and reduce the time taken to repair defects when they occur.


Figure 5 illustrates the reliability of the Collins Class through the Priority 1 (P1) urgent defects (URDEFs) reported each year normalised by the average number of submarines in-­service (not in planned maintenance) in each year and referenced to FY06/07. Whilst the number of submarines in-­‐service reduced in FY08/09 and FY09/10, it demonstrates that the number of defects per submarine increased, greatest of which was for Priority 2 (P2) URDEFs. The defect rate improved in FY10/11, which aligned with the improvement in availability noted above. We did not analyse FY11/12 as the data is a mixture of planned and actual. The URDEF rate in FY10/11 was significantly above levels achieved in earlier years (FY06/07 and 07/08). The overall upward trend is indicative of poor reliability and obsolescence management in earlier years. The original design shortcomings should have been removed over time through sound application of these basic sustainment management processes. Figure omitted. Figure 5 -­‐ URDEFs normalised by the average submarines in-­‐service (relative to FY 06/07 P1 URDEFs)


The cost of the Collins Class Sustainment Program was generally stable from FY06/07 to FY09/10 with cost increases in FY10/11 for the purchase of additional spares and the implementation of an improved maintenance program. The year FY06/07 is used as the datum year because we have more confidence in the availability data from that year forward. It does not represent a datum point for the cost being adequate to fully fund the Collins Class Sustainment Program. As illustrated in Figure 6, cost effectiveness can be measured by comparing the total cost versus availability achieved ($m/MRD), this is indicated by the green line on the graph, which illustrates cost effectiveness declined from FY07/08 to FY09/10. Additionally, cost effectiveness improvements commencing in FY10/11 coincide with increased investment in the program, however the improvement and the investment cannot be directly linked in time. Benefits from consuming additional resources may not be visible for 18 to 30 months after committing to the investment as the lead time required to procure and deliver spares can be one to two years and the time required to improve maintenance schedules that deliver performance may be of several years duration. Figure omitted. Figure 6 -­‐ Relationship between sustainment cost and availability (MRD) Figure 7 shows a comparison of three measures between Collins and benchmark data indicating the rate of consumption of man-­‐hours during comparable Full Cycle Dockings, the effective man-­‐hour rate and the cost per MRDs achieved. However, international comparator data cannot be considered as precisely comparable to the data relating to the Collins Class given the wide variance in accounting practices and attribution of costs to the various activities. Nevertheless averaging the three measures provides an indication, not an absolute, that the cost effectiveness (defined as the cost per MRD) of the international comparators is at least twice that of the Collins Class Sustainment Program. This analysis includes all the costs across the entire Collins Class Sustainment Program and not just the cost of the maintenance activity or the ASC contract. Therefore improving cost effectiveness will require improvements across all the participants in the Collins Class Sustainment Program. The cost effectiveness would more closely match the international navies if the availability was increased to benchmark. Figure omitted. Figure 7 -­‐ Cost effectiveness comparison to international program Relative to mean of comparators

Organisation Implications of the In-­‐Service Support Contract

The In-­‐Service Support Contract (ISSC) places responsibility on the ASC for delivering outputs and uses Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to these outputs to measure and reward the performance of the ASC. This move to performance based contracting will significantly change the current roles and responsibilities of the DMO, ASC and the RAN. Our high level analysis of the Collins sustainability responsibilities (the Value Chain) shows that currently the DMO is involved in eight of the activities, the RAN six, ASC nine and the Capability Development Group two. Under the In-­‐Service Support Contract, using “good practice” guidelines, these responsibilities should be realigned such that the DMO is involved in four activities, the RAN eight, the ASC eleven and the Capability Development Group two. In order to deliver the benefit expected from the ISSC it is essential that the necessary organisational adjustments are made to align resources with the good practice value chain.

ii. What caused the current problems with sustainment performance?

