Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remaining human in the networked world

Matthew Allen

Recommended talk by Matthew Allen:

‘...Computer Says No’: Networks of Information and the Ethics of Discretion

By Associate Professor Matthew Allen, Curtin University of Technology

Book: NSW 31 Jul, ACT 7 Aug, QLD 8 Aug, NT 9 Aug, Vic 15 Aug, SA 20 Aug, WA 21 Aug, Tas 28 Aug,

“Just when is it dangerous to remain silent, and be discreet, when information comes to our attention in unexpected ways?”

We live in a world in which computer technologies are used in networks to permit increasingly rapid and extensive exchanges of information. More and more of what we, as humans, do and think is being expressed as ‘information’ - precisely because of the ease with which information can be transmitted and processed. This networked, digital world offers real benefits and opportunities and yet poses great challenges as well – for ethical and professional practice in situations where established norms, expectations and understandings no longer apply in quite the same way they once did.

With emphasis on the idea of ‘discretion’ Matthew will explore some of the central issues facing computer professionals in a world of information networks and investigate some of the newer problems of being (or remaining) human in this world of computing technology.

What You Will Learn

• computer systems tend to limit the exercise of discretion in human decision-making; and that information networks tend to lead to unintended and indiscreet access to information

• network technologies change common or accepted approaches to making ethical decisions about information

• human identity and involvement in decision making can be constrained by the autonomous operation of rules within computer-based systems

• computer professionals play an important role in guiding society towards a better understanding and use of information networks


Associate Professor Matthew Allen

Associate Professor Matthew Allen established the Internet Studies Program at Curtin University of Technology in 1999, in the School of Media and Information. He is an active writer and researcher on issues relating to the policy and governance of the Internet, as well as its social consequences. He is also a nationally recognised tertiary educator, having won an Australian Award for University Teaching in 2000 and has been involved in online learning since 1995. On research leave from Curtin University of Technology for 2007, he is turning his attention to the meaning and importance of so-called Web 2.0 technologies and social applications. He is the current President of the International Association of Internet Researchers.

ps: for those wondering, "Computer says no ..." is a catchphrase by the character Carol Beer in the TV show Little Britain.

Tables for flexible learning centres

Rendering of the TEAL classroom at MITMIT's iCampus computer aided flexible learning centres are pictured with round tables seating nine students. But where do you get a circular table seating nine people? Would such a table be too difficult to install and move?

Eight seat modular classroom tableWith a quick web search I came across some modular classroom tables seating eight.Assuming a seven foot (2.134 meter) table is used. This provides 7.151 m around the table, or .795 m per student.

Modular student table for one studentThis is more than provided for a typical .7m student table. A modular system could use three modules each seating three students. Each module would be a segment 2.39 m by 1.067 m. For more flexibility the modules could be made from straight sided segments, as with the tables illustrated, to allow other arrangements.

Update: 17 August 2007

Kidney-Shaped TableA common design for modular classroom tables are Trapezoidal ( about 1500 x 750 x 750 x 750 mm). There are also some folding models, but some are designed for a meeting room, with the legs on the wrong side for classroom use. There are also
Kidney-Shaped Tables.

Big Brother Google?


Big Brother Google?
Roger Clarke (DCS, ANU & Xamax Pty. Ltd.)

DATE: 2007-08-27
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, ANU

Google is increasingly being perceived as the company that will follow IBM (1965-85) and Microsoft (1985-2005) in dominating the IT industry. This presentation will outline the many business lines that Google is endeavouring to build, and then focus on what has become the major part of its business - knowing a lot about people.


From 1984-95, Roger Clarke was Reader in Information Systems in ANU's then Department of Commerce. Since then he has been back in full-time consultancy through his company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. He focuses on strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure and dataveillance and privacy.

He has retained his connections with academe as a Visiting Fellow in the ANU Department of Computer Science (1995-2005) and as an Adjunct Professor from April 2005. He is also a Visiting Professor in eCommerce at the University of Hong Kong (2002-), and a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at UNSW (2003-). He has also undertaken Gastprofessur at the Universities of Bern (Switzerland) and Linz (Austria), and been a Gastdozent at the European Business School and the University of Koblenz (both in Germany).


Researching Web 2.0

On Monday, Roger Clarke argued in an Australian National Unviersity seminar that Web 2.0 is a valid area for formal research.
Roger made a good case that something in Web 2.0 was worth researching, even if it was just working out if Web 2.0 is actually anything. ;-)
An earlier version of his notes are available, as are the slides, but they are 5Mbytes.

Subscribers to the Link mailing list will have seen this work evolve, with a number of requests for input and comment. Early on I commented that Web 2.0 was the same as AJAX and the talk was useful in correcting that misconception.

It was be easy to dismiss Web 2.0 as just a marketing gimmick, but even if so it is a very effective marking gimmick. Therefore those involved in delivering and researching systems need to be able to talk intelligently about it (even if just to say it isn't anything). One aspect of this is that Web 2.0 is very much about commercial use of the web and this colors all discussion of it.

Roger's search showed few genuine academic citations exist about Web 2.0. This would therefore seem a fruitful areas for research proposals. He first summarized Web 1, as an aggregation of technology for e-commerce and the like, without a formal architecture.

Web 2 is a marketing driven drive for something, but it is not clear what (more of a feeling that a strict distinction). One aspect is addressing the "long tail": exploiting the low volume business with low cost online services.

Some aspects: Syndication (as in RSS), Advertising Syndication (I suspect per click models might have had their day). Participation (as in Wikipedia), Collaboration (as in Wikipedia), and Tagging. One interesting aspect is that companies can induce customers to provide some of their customer support, in the form of produce reviews, support and FAQs. It occurred to me that this was the equivalent of the telephone support line putting you into a conference call with the other customers, and recorded message saying "sort it out yourself". ;-)

The new trendy area of the web is social networking and its application to business. As I found out only last week, the trendy new buzzword for this is "Enterprise 2". To find out exactly what that is, if anything, we will need to wait for another seminar.

Roger's next seminar at the ANU is "Big Brother Google?", 27 August 2007.

Monday, July 30, 2007

UK Government on Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment

The UK Government is sponsoring the Foresight programme . This previously looked at Intelligent Infrastructure Systems (including transport). A new part is looking at Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment, including a Mini Energy Project. The reports are available free on line:

Project Overview 864kb
This report sets out the key findings of the project, including the choices we are faced with and the possible consequences of developing IIS

The Scenarios - Towards 2055 1618kb
This report describes the four scenarios and related 'systems maps' that were developed to investigate how science and technology might be applied to infrastructure over the next 50 years.

