Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fast track Sydney transport with web enhanced planning

A Leichardt Council Transport Forum was held at the Leichardt Town Hall, 22 November 2008. This proposed a fast planning process for public transport in Leichardt and Sydney's inner west using experts and the community. I suggest that the Internet could be used to gain wider public and expert input into the process. Also the political realities of NSW suggest that upgrading the bus system should be included as a sub-optimal but politically feasable option.

The Meeting

Speakers were: Dr Gary Glazebrook from UTS, Dr. Michelle Zeibots, Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS and Councillor Jamie Parker, Mayor of Leichardt Council. As well as the listed speakers, there were people from EcoTransit Sydney present.

The forum discussed issues including the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication (also known as the Victoria Road upgrade). However, rather than proposing to deal with transport projects piecemeal, the planning experts proposed that the local councils get together with the community and planners to produce an overall plan. Such a plan could include public transport options which the NSW state Road and Traffic Authority (RTA) is unwilling to consider.

Proceedings were delayed for 20 minutes while we waited for the Mayor to arrive. Given that the expert transport speakers were present, this was an unnecessary waste of the time for the forty or so people present. The Mayor is obviously a busy person and I suggest he issue instructions that events not be held up waiting for him to arrive.

The Mayor opened the event by mentioning what was discussed at the local government summit recently in Canberra. He noted that NSW local government people were concerned about the lack of public transport planning in NSW. He claimed to have raised this with the PM and others at the event. He then expressed concern at the proposed and then cancelled Sydney metro and the new proposal a few weeks later. There was also a proposal for a $250m coordinated bike route in NSW.

Unfortunately this was all presented very rapidly by the Mayor, like a political campaign speech. There were no details provided to back up the claims made, nor any written text provided. While the Mayor sounded sincere, given the poor history of transport planning in NSW, much more is needed for a credible presentation. Leichardt Council needs to cite evidence when presenting proposals, for those proposals to have credibility.

Inquiry by design

Dr. Zeibots provided an excellent "Big picture" overview of transport planning for Sydney. Dr. Glazebrook went into more detail on light rail proposals for the inner west. Both were able to back up their proposals with credible evidence.

Dr. Zeibots advocated better planning using a process called "Inquiry by design". With this the usual years of planning and public consultations are compressed into about five days. The planners, experts and community representatives meet at the site to be planned, talk to locals and draw up options.

Some notes on the talk:
  • The County of Cumberland scheme 1951 planned radial motorways for Sydney. This has been largely followed with Sydney's tollways. Unfortunately Sydney's 21 century transport is being planned using a 50 year old last century plan. Due to the cancellation of the Johnston creek extension to the motorways, Marrickiville and iron cove motorway tunnels are being considered by the RTA internally without adequate public consultation.
  • Analysis of the traffic of the M4 shows that it did not greatly reduce the traffic on the existing great western highway and the total traffic of the two combined was much higher.
Enhance with the Internet and Political Realism

The meeting was useful and the inquiry by design process appears feasable. However, I suggest that the planners could usefully incorporate the Internet in their process and also inject some political realism.

Use the Internt for public and expert input to planning

The planners propose a process over a few days where the experts and community come together. However, not everyone concerned is able or willing to give up five days of their time. Only about forty of the many thousands of residents gave up a few hours for this meeting.

Therefore I suggested after the meeting to Dr. Zeibots that Internet and web tools could be used to enhance the meeting process. Experts and residents could be provided with the materials which were to be provided at the meetings and invited to provide input. As the process progressed, what the meeting came up with could be put online and the community invited to have input. This would allow wider input with minimal extra effort.

Between 1996 and 1998 I provided some web pages about planning for the Dickson p precinct of Canberra. Normally the Draft Master Plan would be displayed at the local library and perhaps an item about it placed in the local newspaper. By placing a copy online many more people could see it.