Our analysis has identified 20 key issues we believe are driving the low level of sustainment performance and we traced these back to five root causes which are equally significant:
  • Unclear requirements – Operational requirements were not defined in a way that can be effectively translated to sustainment activities. There is a need for a clear unclassified top level requirement for the Collins Class program that can be used to drive the sustainment program through effective planning and contractual incentives for all participants. The RAN, informed by conclusions of the Phase 2 work, has now promulgated an unclassified statement of the required availability.
  • Lack of a performance based ethos – As detailed in the Phase 1 Report, in the past there has been a clear lack of a performance based culture across the Sustainment Program. However, there have been significant improvements over the course of this study.
    • The development and transition to the ISSC (between DMO and ASC) is recognised as a significant step forward in the implementation of a performance based culture. This should support a change in ethos, as the historical contractual arrangements between DMO and ASC were not performance based.
    • Although defined KPIs existed in prior versions of the Materiel Sustainment Agreement (between RAN and DMO), it was unclear how the RAN held DMO to account for achievement against these KPIs as targets were not apparent. The introduction of the new Materiel Sustainment Agreement between the RAN and DMO now contains clear performance requirements and is a similarly positive development. The RAN has a significant role to play in onboard maintenance, which is now clearly articulated in the new Materiel Sustainment Agreement.
    • As the shareholder of the ASC, Finance has reviewed the existing performance arrangements and is introducing a new comprehensive performance management framework for the business.
    • These new performance targets linked to the new top level requirements are essential to support a performance based ethos.
    We welcome these initiatives, however they need to be coordinated across the Collins Class Sustainment Program to most efficiently achieve the availability outcomes.
  • Unclear lines of responsibility – Many key roles and responsibilities at all levels within the Collins Class Sustainment Program are not clearly defined or understood from an organisational and an individual perspective. This results in blurred accountability where duplications and gaps in responsibility have developed over time. This is particularly evident between DMO and ASC. Additionally the customer-­‐supplier relationship between the RAN and DMO has not been sufficiently clear. The new Materiel Sustainment Agreement for 2012-­‐2014 has now established the clear responsibility on the DMO to deliver materiel sustainment for a given budget with a corresponding obligation on the RAN to supply crews and on-­‐board maintenance to support the program.
  • Poor planning – The lack of a clearly stated long-­‐term strategic plan prevents accurate lower level plans and targets being established and achieved. This results in unclear and conflicting requirements across the Collins Class Sustainment Program leading to limited mechanisms with which to drive a unified management approach. A lack of planning at the strategic level means lower level plans for maintenance and military operations are built in isolation and are not managed in a portfolio manner.

  • The absence of application of an asset management strategy has also resulted in poor obsolescence and a lack of reliability management. This has created a ‘bow wave’ of reliability related defects and obsolescence, resulting in an uncertain and uncoordinated planning baseline. This is regarded as a key factor that is impacting performance of the Collins Class Sustainment Program in delivering sustainment activities.
  • Lack of a single set of accurate information to inform decision making – Effective systems and processes in addition to accurate and timely data are crucial to achieving an informed position upon which organisations can make decisions. The Collins Class Sustainment Program is not in a position, from an information perspective, to make optimised long-­‐term decisions. There are multiple systems and datasets in use for financial, maintenance and supply chain activities. In many cases these are not linked, resulting in data integrity issues. The lack of a “single version of the truth” means decisions are unlikely to be consistent or accurate.

iii. Will current improvement initiatives address these issues?

The current initiatives underway in the RAN, DMO, and ASC align with the majority of our findings. Many of the current initiatives are aimed at addressing the fundamental sustainment management issues of maintenance obsolescence and reliability management, supply chain improvements, establishing adequate crewing, and introducing performance based management. However, they will not resolve all of the issues or root causes identified in this report. In the main the existing initiatives are aimed predominantly at resolving specific sustainment issues. There are some key issues that are not being addressed at all, mainly at a strategic level across the Collins Class Sustainment Program, while other issues are being addressed by multiple initiatives. These overlaps and gaps will require coordination and realignment of their ownership. Where key issues are not fully addressed the current initiatives will require enhancement. The Commonwealth has embarked upon a Submarine Life Evaluation Program study for the Collins Class. The key issues identified in the report are synergistic with this study. These were: obsolescence and obsolescence management, design and the associated growth margins and their consumption. This program should it be implemented, while it is not an availability improvement initiative, is essentially extending the sustainment boundary and will magnify many of the sustainment issues we have identified.

iv. What are the recommendations to resolve the remaining issues?

Based on the experience of the Review Team, the following recommendations are made and should be implemented to enable meaningful change to occur. They are set against each of the five root causes as detailed in Table 1. The RAN, DMO, and ASC have already implemented or are addressing some of these recommendations. Progress is detailed in the body of this report.