Scenarios Toward 2055 – Perspective and Process 1788kb
A commentary on the scenarios covering environment, social, crime and economic perspectives and a description of the process used to develop the scenarios

Technology Forward Look - Towards a Cyber Urban Ecology 1128kb
This report reviews current road maps for the development and application of the technology, and considers what future technological capabilities might be possible or required

Next Steps 570kb
The Next Steps sets out how stakeholders from across and outside Government will respond to the findings of the project.

The place of social science in examining the future of transport 231kb
This paper explores the social and behavioural context of how transport shapes society and is, in turn, shaped by it.

Intelligent Charging: Smart Market Protocols for Road Transport 497kb
Applying agent-based modelling to investigate a possible congestion solving technology.

Port Traffic Modelling 163kb
A theoretical study which looks at an idealised redistribution of port traffic to investigate the potential impact on road freight.

Science Review Summaries Pack
Eighteen science reviews were commissioned for the project. Summaries are available now.


Social Factors in Travel
Social Factors SUMMARY 643kb / Social Factors FULL VERSION 1400kb

The Social Impacts of Intelligent Infrastructure on Transport
Social Impacts SUMMARY 33kb / Social Impacts FULL VERSION 644kb

The Psychology of Travel
Psychology of Travel SUMMARY 33kb / Psychology of Travel FULL VERSION 392kb

The Role of Information in Decision Making for Transport
Role of Information SUMMARY 33kb / Role of Information FULL VERSION 977kb

Public Perception of Risk
Public Perception SUMMARY 29kb / Public Perception FULL VERSION 297kb


Environmental Factors in Transport
Environmental Factors SUMMARY 33kb / Environmental Factors FULL VERSION 1035kb

Towards Sustainable Transport
Sustainable Transport SUMMARY 33kb / Sustainable Transport FULL VERSION 731kb

How to Design a Sustainable and Fair Built Environment
How to Design SUMMARY 34kb / How to Design FULL VERSION 1275kb


Tagging, Sensors and Data Collection
Tagging SUMMARY 33kb / Tagging FULL VERSION 1773kb

Users and Services in Intelligent Networks
Users and Services SUMMARY 34kb / Users and Services FULL VERSION 786kb

Intelligent Distribution and Logistics
Intelligent Distribution SUMMARY 33kb / Intelligent Distribution FULL VERSION 1188kb

Materials and Infrastructure
Materials and Infrastructure SUMMARY 29kb

Complexity and Emergent Behaviour in ICT Systems
Complexity SUMMARY 25kb / Complexity FULL VERSION 650kb


Artificial Intelligence in Transport
Artificial Intelligence SUMMARY 33kb / Artificial Intelligence FULL VERSION 1551kb

Delivering Information for Transport Management
Delivering Information SUMMARY 33kb / Delivering Information FULL VERSION 1172kb

Data Mining, Data Fusion and Information Management
Data Mining SUMMARY 33kb / Data Mining FULL VERSION 426kb

Policy and Economics:

Economics and the Future of Transport
Economics SUMMARY 32kb / Economics FULL VERSION 876kb

Policy Issues for Intelligent Infrastructure
Policy Issues SUMMARY 32kb / Policy Issues FULL VERSION1028kb

Adapted from: Intelligent Infrastructure Futures, Office of Science and Technology, UK Government, 2006

Foundations for Modular Buildings

Simualtion of the Halley VI British Antarctic baseModules for the Halley VI British Antarctic base are under construction in Cape Town. This consists of large steel frame units on telescopic legs. The whole base can be adjusted for moving ice. Perhaps something on a smaller scale could be used for domestic modular buildings.

bathroom pod for the Halley VI British Antarctic basePart of the interior of the base is being built using pre-finished bathroom, bedroom and plant room "pods" which are then inserted into the steel frame. The pods are about the size of ISO shipping containers for ease of transport.

The pods are made by Servacomm Redhall Ltd in the UK, who normally make modular public buildings, including for schools.

ISO Twistlock connectorStandard ISO shipping containers have 3 "twistlock" connectors on each of their eight corners. There are an assortment of devices designed to connect multiple containers together using the twistlock connectors together. These could be used to attach a containerized the building to its foundations.

Putting the Australian Government Online for Remote Indigenous Communities

The 4th Annual Web Content Management for Government Conference, is 17-18 September 2007 in Canberra. The theme of the conference is "Harnessing the power of new technologies to build citizen-centric websites and encourage online activities" and I will be speaking on the first morning on how to do this for remote aboriginal communities:

Making websites accessible and functional for a diverse community:
  • Communicating and engaging diverse cultural audiences in Australia and worldwide
  • Providing sufficient and accurate information for people who with limited English
  • Using the information and digital technologies to support users with special requirements
  • Integrating web content to wireless and mobile devices
  • Testing the accessibility of websites to different citizen segments
When I was approached to speak at the conference, the suggested outline I was provided with included "aboriginal audiences". I changed this to "diverse cultural audiences", as I thought explicitly mentioning indigenous issues would be too controversial for government staff. However, the recent declaration of an emergency by the Prime Minister in response to a report on Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse will require responses from many government agencies.

Governments can provide access to information and services via the Internet in an accessible format to help address the needs of remote indigenous communities. This could allow the communities to govern themselves, with central oversight. Mutual obligation arrangements could be implemented in a more efficient and less intrusive way than by having temporary outside government staff rotated through the community.

New remote housing could have reliable digital communications built in. New schools could have computers and telecommunications built in for flexible learning, using the same techniques which MIT developed for teaching university physics, combined with the technologies in the Indian Simputer for use in villages and the $100 laptop for education of children in the third world.

Australian carbon trading online

According to news reports, the first commercial Australian emissions trading exchange went live on 23 July 2007. A government trading scheme is planned in five years time. The commercial system is the Australian Climate Exchange. This works much the same as a online based stock trading.