As part of the Federal Government's 2020 Summitt process I orgnaised a day long local summitt on open source with Senator Lundy. This made use of the Austrlaian developed Moodle free open source Learning Management System. Moodle was used to prepare the program for the day, solicit input and to report on the day. UTS has the Moodle system installed. This could be used to provide an online forum for a planning process. I have also used Moodle live in a classroom and it could be simiarly used to organise and present materials to people at a live forum as well as online.

Take account of political realities

The planners seemed to be curiously naive of the political process. A transport plan for Sydney may increase the chances of better public transport, it would seem more likely to be adopted if it took into account political realities.

The NSW state government has produced a number of transport proposals, such as the North West Metro, which make little sense in planning terms. These are only understandable in political terms as a way to attract votes. After the cancellation of the North West Metro and the quick creation of another metro proposal, there can be few who believe such proposals are being created through any rational planning process. Clearly these proposals are being up up in order to meet short term political aims, not the long term public interest.

Therefore any proposal put up by others needs to take into account the political issues and meet short term political needs of the government. As an example, projects which can be started quickly at low cost and employ people in NSW are more likely to receive political support, than those taking decades and using imported equipment. An example of such a project would be expanding the MetroBus recently introduced in the Inner West. The buses can be made in NSW, the bus lanes they need to run on can be built by NSW workers. The NSW government can apply for federal funding to create hybrid, large, fuel efficient buses.

Buses are not as good a long term transport option as trams and metros. However, buses which are actually purchased are a better option than trams which may not be approved and metros which are never built.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Green Information Technology Attitude Survey

RMIT University is conducting a Green Information Technology Attitude Survey. The Systems Models and Strategies Research Cluster from the School of Business Information Technology is researching the extent to which information technology (IT) professionals are aware and interested about Green Information Technology. Professionals are invited to take part and can receive a free summary of the results.

Enrolments open for first globally accredited Green ICT course

Enrolments are now open for the new elective subject "Green ICT" within the Australian Computer Society ’s Computer Professional Education Program (CPeP). This subject looks at how computer and telecommunications professionals can deal with sustainability, energy saving and greenhouse gas emissions in planning hardware and software projects.

Enrolments close 11 January 2009 for Study Period 1, which commences 18 January and runs to 19 April 2009. The ACS CPeP program is the first in the world to be globally accredited by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), a non-governmental, non-profit umbrella organisation created under the auspices of UNESCO for national societies working in the field of information processing.

Enrolments can be in the Green ICT subject alone, or as part of the full CPe Program. Credit towards Graduate Diploma and Master courses are offered by articulation with: Chifley Business School, Australian Catholic University, Central Queensland University, Curtin University of Technology and Swinburne University of Technology.

Measuring the effectiveness of e-Learning

The NZ Ministry of Education has issued a Request for Proposal for a ICT PD Cluster Programme Research Review Project". This is to review the ICTPD School Clusters Programme, which aims to provide e-learning for school teachers. The RFT asks some questions relevant to any e-learning program:

4.2 Establish and document the value of the ICT PD programme

Identify and provide evidence of the value of the ICT PD programme in terms of:-

  • Increasing the capability of teachers to effectively use ICTs in their practice; through a cluster model;

  • Effectiveness of the cluster model;

  • Impact on outcomes for students;

  • Strengthening professional learning communities (CoP);

  • Impact on whole school development.

4.3 Establish and document the best practice findings from the programme

  • What are the key features of the current programme model that are best practice and could be retained in any future model?

4.4 Research and document international approaches to ICT PD

  • How does the NZ approach to ICT PD compare internationally?

4.5 What is the future scope of the ICT PD initiative?

  • What are the key strategic ICT PD objectives for New Zealand?

  • What are the key requirements of the sector for ICT PD support (recognising that schools have a range of experience and e-capability)?

  • What is the relationship between different ICT PD initiatives in developing the e-learning capability pathways of schools?

4.6 How could future programme provision better support the needs of the sector?

  • How could future programmes address the changing needs and differing contexts of New Zealand schools?