Table 1 -­‐ Recommendations
Root cause

Unclear requirement
R1. Set a realistic target for the DMO to deliver MRDs and incorporate in the MSA
R2. Define a clear (unclassified) requirement for the sustainment program Lack of a performance based ethos
R3. Implement the ISSC to encourage performance based behaviour
R4. Finance to strengthen and broaden the accountability framework for the oversight of ASC
R5. Strengthen the RAN as the Intelligent Customer for Sustainment
R6. A forum to bring together all suppliers within the Collins Class Sustainment Program R7. Coordinate existing initiatives, accept recommendations from the Phase 3 Report and coordinate implementation according to the Implementation Strategy
R8. Develop and implement a contracting strategy
R9. Create a collaborative framework known as the ‘Enterprise’ without diluting the individual responsibilities of the participants R10. Improve leadership skills, knowledge and experience
Poor planning
R11. Defer HMAS COLLINS Full Cycle Docking (FCD) and improve maintenance planning
R12. Develop an Asset Management Strategy for sustainment
R13. Availability requirements in the MSA should be derived from the IMS and a working level plan generated
R14. Develop a through-­‐life capability management plan reflecting the updated requirement
R15. Define and endorse an Asset Management Plan
R16. Implement and complete a fully-­‐integrated sourcing and materials supply support program under the ISSC
Unclear lines of responsibility
R17. Treat defects occurring prior to the completion of Sea Acceptance Trials (SATs) as part of the contracted maintenance period R18. Review and where necessary improve procedures to audit O-­‐level maintenance and records
R19. Create a Head of the Submarine Profession
R20. Develop a clear line of authority for maintenance of the design intent R21. Develop and implement a workforce strategy to specifically address skills shortages at the management level
R22. Develop and implement a plan to resolve loss of Naval Engineering Skills
Lack of a single set of accurate information to inform decision making
R23. Improve adequacy of the Ships Information System and implement the use of onboard portable technology to aid in maintenance efficiency R24. Develop Enterprise-­‐wide IT strategy and information management strategy R25. Develop cost baseline / model and supporting processes for sustainment program...

From: "Study Into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability" by Mr John Coles, Paul Greenfield and Arthur Fisher, November 2012

Audit of Learning Technologies in Government Schools

Photo of report coverThe Victorian Government conducted an audit of Learning Technologies in Government Schools. It was found that the Victorian government's policy for ICT in schools, titled the Digital Learning Statement, lacks a clear action plan and framework for investment in learning technology. As a result there is "... little guidance on how future learning technology initiatives can be appropriately planned and integrated". More positively the planning for a fibre-optic network for schools was found to have a "robust needs and options analysis". However, the software project, called "Ultranet", was "...poorly planned and implemented". The system is 80 per cent over budget, late, has a low uptake rate and limited functionality. It would seem to me that the Victorian Government should retain the network and computer hardware, but replace the software with open source, including Moodle and Mahara.

The audit report is the equivalent of 53 pages of very clear analysis of a complex social and technical issue. The report would be of value for those interested in the issues of technology for education at all levels, not just schools. The Auditor-General has published the report as a well formatted and efficient HTML web page as well as the more usual (and harder to read) PDF.


DEECD’s Digital Learning Statement (the Statement) does not provide a clear action plan or framework for investment in learning technologies. There is no supporting strategy or further detail to the Statement. This means that departmental staff and school leaders have little guidance on how future learning technology initiatives can be appropriately planned and integrated to build upon past and present ICT investments.
Planning for the VicSmart high-speed fibre-optic network for all government schools was underpinned by a robust needs and options analysis. Although the project was a less complex infrastructure rollout, it was well executed and is delivering its desired benefits. The high-speed connectivity that VicSmart provides is a key enabler of current and future digital learning in government schools.
In contrast, the Ultranet, the Statement’s key foundation plank and key enabler, was poorly planned and implemented. Six years after its announcement as a government priority, it is yet to achieve expected benefits for students, parents and schools. It is significantly late, more than 80 per cent over its first announced budget, has very low uptake by users, and does not have the functionality originally intended.
This audit identified a number of serious probity, procurement and financial management issues surrounding the Ultranet project. DEECD’s tender process lacked rigour and was seriously flawed. There is little confidence in the costing and financial management practices around the Ultranet project, and limited assurance that the selected outcome represented value for money.


