Monday, September 26, 2016

ABS Tries to Blame IBM for 2016 Census Problems

In its 123 page submission to the 2016 Census Senate Inquiry, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) seeks to blame IBM for the failure of the system on Census night. Similarly, in the case of "Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (2000)", SOCOG sought to deflect responsibility for defects in its web site to the contractor, IBM. However, this was rejected and SOCOG, not the contractor, was found responsible. In that case SOCOG was a temporary organization set up just to run the Sydney Olympics, with limited experience. In contrast, the ABS has decades of experience in statistical collection using IT systems and cannot credibly transfer responsibility to IBM. I teach IT Ethics to university students and the 2016 Census will become a useful case study on professional responsibility.
  • "On the night of 9 August 2016 (Census night) the online Census, hosted by IBM, was subject to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that was not unusual and was anticipated, which affected the Census application system. This was not due to load from legitimate Census submissions, which at the time of the attack were running in line with ABS projections and well within the design load for the system. Around the same time, an unusual spike in outbound traffic was observed in the monitoring systems. These two events led to the closure of the online Census submission to the Australian public until the afternoon of 11 August 2016. While this caused inconvenience, protecting the information of Australians was the ABS’s highest priority and Census information was never compromised.
The online Census system was hosted by IBM under contract to the ABS and the DDoS attack should not have been able to disrupt the system. Despite extensive planning and preparation by the ABS for the 2016 Census this risk was not adequately addressed by IBM and the ABS will be more comprehensive in its management of risk in the future. However, once the system had been affected, the ABS took the precaution of closing the online Census form to safeguard and to protect data already submitted, protect the system from further incidents, and minimise disruption on the Australian public by ensuring reliable service." (From Page 4).

"The online Census DDoS attack of 9 August 2016 was against an IBM system not an ABS one. See Section 9 for further details." (From Page 7)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bus Rapid Transit System for Canberra

Proposed Bicycle Path in Center of Media Strip of Northborne Avenue Canberra, see:
My Northbourne Avenue Proposal

The ACT Liberal party have proposed a Bus Rapid Transit System for Canberra, as an alternative to the Light Rail system already under construction by the ACT Government. While lower cost than the Light Rail option, the opposition's bus alternative would still be more expensive than the option I proposed and would result in higher carbon emissions.

The opposition plan adds an extra lane for busses to Northbourne Avenue.  Adding a lane would require extensive and expensive work, but not as much as laying tram tracks and adding overhead power. Because the number of lanes for cars would not be reduced, there would not be a reduction in carbon emmissions from cars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Green Services Export Opportunities for Australia

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Alex Teytelboym from the University of Oxford is speaking on "Climate and Innovation". He started by pointing out that the commitments to emissions reductions made at the COP 21 Paris Agreement were not sufficient to limit global warming to 2 degrees. He suggested that most coal will have to be left in the ground and changes to development needed by next year to avert global disaster.

Dr. Teytelboym has carried out a detailed analysis of the development of green products, to see how new industries emerge (a "Green Complexity Ranking"). He found, not surprisingly, that Germany makes complex green products, whereas South Africa makes simpler ones. Surprisingly Australia ranks very poorly in production of both simple and complex green products, near the bottom of the list at 116 out of 117, between Trinidad and Panama. However, Dr. Teytelboym points out that Australia ranks well in the export of services, such as higher education.

Dr. Teytelboym has published papers on climate change. Interestingly, he has also published papers on Social Networks, but none on climate change and social networks. I suggest that just as major changes in emissions from vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines has been made possible by the addition of computer controls, ICT can be used more generally to reduce emissions. An example is a social networking applicaiton which introduces people so they feel confortable to share local co-working office or a ride-share vehicle. I discuss this in my course "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future".

Monday, September 05, 2016

Senate Inquiry into Attack on Census Website

The Senate Standing Committees on Economics are holding "An inquiry into the preparation, administration and management of the 2016 Census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics", including:

"d. the shutting down of the Census website on the evening of 9 August 2016, the factors leading to that shutdown and the reasons given, and the support provided by government agencies, including the Australian Signals Directorate;" From: Terms of Reference.
I suggest the Australian Computer Society (ACS) join with Internet Australia (the Australian Chapter of the Internet Society) on this and try to widen the discussion to cover Internet security more generally. ACS and IA need not agree on every aspect, buy could loosely coordinate, as was done for the Internet regulation inquiries of the 1990s, as  described by Chen (2000, p. 161).


Chen, P. J. (2000). Australia's online censorship regime: the Advocacy Coalition Framework and governance compared. Retrieved from

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Digital Disruption of Retail Food

FoodByUs are offering to connect those who make food at home with those who want to buy it, much as Uber connects drivers with passengers. However, this brings up similar regulatory problems, which make take years to resolve. This is perhaps a move back to an earlier time when it was common for people to work from home.

Governments will need to make the regulations simpler, in line with 21st century needs. Also those who want to run a business at home will need to understand that there are requirements they have to meet for public safety and this will involve cost and limit what they can do.

As an example, the NSW Food Authority points out that home-based food businesses are subject to the same regulations as other manufacturing and wholesaling enterprises. They need to need to notify the NSW Food Authority, meet food safety requirements, labeling requirements, have a way to issue a recall, prepare to be inspected by the Food Authority and local council under the Food Standards Code, (and possibly pay for inspection),meet hygiene requirements for food handlers. Their kitchens and storerooms must meet cleanliness requirements.