  • How can the relationship between ICT PD initiatives be strengthened to provide e-learning capability development pathways for schools?

4.7 Development of Recommendations

Recommendations will include:-

  • Requirements for ICT PD in NZ schooling sector over the next five years;

  • Revised implementation model/s for a National e-learning PD programme;

  • Level of funding required for continued e-learning capability building in the NZ schooling sector;

  • Interim solutions required in the transition period to a new model. ...

From: ICT PD Cluster Programme Research Review ProjectRequest for Proposal, NZ Ministry of Education, 27 November 2008

No energy measures e-Tax tender

The Australian Taxation Office has issued a Request for Tender for "Maintenance and Development of the e-tax System" (id:08.079 27-Nov-2008). There is a detailed 28 page Statement of Requirement. However, there is no requirement to measure or minimise the energy and Co2 emissions from the system in the "Measures of success" for the project. There should be a requirement for the total carbon emissions to be predicted and reported and for options for reduction to be included.
The Contractor will be required to:
  • maintain the Client Application and Server Infrastructure Software
  • design, build and fully test any changes required to the Client Application and Server Infrastructure Software
  • ensure that the Client Application functions correctly according to functional specifications and User requirements prepared by the Tax Office
  • provide an architectural blueprint in respect of the design of the e-tax System, as well as other technical documentation required by the Tax Office
  • develop and deliver to timeframes specified by the Tax Office, e-tax System documentation outlined in section 13 of this Part Two;
  • deliver the e-tax System prior to the go-live date of 1 July each year, allowing the Tax Office time to conduct necessary testing to ensure a quality product
  • support the e-tax System during production
  • project manage the design, build, testing and delivery of the e-tax System
  • provide regular status reports during all phases of the project
  • evaluate the e-tax System provided according to agreed Tax Office criteria, including the measures of success outlined in section 5 of this Part Two.
From: Statement of Requirement, Part 2, Request for Tender for Maintenance and Development of the e-tax System, ATO, id:08.079 27-Nov-2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sydney to Melbourne by Train

Rail map of Eastern Victoria and Southern New South Wales.
As I was going to Melbourne to talk at a Green ICT Conference, I thought I should take the low carbon approach. So I booked on the Countrylink XPT train, travelling on the daylight service 24 November 2008. At just under twelve hours this is not viable for business travel, but it is a worthwhile holiday trip for those not in a hurry.

The first few hours of the trip are interesting, through the suburbs of Sydney and the countryside. After Goulburn it gets a bit dull, looking like the same countryside is repeated for the next six hours or so. The last couple of hours coming into Melbourne become interesting again. This trip is worth doing once for those who want to see some of Australia.

There is an excellent rail map of the route: Central (Sydney), Strathfield, Campbelltown, Moss Vale, Goulburn, Gunning, Yass Junction, Harden, Cootamundra, Junee, Wagga Wagga, The Rock, Henty, Culcairn, Albury, Wangaratta, Benalla, Southern Cross Station (Melbourne). The route follows the Main South line Sydney to Albury, then the North East line to Southern Cross Station, Melbourne.

The XPT trains have been refurbished and are very clean, tidy and comfortable. The refurbishment doesn't appear to have changed the interior decor and the train has a retro sixties look about it. The train has a muted blue/grey colour scheme which should wear well (but some of the shades of blue used do not seem to match).

The suspension on the XPT is excellent and it appears to float over the bumps in the suburban track. Between the outskirts of Sydney and Goulburn much of the track has had the wooden sleepers replaced with concrete ones and the ride is so smooth as to be surreal, as a result. The train feels as if it could go 50 km/h faster.

The economy class seats on the XPT are of a generous size, but I thought the padding a little hard. The new cloth seat covers do not appear to have been well fitted and there is already some fraying of the material around the edges and this is likely to need to be redone within a couple of years. One of the seat-back trays flipped down and an angle so contents tended to slide into my lap. The reading lights worked and the gold reflective coating on the windows was very good at keeping the harsh sun out.