But mention of instructing brokers via "phone, fax or electronic mail " suggests the exchange needs to do a bit more work to provide true online facilities for clients. With a large stock exchange, the large brokers can afford to build their own web based systems to allow clients to trade online. As well as providing a better service, this reduces the cost by eliminating the need for instructions from clients to be manually transcribed. It also reduces the risk of errors. Ideally small exchanges, such as the Australian Climate Exchange, could provide a web based platform for brokers to communicate with clients, perhaps via a web interface and offline web. That would save each broker having to build a system and greatly accelerate the prospect for carbon trading:

The ACX Electronic Emissions Trading Platform (EETP) is a joint venture between the ACX and ... Australia Pacific Exchange Limited (APX). You can buy and sell Emissions Commodities using the EETP after registering with an approved Broker ...

Sell Order

Login to the ACX Registry to view your registered VERs ... instruct your Broker via phone, fax or electronic mail to "sell" ... Minimum transaction quantities on the EETP are 100 tonnes CO2e ...

Buy Order

Check that your Trust Account holds sufficient funds to cover your order and brokerage fee or that you have a line of sufficient credit arranged with your Broker. ...

In Market

Orders entered onto the Electronic Emissions Trading Platform (EETP) attain the status of ‘In Market’. The order will remain ‘In Market’ until it expires (as per the time limit) or is matched with a Buy or Sell Order. ...

Part Filled

A Part Filled Order in an order that has been partially traded. You can amend or cancel the remaining untraded part of a Part Filled Order.

Settlement Process

The selling Broker issues all valid documents necessary for the emissions commodities to be registered in the name of the buyer. ... Settlement will occur on a transaction plus 5 day basis (T+5 day basis), unless agreed otherwise. The settlement of emissions commodity transactions on the EETP will conform to the requirements of the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) or other body responsible for the administration of the scheme, program or statute that gives rise to the emission commodity ...

From: Electronic Emissions Trading Platform, Australian Climate Exchange, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Great Railway Journeys of Australia

A display of "Great Railway Journeys of Australia" is at the National Museum of Australia from 20 April until 26 August 2007. This is a modest display of models, posters and memorabilia, put together by the Workshops Rail Museum of Queensland.

There is an online collection of photos, accompanying the exhibition. Including:
As well as the material exhibited and photos, the Workshops Rail Museum have also prepared a 21 page education kit for children (some adult rail enthusiasts may like to try answering questions in the kit without having seen the exhibition). The Museum keen to hear from other institutions who might like to host this exhibition.

Some of the journeys I have been on:
One not mentioned in the exhibition is the brief trial of a tilt train in NSW:
An other train trips.

Visual Effects in The Lord of the Rings

Paul Kirwan, a special effects worker of the Lord of the Rings (LR) movies gave a fascinating talk on visual effects at the National Museum of Australia on Saturday. Paul showed three scenes from LR and then showed how they were constructed by blending live action with actors, miniatures and digital models.

In this lecture, Paul will be detailing work he completed for The Fellowship of the Ring while at Weta Digital in New Zealand. He follows the visual effects process from start to finish, from the initial pre-visualisation of a sequence to the final polished images, with detailed breakdowns of several individual shots from these sequences. This lecture provides a fascinating insight into visual effects and the creative power they give to film directors today.

An alumni of the Centre, Paul Kirwan has spent the past ten years working at the highest levels of the visual effects industry, helping make such films as Titanic, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has worked with such directors as Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Australian legends George Miller and Peter Weir. After stints at Animal Logic, Weta Digital and Industrial Light + Magic, he has recently helped complete Michael Bay’s Transformers as Compositing Supervisor at Digital Domain in Venice, California.

Originally from Canberra, Paul completed his Bachelors degree in Computer Science at the ANU before obtaining a Master of Arts in Electronic Arts from CNMA (then known as the Australian Centre for the Arts and Technology). He has recently returned to Canberra to lecture in Digital Video at the Centre for New Media Arts at ANU, and to study for his Doctorate.

From: Visual Effects in The Lord of the Rings, Paul Kirwan, Compositor, ANU, 28 July 2008
Nick Peterson, Head of the Faculty of Arts at ANU introduced Paul, mentioning he had been part of the tam winning three academy awards. Paul later mentioned how his more than ten years in the industry amounted to about thee and half minutes of material appearing in feature films (and much of the this was from the recent Transformers movie). Paul did a degree in Computer Science at ANU, as well as a masters in new media arts. Some of the ANU new media students take my lectures on web design at ANU.

Paul showed three sequences from LR:
  1. Entrance to the Mines of Moria,
  2. Crossing the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in the Mines of Moria,
  3. Cave troll in Mines of Moria.
A typical short section of film will take 9 months with 35 effects shots. The sequience will first be "pre-visualized" roughly using PC based tools. This is done for planning and costing purposes. Even at this stage there may be 40 iterations before the results are shown to studios to get financial backing and then to the creative people.

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm in the Mines of Moria was created as a miniature (even so it was the size of a cinema). Using a miniature, rather than a computer simulation provides better control over the lighting. A computer motion controlled camera was then used to provide several passes through the set. The computer control of the camera motion allows a precisely repeatable path to be followed.

Some actors for the bridge were filmed against a blue screen (more precisely called "cromakey"). There was no actual set around the actors, just a uniform blue painted backdrop, designed to be easily replaced on the computer with the miniature set. The blue screen was not perfect, with bits of the studio appearing in the shot and having to be erased later. Some actors were on partial sets which have to be blended into the minatures and computer generated images.

LR made extensive use of computer generated characters. In one sequence
Aragorn is thrown by the cave troll. A computer generated character is used for Aragorn at the beginning of the sequence and an actor at the end. The cave troll is entirely computer generated, with skeleton and muscles simulated to give more realistic movements.

I asked
Paul about the techniques used for films and computer games. He commented that as computer get faster, more of the same techniques can be used for both.

One aspect that I was curious about was how primitive camera used for films seem to be relative to the digital special effects used. Camera only record a 2D image, whereas many of the digital special effects use 3D models. It would seem that much of the effort is taken up in blending the two together. If a 3D camera was available, that would make things much simpler. A 3D camera could be made from several 2D ones, or one 2D camera with a depth scanner (such as an infrared laser scanner).

See also:

Offline Web Applications Revolution

Google are offering an early Beta release of their "Google Gears" open source software for offline web applications. This is a browser extension providing a LocalServer , Database and "WorkerPool". Google aren't providing anything application developers couldn't do with existing open source databases, servers and Javascript, but are saving them the trouble of doing it.

The idea is to be able to produce a web based application which will run via the Internet and also work offline, when an Internet connection is not available.