Digital Learning Statement
The Digital Learning Statement—the government’s current policy document on the use of learning technologies—was not informed by robust and comprehensive research and does not make a clear and cogent case for government investment in learning technologies.
The Statement does not deliver on the directive in the 2008 Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development to provide a plan of action to use learning technologies in teaching and learning. A review of DEECD’s advice to the Minister for Education shows that the government was not advised that the Statement did not comply with the Blueprint’s directive to develop and deliver a strategy.
To date, there has been no accompanying detailed strategy developed to support the Statement, even though this was originally planned.
VicSmart high-speed broadband for schools
Planning for VicSmart was underpinned by a robust needs and options analysis, as demonstrated by its 2005 business case, which articulated the needs to be addressed and provided a clear rationale for the purchase of high-speed fibre-optic broadband connectivity. The business case provided confidence that the project was achievable and could be delivered as planned.
The VicSmart procurement process was streamlined by using a mandated whole-of-government single-source provider. The fibre-optic system is performing as expected and has been upgraded incrementally to meet emerging data and connectivity needs across the government school system.
Ultranet e-learning system
The Ultranet project was poorly planned and implemented. None of its three business cases had a well thought out needs analysis or gave considered options to deliver the project. The various business cases did not answer the ‘Why invest?’ question for the Ultranet, nor did they provide a sound basis for the project’s approval.
Some six years since its announcement as a government priority, the Ultranet has not delivered its main objectives:
  • to improve responsiveness to individual learning needs
  • to provide better information to parents, the school system and government
  • to improve the efficiency of the learning environment and school administration.
Consistent with public sector practice, the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) provided advice to government at key decision points over the life of the Ultranet project.
The project continued despite advice from central agencies that it should cease or be delayed. Further, there is no trail of documentary evidence to explain whether or how DEECD addressed the many critical issues raised by DPC and DTF.
It is difficult to understand why the Ultranet procurement was able to proceed to contract execution, given the significant concerns raised by DPC and DTF, as well as the many adverse ratings that DEECD had received from various Gateway reviews since the project first commenced.
Further, this audit detected a number of serious process and probity issues in relation to tendering and procurement for the Ultranet. DEECD has advised that it has commenced a number of actions and further detailed investigations in response to these matters.
There is little confidence that the financial management practices relating to the Ultranet were sound and that full costs have been adequately recorded. VAGO estimates that actual capital and operating expenditure for the Ultranet was approximately $162 million as at June 2012, and by June 2013 it is likely to have cost approximately $180 million. DEECD has advised that it is currently investigating the financial practices in relation to this major ICT project.
Despite this significant expenditure, no cost-benefit analysis has been conducted to determine whether the Ultranet provides value for money, or whether the same functionality could have been delivered more cost effectively.
Performance indicators for the Ultranet have been revised down over time and do not provide appropriate measures of whether the Ultranet is achieving what the government expected when it funded the project.
Use of the Ultranet is low, and declining. On average, only 10 per cent of students and 27 per cent of teachers logged in on a monthly basis from July 2011 to May 2012.
An underlying factor which has limited the effective implementation of the Ultranet is the significant discrepancy between the original scope of the project and expected benefits and what has actually been implemented and delivered. This underscores the urgent need for DEECD to review whether it should continue to invest in this project.
Further, DEECD did not adequately manage the change processes required to maximise the Ultranet’s acceptance and, therefore, the state’s return on investment. Teachers and parents were not appropriately trained and supported to use the Ultranet. Ultimately, the Ultranet is only a technology tool, and cannot by itself deliver the benefits intended from it.