The toilets are clean and well designed. The new stick on labels are starting to peel and need to be replaced with more robust ones. The labels on the luggage racks also seemed to be wearing off.

The service on the train is good, with clear announcements and helpful staff. Service at the buffet car is good. There was a special with "real" coffee in coffee bags (like tea bags). This was not up to the standard of the filter drip on the French TGV, but acceptable and much better than instant coffee. The staff went to a lot of trouble to have passengers reuse the cardboard trays the food was supplied on. The result was one tray would last a passenger the whole trip instead of one for each meal, saving a lot of cardboard and garbage disposal.

One of the delights of the trip is leaving from the interstate hall of Sydney Central Station. Melbourne Southern Cross also has a dramatic sense of arrival. There are brief stops at well maintained little old stations in between. The train was only about one quarter full at the start, but a surprising number of people got on and off at the intermediate stations. The train provides a useful transport service for rural NSW.

There was track work being carried out all along the route to replace the sleepers. This slowed the train down, but should greatly improve the ride, and perhaps speed up the trip, when finished. In the November issue of Railway Digest, Phillip Laird proposed removing some of the tight curves in the track between Sydney and Goulburn. He claimed this would save 1340 litres of fuel for the average freight train and reduce the trip time by 105 minutes. All of the upgrades would cost $1,827M, would appear to be a good public investment. This would also improve the XPT trip. While the Sydney - Melbourne trip would still be too long for business purposes, this and some minor improvements on the Goulburn - Canberra track would make the Sydney - Canberra trip under three hours and competitive with airlines.

Previously I have been Brisbane to Sydney by XPT, as well as other train trips.

Canadian expert tells Australia to Cancel Broadband tenders

Greetings from the "Symposium of Sustainability of the Internet and ICT" in Melbourne. Bill St. Arnaud from Canarie opened the event on Tuesday, by video link from Canada. He strongly asserted that VDSL was an energy inefficient interim technology and that the Australian Government should not invest in it.

Tenders for the National Broadband Network (NBN) close today, so I asked Bill if he was talking in generalities: was he really saying the Australian Government's current NBN process should be abandoned? He said "yes".

Bill, and some of the people at the ARC Centre for Ultra-Broadband Information Networks, where the symposium is being held, believe that fibre to the home is feasible, even in rural areas and a better long term investment than ADSL. I am not sure if this is affordable at present, but it might not be a good idea to roll out large amount of ADSL in Australia right now.

I therefore suggest that Australian Government cancel the current tender process for broadband. They should reformulate the process to take into account energy use and greenhouse gas emissions issues. At the same time they might take the opportunity to divide the project into several smaller, more targeted projects. The government could target priority areas, such as broadband for schools and priority rural users, for early adoption. The issue of higher speed broadband for urban areas, which are already serviced by ADSL, could be left until it is clear fibre to the home is affordable, or other technology options are available.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Commons on Flickr, Canberra, 4 December 2008

The National Library of Australia has a series of excellent talks on cultural aspects of the Internet. The next is by George Oates, program manager for Flickr's Commons project and former chief designer for Flickr, 4 December 2008:
Human Traffic, General Public
If there's one thing about Web 2.0, it's that we're realising that there are actually people using the internet. It's no longer about Human to Computer interaction, but rather Human to Human. The Commons on Flickr is an opportunity for Flickr members to participate in describing the world's publicly held photography collections. The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.

George Oates is the program manager for Flickr's Commons project and was the former chief designer for Flickr.

George Oates will be introduced by Paul Hagon,
Web Developer, National Library of Australia
Time: 13.00 to 14.00
Date: Thursday 4 December 2008
Venue: National Library of Australia Theatre
This is a free event, open to all

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch, IT Division
National Library of Australia
Tel: +61 2 6262 1542

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, 30 November, Sydney

  Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian ChurchThe 2008 Spring Festival of Music Concert Series in Annandale (Sydney), continues next weekend with the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, 30 November at 3pm. Tickets can be booked.