What got my attention was a glowing reference to the Australian startup "Remember The Milk" in PC World:
... As I write this, Google's Gears browser add-on is a week old, and the clever Australians at Remember the Milk have already used it to let you manage tasks when you're disconnected. Yanking out my ethernet cable and confirming that RTM still worked was a huge "aha!" moment.

Oh, and consider this: The RTM team consists of two people ...

In other words, a couple of enterprising folks have built a better, faster-evolving solution than the world's largest software company has. That's still more evidence that this is an amazing time for software--and for those of us who depend on it to get stuff done at work, at home, and everywhere in between. ...

From: The Second Golden Age of Software, Harry McCracken, PC World, June 21, 2007 (in the August 2007 print edition)

Perhaps Remember the Milk will add a mapping function and then be able to provide the car dashboard family milk reminder I suggested. With this the scheduler would be linked to the navigation system of a car dashboard, so when you were near the shop, the car would remind you to buy some milk. ;-)

Of course this assumes that the user will be happy with a web browser as their user interface and the limited interactivity provided by JavaScript. But many people are now used to using applications via the web and may well prefer using the same interface offline, than having to use something different.

Simple offline/online web based applications could be very useful for vertical applications. An organization wants its employees to write the word processing documents a particular way. At the moment this is an expensive and error prone process: first they buy and install a copy of an office suote (such as Microsoft Office) on each desktop PC, then the have to install assorted templates and macros to allow staff to use the corporate document styles. Much of the effort goes into stopping the staff using features of the office software which do not comply with corporate standards (such as a bewildering choice of fonts). The all the software, templates and macros need to be kept updated.

Instead the corporation could provide a web based application which only implemented the features the organization wanted staff to use. You could not use a nonstandard font in you minute, because that font would not be provided by the software.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Climate Change Strategy for Canberra

The Chief Minister released a climate change strategy for the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) on 27 July 2007. The strategy includes carbon neutrality in government buildings, energy efficiency improvements in government housing and schools, an increased solar hot water rebate and free bus travel for bicycle riders.

Available are:
  1. $100 million strategy to tackle climate change, Media Release 328/07, Jon Stanhope, ACT Chief Minister, 27 July 2007
  2. Chief Minister's speech, ACT Chief Minister, ACT Government, 27 July 2007 (PDF 75Kb)
  3. Weathering the Change – The ACT Climate Change Strategy 2007-2025, ACT Government, 27 July 2007 (PDF 2.3Mb)
  4. Action Plan 1 – 2007 - 2011, ACT Government, 27 July 2007 (PDF 1.8Mb)
There appears to be no mention of the role ICT can play in a climate change strategy.

Summary of Climate Change Actions:

1. Being Smarter in Our Use of Resources

  • Develop an Energy Policy
  • Pursue Carbon Neutrality in Government Buildings
  • Establish a $1million Energy Efficiency Fund for ACT Government Agencies.
  • Develop and Implement a Park-and-Ride Strategy
  • Legislate for Green Power to be offered to all new electricity customers.
  • Implement a renewable energy target (RET) in line with the NSWRET
  • Offer stamp duty concessions for low emissions vehicles
  • Implement energy efficiency improvements in government housing
  • Provide a solar hot water rebate
  • Pursue national emissions trading and reporting
  • Assist schools become carbon neutral
  • Undertake ACTION CNG Bus Fleet replacement
  • Undertake energy efficient street light replacement
  • Introduce free bus travel for bicycle riders

2. Designing and Planning our City to be more Sustainable

  • Implement Public Transport Improvements
  • Develop Network and Service Design Plans for buses
  • Investigate Travelling to Work Options
  • Introduce a Feed-in Tariff for renewable micro generation
  • Pursue Energy Efficiency Rating for all Buildings
  • Investigate Mandatory Solar Hot Water for new houses
  • Develop integrated land use and transport planning
  • Include environmentally sustainable design features in all new public schools
  • Increase the new home owner’s entitlement to trees and shrubs
  • Pursue Triple Bottom Line Tendering for land release
  • Pursue an Urban Forest Replacement Program
  • Establish East Lake as a showcase urban development

3. Adapting to Current and Future Climate Change

  • Develop a Grant Program for Community Groups
  • Prepare Government Agency Vulnerability Assessments
  • Undertake a climate change social impact analysis
  • Prepare an ACT and Region Vulnerability Assessment
  • Support the National Adaptation Framework
  • Assess Climate Change Impacts on our Urban Areas
  • Protect areas of high conservation value
  • Develop an Ecosystem Connectivity Map
  • Prepare a Sphagnum Bog Mapping and Recovery Plan
  • Plant One Million New Trees

4. Improving our Understanding of Climate Change

  • Undertake a Community Education Program
  • Implement Sustainability in Schools
  • Showcase Renewable and Energy Efficiency Technologies
  • Facilitate a business roundtable on Climate Change
  • Partner with key Institutions to Encourage Research
  • Develop Fuel Sale Data Legislation for Emissions Monitoring
  • Undertake a Carbon Sequestration Audit
From: Action Plan 1 – 2007 - 2011, ACT Government, 27 July 2007 (PDF 1.8Mb)

Social computing for government and business

The Web Standards Group Meeting in Canberra 26 July, 2007 was devoted to applying social computing to business:

Collaboration, innovation, distribution: social computing adoption benefits for government and business, by Stephen Collins, acidlabs.

Stephen argued that social computing can be used for government and business. He confused me at the beginning by putting up a photo of someone and saying they had popularized "Enterprise 2". Apparently this is term for Web 2.0 applied to business. Social networking makes relationships between people visible and explicit and Stephen argues this would help in business. However, it is not clear to me this will translate to all business or social cultures. Web 2.0 social networks seems to imply a very naive view of how social and business relationships work. Stephen argues that organisations can build up the trust needed to make social networking work in government. This seems to have elements of the matrix organisation about it. Stephen suggests that social networking tools can be used, with appropriate security and some short guidelines. It occurred to me that military personnel are trained to use social networks and so are more likely to cope with the online equivalent more than other organizational staff.

However, this assumes that there will appropriate reward mechanisms (such as pay) for those who contribute to the social network and some way to detect and moderate the behavior of those who are unable or unwilling to play the game by the rules. Real world organisations have complex overlapping, fluid groups. Even formal political parties have factions and, as when there is a conscience vote, someone can be in several different groups with conflicting aims simultaneously. Much the same behavior occurs at technical standards meetings. Online systems for running organisations need to take this into account.