The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development should:
  1. develop a comprehensive and evidence‑based strategy or plan of action for use of learning technologies to underpin and guide the significant investment in ICT for government schools
  2. develop performance indicators that measure both VicSmart’s ongoing operational performance and its achievement of intended benefits
  3. urgently review its investment in the Ultranet, with a particular focus on:
    • assessing whether the contractor has delivered all functionality as required by the contract and what action, if any, needs to be taken to enforce the state’s rights
    • rigorously assessing its financial management practices and identifying the real, current cost of the Ultranet to determine the extent to which further investment is warranted
    • identifying and addressing the underlying causes of low take‑up rates across the school system by teachers, students and parents
    • providing advice to government on the cost-benefit of decommissioning the system now against continuing to fund and rectify the system so that it can be implemented as originally expected
  4. conduct an agency-wide review of its internal tendering, probity and financial management practices in light of the serious issues identified by this audit
  5. expedite the provision of guidance to schools on the current status of the Ultranet as the department’s key learning technology investment, and clarify the policy context of schools’ autonomy in purchasing non-Ultranet learning technologies. ...
From: Learning Technologies in Government Schools, Victorian Auditor-General, 12 December 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Medical Computer Security Standards

Recent hacking of medical records suggests a greater need for care by GPs. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommend GPs implement a set of "RACGP Computer and Information Security Standards" (CISS) for their practice computer systems. There is a workbook with a check-list provided. This covers Staff roles and responsibilities as well as technical matters.


  1. Introduction
    1. How to use this document
  2. Computer and information security checklist
  3. Organisational and technical issues
    1. Risk assessment
      1. Select security coordinator
      2. Articulate the operating parameters
      3. Record all user and technical support contact details
      4. Asset register
      5. Identify the threats and vulnerabilities, and suggested controls
      6. Identify appropriate controls
      7. Security management and reporting, including monitoring
      8. compliance and review planning

      9. Education and communication
      10. Breach reporting
    2. Staff roles and responsibilities
      1. Practice computer security coordinator
      2. Other staff roles and responsibilities
    3. Practice security policies and procedures
      1. Practice security policies and procedures description
      2. Sample confidentiality agreement
      3. Contractual agreements
    4. Access control and management
      1. Setting access levels
      2. Access policy
    5. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans
      1. Business continuity and disaster recovery
      2. Development process and procedures
    6. Staff internet and email usage
      1. Policies for the use of internet and email
      2. Procedures for the safe use of internet and email
    7. Backup
      1. Backup procedure
      2. Backup media cycling
      3. Documenting rotation of backup media
      4. Restoring data
    8. Malware, viruses and email threats
      1. Malware and virus protection
    9. Network perimeter controls
      1. Network perimeter control policy
      2. Intrusion detection system
      3. Firewall
      4. Other controls
    10. Portable devices and wireless networks
      1. Portable devices
      2. Remote access
    11. Physical, system and software protection
      1. Physical
      2. System maintenance
      3. Software maintenance
    12. Secure electronic communication
      1. Healthcare identifiers
      2. Message system record
  4. Conclusion
    • Glossary of computer and information security terms 

    From: RACGP Computer and Information Security Standards, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2011
RACGP cite these standards:
  • AZ/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Risk management – principles and guidelines. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2009
  • HB 292 – 2006 A practitioners guide to business continuity management. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2006
  • HB 174 – 2003 Information security management – implementation guide for the health sector. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2003. Note: this handbook is due for revision shortly
  • HB 231 – 2004 Information security risk management guidelines. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2004
  • HB 292 – 2006 A practitioners guide to business continuity management. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2006
  • HB 293 – 2006 Executive guide to business continuity management. Sydney: Standards Australia International, 2006
  • Information Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 198
  • ISO/IEC 27002:2006 Information technology – Security techniques – Code of practice for information security management
  • ISO 27799:2008 Health Informatics – Information security management in health using ISO/IEC 27002
  • NIST (2008). Computer security incident handling guide. Special Publication 800–61. National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. (2006). National Privacy Principles

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Education is Australia’s Fourth Largest Export

According to "Education as an Export for Australia" (by Alan Olsen, SPRE, November 2012, education is Australia’s fourth largest export, after Iron, Coal and Gold. Education has a higher value than experts of Tourism and Natural Gas. Education is the largest export for Victoria, the second largest for NSW and  ACT, fourth for Queensland, and sixth for South Australia. Thanks to Chris Johnson for pointing this out.

A naive philosophy of action research

One of the resources for my current education studies is "A naive philosophy of action research" (Bob Dick, 2000).