The last concerts for 2009 at the Hunter Baillie Church will be Kirsten Williams, violin & Jane Rosenson, harp: Bach, Elgar, Kreisler, Saint-Saens, Westlake and Gershwin, 7 December.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Profiting in a Carbon Future, Sydney, 3 December 2008

Bond University will be running a one day workshop in Profiting in a Carbon Future in Sydney 3 December 2008.
Profiting in a Carbon Future
Tips, Traps and Tactics
3rd December 2008, Sydney

An interactive workshop which addresses the commercial
and risk management challenges associated with a carbon

On a global scale, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are
relatively small. However, on a per capita basis, we rank
as one of the three highest greenhouse polluters on the
planet. The Australian Government hopes to turn this around
through an ambitious Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
that will challenge relevant businesses in all sectors to
reduce emissions by potentially 25% by 2020 and by 90%
by 2050.

How will you identify and capture the rewards that will
emerge from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for
trading of emissions of greenhouse gases in Australia?
This practical half-day workshop will provide an invaluable
forum for discussion of recent proposals for emissions
trading in Australia.


• Overview of the international and domestic frameworks and
laws for regulating pollution
• Fundamentals of emissions trading: Australia’s Carbon
Pollution Reduction Scheme
• Understanding the approach of the Department of Climate
Change: Green Paper, White Paper and beyond
• Impacts arising from issuing, acquiring or trading of
Australian emission units
• The future of corporate social responsibility and
environmental compliance
• Opportunities to increase revenue and decrease
expenditure ...

Expert Panel Presentations

Tor Hundloe AM: Beyond the Emission Trading Scheme
Emeritus Professor Tor Hundloe is a Professor of Environmental Science and Environmental Management. ...

Damien Lockie: Environmental Legal Issues
Damien Lockie is an Adjunct Professor of Law and Barristerat-
Law. ...

Stuart McAuliffe: Carbon Economy Risks and Opportunities
Stuart McAuliffe specialises in finance and sustainable development. He has extensive commercial experience in advisory and directorial capacities focusing on project assessment, structuring and finance, joint ventures and strategic alliances. ...

Ned Wales: Carbon Science and the Environmental Agenda
Ned Wales is an Assistant Professor in the Mirvac School
of Sustainable Development. ...

• Business Leaders
• Company Chairs
• Directors
• Managing Directors
• CEOs
• Accountants
• Finance Managers
• Lawyers
• Risk Managers ...

From: Brochure for Profiting in a Carbon Future, Bond University, 2008

Learning to map census data online

ABS is running a free "ABS Training: CDATA Online seminar" 03/12/08 in Canberra (other dates in other locations). The 2006 CDATA Online seems reasonably easy to work and useful. You can create your own custom display of census data via the web for free.

Leichhardt Transport Forum, 13 November 2008

A Leichhardt Council Transport Forum will be held at the Leichhardt Town Hall, 22 Nov 2008. Issues include the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication (also known as the Victoria Road upgrade).
Start: 22 Nov 2008 - 1:30am
End: 22 Nov 2008 - 3:30pm

Planning and implementing transport in the inner west will be addressed by transport experts, Dr. Garry Glazebrook and Dr. Michelle Zeibots, and local transport groups. Topics for discussion will include the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication.

Venue: Leichhardt Town Hall
Norton St. Leichhardt

From: Leichhardt Council Transport Forum, EcoTransit Sydney, 2008
The RTA propose to build a new three lane bridge to the west of the existing four lane Iron Cove Bridge. My view is that a better option would be to not build a new bridge and instead devote two of the lanes of the existing bridge to buses. The funds saved on the new bridge could be spent on purchasing additional buses. This would have advantages:
  • Provides for far larger capacity at peak times than an additional bridge.
  • Less noise and vibration impacts on the local residents.
  • Does not require relocation of underwater utilities.
  • Does not require acquisition of private property.
  • No impact on Birkenhead Wharf that has heritage characteristics.
  • Safer, simpler alignment with the existing road.
An additional bridge would not be a good long term investment, as individual passenger cars do not have a future for peak hour city transport. An additional bridge will simply clog with additional cars at peak time. Buses can carry many times the number of passengers per unit of road space as cars. The new Sydney MetroBus has shown how a well resourced bus service can be popular.