Examples: NLA Wiki, AGIMO GovDev, Network of Public Sector Communications NZ.

Goldilocks and the three bears: a story about social computing in government by Matthew Hodgson, SMS Management & Technology

Matthew argued the folk taxonomies to be used by government agencies to better communicate with their clients. Tagging could be used as a bridge between the wording used be clients via topic maps to strictly structured taxonomies. He argued that systems used for records management systems, such as Tower Software's Trim, are too rigid for many work purposes. Tagging examples he used were Technorati, flickr and Blogger. He argued a tag cloud could be used for reporting what client relevant activities the organisation had undertaken.

At question time I asked if semi-automatically added tags could be used, with the same technology as used by search engines for understanding documents. Matthew replied this can be done, but the organisation has to have suitable tools. In one project the technology is being used to reformat information.

What I found most useful was an example web page which showed the formal taxonomic term at the top, a definition of the term and the folkosonomy tags at the bottom. In this way there could be a translation between the bureaucratic formal language and what is used in the real world.

Web 2.0 Research

Also on Monday, Roger Clarke will argue at the ANU that Web 2.0 is a valid area for formal research. Given that the ANU is, in effect, the university for training the Australian Government, perhaps that research can include how to apply Web 2.0 social computing to government. This might be a way to extend government to more remote areas and make it relevant.

Web and ODF documents in PDF?

IEC PugGetting acceptance for new document formats from users is difficult. If someone gets a file with an ODF or some other extension they have never heard of it will be a worry for them. But if they get a PDF file that is okay.

Perhaps PDF can be used as Trojan horse (in a nice way) for this. Some versions of PDF (such as PDF/UA) have provision for embedding data files. This could be used to include a Open Document Format (ODF) or web document and its associated formatting and images inside the PDF document.

The OpenOffice.org office suite could be modified to package an editable version of documents in a PDF file (and an equivalent addon provided for Microsoft Office). OO already creates PDF versions of documents, so to this could be added an option to include a copy of the original source document. The person receiving the document would see the PDF rendering by default, but would have the option to work on the original editable file and be offered a link to download a copy of OO, or a conversion tool for Microsoft Office, if needed.

Most of the space taken up by word processing documents is in the images, not the text. It should be possible to share the images between the PDF rendering and the ODF document. As a result adding the ODF document to the PDF may not make the document much bigger.

ODF is better than not having a standard format for office documents, but is not perfect. My preference would be to use XHTML 2 for word processing documents, so they could be directly rendered by web browsers. Word Processing programs are rapidly becoming just a way to create not very good web content and it would be better if they created well formatted web format documents directly.

Compatibility with existing products is a legitimate concern when setting a standard. As an example this was a major consideration in the standard for shipping containers, with discussion of what adaptors would be needed.

Standards based on something which has been shown to work are better standards. But this does result in some quirks, as an example shipping containers are stronger than they need to be (increasing costs) due to the need to meet some old European railway standards. The cords for some computers are rated to withstand high temperatures as the standard they are made to was designed for electric kettles. Putting office documents inside PDF files would be a bit like
a computer cable you could use to boil water, but at least it would work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Advanced REVAi Indian Electric Car

Advanced REVAi Indian Electric CarIndia's Reva electric car company (RECC), based in Bangalore, has announced a new model of their small battery powered city car. Reva decided to take a conservative path with the new model, the REVAi, which looks outwardly the same as the previous production model. They decided not to use the sports styling cues of the Reva NXG show car. REVA will be selling the car in Norway and Spain, as well as the previous markets of India, UK, Spain, Norway, Cyprus, Malta and Greece. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely Australian authorities will permit the Reva in Australia any time soon.

Reva claim the new model has 40% more mid-range torque and a ”Boost” mode for short acceleration (but no word on the effect on battery life of this). A brushless motor is used with a "hill restraint" feature. Regenerative braking is now used to recover energy to the battery. An "advanced" IPC (Instrument Panel Cluster) with an electronic speedometer. There is also a computer derived indication for power consumption and power recovery through braking.

For more affluent customers the REVAi has options of a CD/ MP3 player, Climate Controlled and Leather Seats. However, the REVAi does not appear to use the innovative dashboard Linux computer of the Reva NXG.

GreenCIO Awards

CIO magazine, published by IDG, have invited nominations for the first GreenCIO Awards. These will be judged on Australian achievements in sustainable technology usage and corporate social responsibility initiatives in IT. Entries close 1 August 2007. Awards will be made 21 August in Sydney (I am on a panel speaking on the ACS Green IT Group at the event).
    • Hewlett-Packard Green CIO Award Awarded to an individual or group for outstanding use of technology by an individual or group, and drawn from one of the below categories.
    • IBM Award for Most Innovative Use of Technology within the Organisation to Benefit the Environment ...
    • Most Innovative Use of Technology within the Supply Chain to Benefit the Environment ...
    • Green Community Award Awarded for outstanding promotion, education and delivering practical sustainable energy solutions to business, organisations, communities and individuals
    • Best Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative ...
    From: GreenCIO Awards, IDG, 2007

    Creating a Quality Online University Through Research

    The Australian National Unviersity is currently undergoing an Australian Universities Quality Agency's Quality Audit by a panel of eminent people:
    Andrew Lister (Panel Chairperson), Consultant, Emeritus Professor Andrew Lister was Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture at the University of Queensland from 1998 to 2002. ...

    Dorte Kristoffersen, Audit Director, AUQA... was deputy director of the Danish Evaluation Institute from 1999 to 2004. ...

    Graeme Davies, Vice-Chancellor, University of London ... Sir Graeme is currently Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of London. ...

    Adrian Lee, Consultant, ... Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education & Quality Improvement) at UNSW in 2000 ...

    William Massy, President, Jackson Hole Higher Education Group & Professor Emeritus, Stanford University ...

    Brian Robinson, Mellor Professor of Chemistry, University of Otago ...

    From: Audit Reports: Self Accrediting Institutions - Panel for The Australian National University, Australian Universities Quality Agency, 2007.
    The government sponsored audits are conducted to ensure the quality of Australian Universities:
    The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) is established to be Australia’s principal national quality agency for higher education, with responsibility for: quality audits of higher education institutions and accreditation authorities; reporting on performance and outcomes; assisting in quality enhancement; advising on quality assurance; and liaising internationally with quality agencies in other jurisdictions, for the benefit of Australian higher education.