The document appears to be a set of  notes for a program on "areol" (action research and evaluation on line) previously offered by Southern Cross University. Unfortunately the document assumes that the reader is familiar with the AREOL program, referring to the "number of sessions" provided before going in to discuss quantitative research and positivist philosophy

The document has a section headed "Systems thinking". Unfortunately the phrase is not mentioned again (apart from a circular reference in a footnote) so it is not clear what the author intended. The discussion of causality and research is superficial, appearing almost a parody of a philosophical discussion.

Flint explored the topic of systems thinking in a systematic way in his thesis (2006) and in a more approachable summary (2008).


Flint, S. (2006). ANU-Digital Collections: Aspect-Oriented Thinking-An approach to bridging the disciplinary divides. (PHD), The Australian National University, Canberra. Retrieved from

Flint, S 2008, 'Rethinking Systems Thinking', in David Cook (ed.), Proceedings of the 14th ANZSYS Australia New Zealand Systems Society Conference, Edith Cowan University, Perth, pp. 7 pages. Retrienved from

Hacking of medical records

ABC Radio South East is going to interview me at 8:46am Wednesday, about the hacking of medical records. According to the report "hackers" have demanded $4,000 to restore the records of a medical centre. I did not pay much attention when I first heard the story as it sounded like the usual scare story issued by anti-virus software companies to promote their products. The ransom amount sounds too low to be credible. Also even if the medical practice paid the ransom, there is no way they could rely on the records being intact and unaltered.

The obvious reaction to such a story would be to call for medical records to be stored offline, on a server not connected to the Internet. But Australian state and federal governments are spending billions of dollars on ehealth to put records online. These online systems are intended to no only reduce costs, but impressive health, by providing a consolidated and more accurate medical record to all of a patients heath care providers. Speaking from experience, when you are lying semi-conscious in an intensive care ward of a hospital being asked about your medical history you would welcome an online record the doctor could access, so they could get on with treating you urgently.

Some guides and standards for cloud use, such as AGIOM's "Privacy and Cloud Computing for Australian Government Agencies Better Practice Guide" and  IITP's "Cloud Computing Code of Practice" are discussed in my presentation "Records in the Cloud?" for the For Transitioning to Digital Recordkeeping, conference this year.

Medical centres should have good internal security procedures (attack by an employee still remains the biggest threat to an organisation, rather than attack from outside), as well as backing up their data,  securing their computer systems, using anti-virus software and having a firewall separating the internal system from the Internet. Small medical practices might be better off with cloud based outsourced services run by companies with the required expertise, rather than relying on locally run and maintained systems.

The Australian Computer Society was assisting the Australian Government to prepare a Cyber Security White Paper, which was to be released in early 2012. I helped prepare the ACS Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper.Unfortunately the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet then canceled the white paper. Perhaps this needs to be renewed.

Evaluating Education Projects

One of the resources for my current education studies is "Evaluating Projects (Chesterton)". This provides guidance in preparing applications for Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) grants. Unfortunately the link for the evaluation document changed when the OLT was created to replace the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The document "ALTC Grants Scheme - Evaluating Projects" is available on the new OLT website. A PDF version titled "ALTC PROJECT EVALUATION RESOURCE" also available. It is not clear why the web and PDF versions of the document have different titles.
The document was developed by Paul Chesterton (ACU) and Rick Cummings (Murdoch University) for the ALTC. The document is dated 2001 and no changes appear to have been made since the creation of the OLT.

ALTC Grants Scheme - Evaluating Projects

Purpose of the Resource

This resource is designed to provide guidance and assistance on project and program evaluation to individuals and groups submitting proposals for funding under the ALTC’s Grants and Fellowships Programs. The guidance is in the nature of background information on what project evaluation is and what constitutes good practice in the evaluation of learning and teaching projects.
Assistance is provided in the form of templates for key elements of a project evaluation. The resource also links to resources that help you and/or the evaluation team to carry out the evaluation — from design to data collection, analysis and management to reporting the findings. This resource is designed around the development of an evaluation plan, and it is intended that every project proposal will show evidence of formal evaluation planning that focuses on questions such as those outlined in this resource.
Depending on the expertise and experience of the user, the resource might be used for a variety of purposes, including as a guide for an evaluation plan, a checklist to assess a draft plan, a resource to inform stakeholders of good practice in evaluation, or to review a completed evaluation study and report....
From:  "ALTC Grants Scheme - Evaluating Projects", OLT (ALTC), 2011