Rail transport would be preferable, but the NSW government has been unable to prepare a credible rail transport plan, with unworkable schemes such as the North West Metro. The city will therefore have to make do with buses for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Housing services modules

Superior Housing Solutions are offering prefabricated services modules for houses. The idea is that your kitchen, bathroom, laundry, storage space and toilet can arrive in one pre-built shipping container size module. This way most of the complicated wiring and plumbing is already done in the factory and the unit just needs to be placed in the building and connecting up. For a minimalist building, there need be no plumbing or electrical wiring, with all of that via the module.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Greening Indian Datacenters, Canberra, 19 November 2009

Professor Anand Sivasubramaniam, Vice-President R&D, Tata Consultancy Services India, will be speaking on Greening of Datacenters: Opportunities and Research Challenges, at the ANU in Canberra, 19 November 2009:
Greening of Datacenters: Opportunities and Research Challenges
Professor Anand Sivasubramaniam (Vice-President R&D, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India)

DATE: 2008-11-19
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

The power consumption of datacenters, together with the growing concerns on climate change, have created a buzz around Green IT. Hardware vendors, software developers, vertical integrators, service providers, and IT administrators are talking about their green offerings, capabilities and transformations. Green IT spells cost savings and efficiency for organizations of all sizes, and is also critical for environmental compliance with the growing number of environmental policies across diverse geographies.

While there are many current products and technologies to address 'point' solutions for reducing power consumption in the datacenter, a whole range of challenges arise in real world settings which offer a rich set of research problems that we need to be address. Apart from discussing these problems, we will also discuss the need for looking at Green IT from a wholistic perspective mandating cross-disciplinary expertise and a rethinking of how we build and manage IT infrastructures.

Professor Anand Sivasubramaniam is a Vice-President of R&D in the Corporate Technology Office at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services). He received his BTech in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1989, and the MS and PhD in 1991 and 1995 respectively from Georgia Tech, USA. He has been a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Penn State between 1995 and 2007, where he spearheaded several research projects in large-scale infrastructure management and power-aware computing.

Professor Sivasubramaniam's research interests are in computer architecture, operating systems and high performance computing, and he has made several contributions in resource management techniques for data centers, computer architectural mechanisms for high performance, low power, and high assurance, and in tools for evaluating computer systems.

He has published over 150 research papers in reputed journals and conferences, and has served on several editorial boards of journals and conference program committees. At TCS, he heads the Innovation Lab in Chennai, leading research projects on IT infrastructure management and Green IT initiatives. [TCS is the largest IT services company in India and among the top ten in the world. It is also the largest private sector employer in India. It has an active operation in Australia headquartered in Melbourne.]
Make IT Green- The TCS Way
Table of Contents
1. What is Green IT? …………………………………………. 3
2. Green Business Drivers…………………………………… 4
3. Mitigating Environmental Impact of IT Growth….………. 5
4. Enhancing the Environment with IT………………............... 7
5. Holistic View of Green IT………………................................... 11
6. Summary……………………………....................................... 12
7. References………………………………………………... 12
What is Green IT? …………………………………………. 3


What is Green IT?