    From: Audit Manual V4.0, Australian Universities Quality Agency, 28/03/2007
    The reports produced by the auditors are released publicly.

    This is in addition to the internal processes carried out by universities, externally by professional bodies and by state government. As an example, the Australian Computer Society accredits IT courses at tertiary institutions in Australia against a detailed set of guidelines. The Core Body Of Knowledge for the ICT Profession, used for accreditation is currently under review.

    I have been on the accreditation panels of several ACS assessments, ones in conjunction with other professional bodies, state government assessments and as an outside member on an internal university review. The processes for these are all much the same and often the paperwork produced by one review at an institution can be used for the review by another (the AQUA reviews make particularly interesting reading).

    One issue is to what standard are the reviews being conducted and are all the institutions aiming for the same result by the same methods. This particularly becomes an issue where institutions use innovative new teaching methods, uses online and outsourced teaching and blends research with teaching.

    There are universities which emphasize online education. As an example the Master of Internet Communication at University of Canberra of which Gavin Dispain , Department of Environment Web Master is a well known graduate. The Internet Studies Program, run by Matthew Allen at Curtin University of Technology is another example. The ACS itself runs a postgraduate Computer Professional Education Program using Australian developed online software, within my ACS Professional Development Board.

    However, how does the emphasis on online education fit with institutions which have a tradition of research and small scale face to face teaching? The problem is how to how to add the virtual environment, without diluting the research and reputation.

    Some changes to achieve the online university need remarkably little technology, but a difficult to achieve change it thinking.
    As an example the ANU implemented an Digital Lecture Delivery system some years ago. However, the students were required to log in to collect lectures. A small technical addition was required to allow the lectures to be delivered by podcasting. However, this required a change in the thinking by the university staff, from students coming to lecture, to the lectures being delivered on denmand to the students.

    One way to achieve the efficiencies from online education while maintaining a reputation for research is by applying that research to the education process. This can be done both by applying the results of research into education methods and using research processes and results in the education.

    Peter Strazdins, from ANU Computer Science Department, presented two illuminating semianrs on research and education in 2007, on "A Survey of 'Best Practice' in Computer Science Teaching" and "Research-Based Education in Computer Science". The idea here was that education research could be used at university and that research could be incorporated into teaching, including undergraduates.

    The MIT iCampus shows one way computer aided teaching systems can be used both in the classroom and remotely over the web to provide education as good or better than traditional methods. It should be possible to use the same online courseware systems, such as Moodle, for remote and in classroom use.

    Roger Clarke will be presenting a seminar at the ANU next week, arguing that Web 2.0 systems are an area requiring serious scholarly research. Systems such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook are significant social and business developments and deserve research for that alone. However, the techniques they embody can also be applied to the process of education and research. Systems such as Linkedin, provide an example of how these techniques can be applied to work purposes.

    At the same time advanced computer based learning systems can be used for elementary education in remote areas and for people with limited literacy. As well as being of value for disadvantaged sections of the Australian community, this will provide a very valuable export product.

    How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 7 - Notes?

    In Part 6 I looked at Moodle in more detail as an example of a CMS. But one of the practical realities of a course is that you have to tell the students what the course is about. The usual method for doing this would be to provide them a set of printed notes (commonly known as a "brick").

    Usually the notes for courses are in the form of some introductory text, printed versions of the Powerpoint slides and some readings. But produing this material for printing can be remarkably difficult. While it is possible to print handouts from Microsoft Powerpoint, there does not seem to be any efficient and easy way to incorporate this with a word processing document. The same seems to apply with the OpenOffice word processor and slide program.

    You can insert a whole slide presentation as an object into a word processing document , but then you just see an image of the first slide (or in MS Word one selected slide). If you want all slides to appear in the WP document, you appear to need to insert each slide, one by one.

    A better option may be not to. While compound documents are feasible, something always seems to go wrong at the last minute, when the final version is due at the printer, but someone wants to change something on one slide and then the formatting of the whole document goes haywire.

    A better approach might be to accept the limitations of the software (and our ability to handle complex arrangements of information) and simply arrange the document as a sequence of pages from different software packages. Usually this would be a word processing document with the introductory text, followed by the slides and then possible a web page with some references. This could be simply done by manually printing each document from the appropriate program, or using some sort of automation and desk top publishing.

    But first two other potions should be considered:

    1. Don't use printed notes: Use an online course management system
    2. Course Content Genrator: Use specialist software for course notes.


    According to the Microsoft documentation, you should be able to link to each Powerpoint slide from within the word processing document. See: "Insert a linked object or embedded object from a PowerPoint presentation". You would have to do this once for each and every slide, but when done any changes to the slides can be automatically be reflected in the document with "Update linked objects".

    Note that you need to use the "linked" option, otherwise you will be creating lots of "embedded" copies of the Powerpoint slides.

    As far as I can tell OpenOffice allows similar linked objects, but not selecting a specific slide (you always see the first slide).


    An option is to not have any printed notes at all. For the course I ran for local government staff, all the notes were online. All that was provided on paper was a one page timetable for the course. The students were able to look at the notes on the screen in the classroom and on the web (using a password) when they got back to the office. I used the Moodle Course Management System, but others, such as Web CT could be used.


    USQ's "ICE" system is specifically designed to prepare content for courses. This allows the slides to be created inside the word processing document, without the need for Powerpoint. But that requires redoing all the slides for an existing course. ANU is working on more general purpose systems based on ICE.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Researching Web 2.0

    Roger ClarkeRecommended free seminar by Roger Clarke on researching Researching Web 2.0 at the Australian National Unviersity, Department of Computer Science:


    Web 2.0 - Tsunami or Mirage?

    Roger Clarke (DCS, ANU & Xamax Pty. Ltd.)

    DATE: 2007-07-30
    TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
    LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, Computer Science and Information Technology Building, ANU

    There's considerable excitement about the notion of 'Web 2.0', particularly among Internet businesspeople. In contrast, there's an almost complete lack of formal literature on the topic. Movements with such energy and potential need to be subjected to critical attention. Industry and social commentators should have the opportunity to draw on the information systems literature in formulating their views.

    This paper performs a tentative assessment of Web 2.0, with a view to stimulating further work that applies existing theories, proposes new ones, observes and measures phenomena, and tests the theories. In order to do so, it examines the origins of Web 2.0 in the marketing arena, followed by its technical under-pinnings, and then considers the alternative, communitarian perspective.

    From 1984-95, Roger Clarke was Reader in Information Systems in ANU's then Department of Commerce. Since then he has been back in full-time consultancy through his company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. He focuses on strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure and dataveillance and privacy.

    He has retained his connections with academe as a Visiting Fellow in the ANU Department of Computer Science (1995-2005) and as an Adjunct Professor from April 2005. He is also a Visiting Professor in eCommerce at the University of Hong Kong (2002-), and a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at UNSW (2003-). He has also undertaken Gastprofessur at the Universities of Bern (Switzerland) and Linz (Austria), and been a Gastdozent at the European Business School and the University of Koblenz (both in Germany).

    Books on:

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Sustainability Through Services

    In "Sustainability Through Servicizing" Sandra Rothenberg (Harvard Business Review,
    Jan 1, 2007) argues that provision of services can help- achieve environmental as well as commercial aims:
    As companies are increasingly taking on the challenge of global sustainable development, they are forced to rethink the standard business plan based on increasing consumption of products. Drawing from case studies involving Gage Products, PPG Industries Inc., and Xerox Corp., the author shows that some companies are already building their business plans around services and a few key products, and that they are seeing benefits both to the bottom line and in customer retention and acquisition. The author identifies six keys to the new model: building on existing service strengths, redesigning contracts to redefine the basis of profit to create win-win situations when product consumption is reduced and services are improved, communicating the new business plan to current customers, changing sales incentives, acquiring new organizational skills to ensure a better understanding of consumption, and learning to highlight the potential benefits of taking steps to improve the environment.

    Aspect-Oriented Thinking

    Shayne Flint will give a seminar on Aspect-Oriented Thinking 23 July 2007 in Canberra:
    Large systems engineering projects are dynamically complex socio-technical environments of co-evolving technologies, processes, people, organisations, laws, politics and other concerns. Aspect-Oriented Thinking (AOT) is a multidisciplinary process of learning and change which involves the modeling and assembly of reusable knowledge to specify, develop, operate and retire systems within such environments. In the first instance, these systems include the models and simulations required to learn about a given environment and to make decisions regarding necessary improvements. ...
    There is a brief description in an overview of "Aspect-Oriented Thinking" from Dr. Flint's thesis:
    Aspect-Oriented Thinking ... is an advanced model-driven interdisciplinary approach to system development, operation and maintenance within dynamically complex socio-technical environments. ... Key characteristics of the approach include ...
    • Interdisciplinary. Because they are autonomous, Domain Models can be developedand verified by engineers, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, lawyers, philosophers, economists and others, using languages and techniques with which they are familiar. These languages and techniques include System Dynamics [Forrester, 1961], Soft Systems Methodology [Checkland, 1981], Capability Dynamics [Flint, 2001] and eXecutable and Translatable UML [Mellor and Balcer, 2002]. ...
    • Improved knowledge management. Knowledge captured in Domain Models is autonomous and thus highly reusable. ...
    • Simplified system specification. Knowledge contained in verified Domain Models is assembled to form Aspect-Oriented Specifications which describe changes required to improve a problem situation. ...
    • Improved productivity, reduced defects. Each Aspect-Oriented Specification is implemented by systematically executing a set of rules defined in an Implementation Model. ...
    • Emergence of desirable properties within complex systems-of-systems. By encouraging the use of Aspect-Oriented Thinking on all projects involved in an evolving system-of-systems, the emergence of desirable properties can be achieved.This includes improved interoperability, alignment with stakeholder needs and an ability to rapidly reconfigure and form new systems-of-systems from existing components. ...
    From: Aspect-Oriented Thinking, An interdisciplinary approach to complex system engineering, Shayne R. Flint, Australian National University, September 2006
    Luke Worth presented on "Aspect Oriented Thinking: Tool Support" at ANU, 15 February 2007:
    Aspect-Oriented Thinking is a new approach to engineering which "systematically develops, manages and integrates the knowledge and expertise of many disciplines to conceive, develop, modify, operate and retire systems". I will give a brief overview of Aspect-Oriented Thinking and present the system we've designed to help automate the process. I will also introduce the group project for this year, as an extension of the work already done.
    Aspect Oriented Thinking addresses some of the problems with aspect-oriented programming:
    In software engineering, the programming paradigms of aspect-oriented programming (AOP), and aspect-oriented software development (AOSD) attempt to aid programmers in the separation of concerns, specifically cross-cutting concerns, as an advance in modularization. AOP does so using primarily language changes, while AOSD uses a combination of language, environment, and method.

    Wikipedia, Aspect-oriented programming, Wikipedia, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspect-oriented_programming
    This approach may provide a solution to the "Systems of Systems" problem of large interconnected computer systems, in areas such as defence. But until details of the techniques are published and tool sets are competed and applied to real world problems, the value of the approach cannot be verified. But at least, unlike some of the other approaches to systems of system, there is the prospect of useful tools to deal with complexity, rather than just some vague methodology and wishful thinking.

    The developers of aspect orientated thinking risk the hubris which befell one of the cited authors: Jay Forrester, developer of System Dynamics. After having successfully applied the technique to industrial systems, Forrester set back the environmental debate in the 1970's by lending his authority to the first report to the Club of Rome:
    Limits to Growth is a 1972 book modeling the consequences of a rapidly growing world population and finite resource supplies, commissioned by the Club of Rome. Its authors were Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. The book used the World3 model to simulate[1] the consequence of interactions between the Earth's and human systems. The book echoes some of the concerns and predictions of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).

    From: Limits to Growth, Wikipedia, 2007
    Forrester's systems dynamics gave a spurious authority to the Limits to Growth report, by providing computer generated graphs apparently based on a sound scientific theory. Critics of the report have spent 30 years pointing out that simplistic assumptions the theory was based on and that the computer generated data could as well have been hand drawn with a pencil and paper.

    Hopefully the developers of Aspect Oriented Thinking will stick to using it for the design of computer systems and not stray into trying to solve the world's environmental, political and social problems.

    Books available:
    See also:

    Saturday, July 21, 2007

    Six IT decisions you shouldn't make alone

    Peter WeillPeter Weill is visiting Australia from MIT talked in Canberra Friday 20 June on on "Six IT decisions IT people shouldn't make alone". He argues that business people, not just IT specialists, should make technology choices for the organization. Rob Thomsett made a similar argument to project mangers in Canberra a few weeks ago.

    Peter is from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR). He is an Australian and is looking for more Australian input to the research.