Information Technology (IT) has, without doubt, substantially improved business productivity and enhanced the overall quality of our lives. Consequently, there has been a proliferation in the number and size of IT facilities, the equipment and people working in these facilities. This growth is placing a tremendous burden on our environment, both in the consumption of natural resources such as fuel, water and other raw materials as well as in greenhouse gas emissions and the waste that is generated. This phenomenon is raising several red flags in the minds of corporate executives, governmental organisations, environmentalists and the broader public, thus leading to green IT initiatives. At TCS, we classify these initiatives into two broad categories, which together capture our view of Green IT:

How can we mitigate the environmental impact caused by the growth in IT? Solutions for reducing the power consumption of IT equipment, e-cycling, environmentally friendly buildings and other related elements fall in this category.

How can we use IT to enhance the environment and to mitigate the environmental impact of other industrial, logistical and business processes? Technological solutions for telepresence/telecommuting, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for environmental studies, engineering design of industrial processes with computational models for energy efficiency and waste reduction fall in this category.

TCS has many internal initiatives as well as customer engagements in both these categories. There are several corporate social responsibility and cost efficient green initiatives, which are not necessarily pertaining to IT. Many such efforts are in progress at TCS, and some of these are explained below. Please refer our Corporate Sustainability Report [1] for more details.

From: Make IT Green- The TCS Way, Anand Sivasubramaniam, TCS Innovation White paper, Tata, 2008

TCS Corporate Sustainability

ICT Sustainability at Petersham NSW TAFE

The Australian Computer Society hosted a presentation from TAFE NSW last night on their new ICT sustainability courses. This was an inspirational evening showing the excellent work on green ICT being carried out at the Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE

Máire Sheehan, Manager Public Sector Programs, TAFE NSW gave a overview of climate change issues and programs such as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. She illustrated this with experience working on sustainability as a Councillor, at Leichhardt Council. This presentation was a little too long and detailed as we were a room full of computer nerds wanting to hear about computers, not climate change. However, this was a good plain English explanation. Máire also mentioned that she had purchased a low power Eee PC netbook computer and a solar panel for a visit to a developing country (I happened to have my Eee PC with me and handed it up to the podium for a demo).

Franco Salaun, Program Manager, Curriculum Centre, TAFE. Briefly introduced the modules developed by TAFE NSW:
  1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
  2. Install and Test Power Management Software
  3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
  4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
  5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet
I would liked to hear more about the the design and development of courses (I was consulted on the outline for some modules).

Stanley Tonkins, Chartered Professional Engineer, NSW TAFE teacher and course developer talked about what the students learnt in the courses. He showed two fascinating videos with students working on PCs replacing components with lower power ones, including low power motherboards and flash drives.

The students also installed a solar panel on the roof of the TAFE and a wind generator and modified PCs to run from batteries. It is not clear why you would run your PC from batteries at a city campus, but assume this might have something to so with Máire Sheehan visiting a developing nation, where such a system would be ideal.

As well as hardware, the students learn about using software utilities to configure energy saving settings on PCs. They also learn how to virtualise servers, including the complexities of running both Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems simultaneously on the one server.

Some of the very valuable practical insights given were:
  1. Via PC3500 Mainboard: AFter searching the options for low power components, the students of the TAFE course identified the new VIA board as being a good trade off between power consumption and usability. The Zonbu NetTop PC I have on my office desk also uses a low power Via processor. It is an interesting question as to if it is worth upgrading a conventional desktop PC with a low power board, or better to replace it with a small form factor NetTop.
  2. Power Management Tools, such as LocalCooling can be useful for teaching about power saving as well as implementing it.

  3. ROI: The return on investment for power saving software and hardware upgrades can be calculated.
  4. Learning by Doing: Students can learn by carrying out work such as upgrading PCs and explaining what they are doing while working in teams.
This was the best part of the evening's presentations and I would have liked to hear more about what is being done on Green ICT at Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE.

The most frustrating part of the evening was that there were no details of the actual courses. I was expecting at the end someone to say: "go to this web age at NSW YAFE for course details and how to enrol". However, there were no details given and I have been unable to find any details of the course on the TAFE NSW web site.