    The six decisions for IT were:

    1. How much to spend?
    2. What on? Which business processes.
    3. Should it be organisation wide?
    4. How good need they be?
    5. How much security and privacy is needed?
    6. Who gets the blame when it goes wrong?
    Peter argues IT is now so integral to what organizations do that the risk of senior management not being involved is very high. He then presented some research results on the level of IT spending by different industry sectors. An average was 18% on information, 11% strategic, 25% transaction processing and 46% on infrastructure. Organizations in different types of business have different IT spends and spend it on different types of systems suiting different priorities. He argued that an organization need not spend the industry average, but could use this to check against what their strategy was.

    Peter said that is research had shown that 70% of lines of code in company financial systems was to integrate desperate systems. He argued good companies having systems unique to business units but built on firm wide infrastructure.

    Peter asked why organisation shave large number of "stovepipe" separate systems. One rational reason for this is that the priority for a business unit is to connect to its outside customers and suppliers, not other business units. I would argue that firms should look to use industry standards to integrate outside the business and, as a bonus, achieve internal integration. This is the benefit of traditional standards development, new Open Source software, web and XML based standards.

    This was a thought provoking talk and I liked the emphasis on quantitative data from research into real firms, rather than the usual made-up theory from consulting companies. But there was so much data on some slides, they were hard to read (this seems to a problem at MIT, as
    Philip Long had similar unreadable slides the previous week). Pyramid shaped diagrams are obligatory in management presentations, but Peter set a record with thirteen on one slide.

    An electronic version of "Six IT decisions IT people shouldn't make alone" is available from Amazon along with books by Peter Weill and on project management in general.

    In his introduction the DG of the National Archives of Australia also gave a plug for the ANU course "Systems Approach to Management of Government Information" <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2007/06/fixing-electronic-record-keeping-in.html>.

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Flexible Learning Modules for Indigenous Education

    TempoHousing two bedroom two container homeEducation was an area identified by the Australian Government for more support for remote indegnious communities was. However, more school buildings will be required if more aboriginal children attend school. Also it will be difficult to obtain sufficient trained teachers willing to work in remote areas, nor provide educators in advanced subjects or for adult education. Part of the answer would be to provide networked computer enhanced flexible learning centers in pre-built modules.

    Advanced computer based learning systems can be used for elementary education in remote areas and by people with limited literacy. Examples are the
    Simputer Indian PDAXO-1,$100 Laptop, OLPC or Children's Machine Simputer, which was designed for Indian villages and the
    zoom” interface of the OLPC $100 Children's Machine for education in developing nations. Wireless terrestrial (WiMax/3G) and satellite networks can be used to provide connectivity and accessible web design can enhance the usability.

    Prefabricated modules could be mass produced for upgrading the education services in remote indigenous communities. The modules could be built in regional centres using local labor and then transported to the communities and used to upgrade existing schools and community centers.

    One of the problems to be addressed by the Australian Government's emergency response to the Protection of Aboriginal Children Report is education. Even if sufficient funding was available to provide teachers for remote indigenous communities, qualified persons would not be available for all the education required. Nor would there be sufficient tradespeople to build schools rapidly enough.

    It is therefore suggested that modular classrooms could be built in factories for
    modular and prefabricated housing. The modules would be equipped with wireless broadband and computer facilities for education, as well as power, water and lighting. The equipment would be ruggidized to survive transportation to the site and use. The same technology on a smaller scale would be used for housing.

    The modules would be the size of a ISO shipping container. Rather than build the components into the smallest possible space, where they would need to then be connected by qualified trades people, it is proposed to install them in a building module, providing the rooms where the services are delivered (classroom, kitchen and bathrooms). In this way the services can be pre-connected to the delivery point. The empty space in the module would be used to transport components which need to be installed outside the building, such as
    solar panels or wind generators.

    The modules could use one of the many available modular building technologies to construct a unit the size of a standard ISO container for ease of transport. The modules would be fitted out with classrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, with fixtures and fittings included. The fit-out would be customized for different regions. Where reliable reticulated water and power are available, the building would equipped for connection.

    For remote areas, solar and/or wind power generation and battery storage would be installed. Water would be provided by in-built pumps and a modular water tank transported in the module. At toilet would be installed for sewage/septic, or in dry areas a waterless composting toilet would be used. A wireless terrestrial (WiMax/3G) or satellite would be fitted.

    Rendering of the TEAL classroom at MITThe classrooms would be fitted out as flexible learning centres, complete with wall and desk mounted computer screens. The screens would be built into the building with rugged dust proof and reinforced enclosures to protect them during transport and when in use. The equipment would provide access to global educational resources, from pre-school, trough K-12 to vocational, university and adult classes.

    The classrooms would be smaller versions of the MIT TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) technology. This provides a combination of mini lectures and lab sessions in the one nightclub style room.

    Photograph of students at work in the MIT TEAL classroomThe MIT TEAL leaning rooms accommodates groups of students at tables sharing a computer. The walls are equipped with conventional white and blackboards as well as
    video projection screens.

    University of Melbourne uses similar technology in its
    Collaborative Learning Spaces. MIT research shows the TEAL approach produces better results than traditional classes. The environment is particularly good for helping the poorer performing students and for retaining groups who may have been disadvantaged by traditional teaching methods, including females and those from indigenous communities.

    The classrooms could be used for university level students as well as primary and secondary school. The Australian Computer Society provides online education modules for IT professionals, using the Australian Moodle system, which would be able to be used via such a system.

    The system could also be used for training local government staff in how to administer their local community. I used my own installation of the Moodle system for a one day commercial industry course on writing for the web with 24 students from local government.

    Tenix-Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Cross Section DiagramDesign with Australian Research and Defence Help

    Australian Defence Force personnel are being used to assist with logistics for aiding indigenous communities. This includes the building of some facilities. The ADF could aid in the design and deployment of modular computerized classrooms.

    More advanced versions of the same modules could be used as deployable headquarters facilities for the ADF. Use of such containerized facilities is envisaged
    in 2012 on the new amphibious ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.

    Australian universities, including the ANU are investigating smaller and lower cost versions of the MIT technology. LCD screens with
    VESA Mounts can be used in place of projection screens. WiFi communications to wireless, battery powered devices could be used. Thin client workstations, can be used in place of PCs. Low cost devices, such as the ASUS "Eee PC" and MIT $100One Laptop Per Child.