There is potential for collaboration between ACS and NSW TAFE on green ICT courses. I am preparing a course on Green ICT Strategies for Computer Professional Education Program of the Australian Computer Society (for progress see my blog entries). This is intended as a postgraduate management unit and will not get into the level of technical and practical detail which the TAFE provide. There is therefore scope for the ACS and TAFE courses to complement each other. Some ACS memebrs will want to undettake the TAFE courses, while others just need to know that they can call on people with those skills. Also hopefully other TAFE around Australia will contact NSW TAFE and arrange to use the developed syllabus, rather than duplicate this work.

Some links from the TAFE:
  1. Sustainability Project Presentation 2nd July 2008
  2. Certificate IV in IT Semester 2 2007: VirtualServerImplementation
  3. and Case Study - Low energy deshtop system Patjarr School
  4. Certificate IV in IT Semester 1 2008: low energy desktop design considerations and Operating system on USB flash drive
  5. Ubuntu server with renewable energy system supply - design.ppt
  6. Diploma in IT Semester 1 2008: Solar Panel and Wind Generator
  7. Solar Panel Installation and System Testing Presentation: Low Energy Consumption PC Cary

Monday, November 17, 2008

Web 2.0 in Government, Canberra, 27 November 2008

The November Canberra WIPA/WSG meeting is on the topic of Web 2.0 and the Australian Government:
When: Thursday, 27 November 2008 Time: 2.30 pm - 4.50 pm
Where: NLA Theatre, lower ground floor, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes, ACT 2600
Cost: Free
RSVP: Essential for catering

First presentation: Matthew Hodgson, SMS Management & Technology Topic 1: Government 2.0 - trends and adoption strategies

With AGIMO soon to release Web 2.0 guidelines for the Federal Government what impact will this have on the way agencies are likely to conduct their online operations? What role will government play in a Web 2.0 environment?

Matthew will look at examples from around Australia and the rest of the world in how governments are starting interact with citizens in online environments. He will draw from his recent experience with a government department in planning and scoping a web 2.0-style project to show how easy it is to move into a government 2.0 world.

Matthew Hodgson is the Regional lead for Web and Information Management at SMS Management & Technology in Canberra. He has 15 years experience in eGovernment, information architecture, information management and knowledge management, working with the government and commercial sector to deliver innovative solutions to difficult web problems. Matthew has published papers in the areas of social psychology, has lectured at the University of Canberra on social computing, and has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most engaging speakers on information architecture, social change, communication and knowledge sharing in Australia.

Matthew blogs at Matt's Musings and is a contributing author at The AppGap

Second presentation: Stephen Zafir, Stamford Interactive
Topic 2: Web 2.0 in Government - Buzzwords and Opportunities

Whilst Web 2.0 offers new possibilities in the ways that government can engage with its users, much of the thinking around this is enshrined in terms of existing brands and models.

Stephen will take a look at some of the basic components of this change and how these can be applied to the requirements and opportunities of the government space online.

Since thinking of using cards to reorganise Melbourne Airport's website in 1996, Stephen has worked at the forefront of interaction design in the UK Germany and the USA. With a focus on innovation and humanising digital experiences, major global players such as British Telecom, Yahoo and Siemens have entrusted Stephen with design leadership on a range of key products and future design initiatives.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canberra Health System First hand Experience

Last week I attended a talk on ICT in Health Delivery in the 21st Century by Ian Bull from ACT Health. Less than forty eight hours later I was experiencing that system first hand having been taken by ambulance to Canberra Hospital. This is a brief note to thank those involved with my treatment, reassure all that I am reasonably well and describe the experience for others.

At about 11:30 am on Thursday 13 November I started to feel unwell. I was due to attend a second video conference with ACS Green ICT in the Canberra CBD . However, as I bent down to unlock my bicycle to ride it to the video conference room I felt dizzy. I relocked the bicycle and walked back to my office at ANU. Some time later I was found by the Department of Computer Science staff in an incoherent state and an ambulance was called.

After treatment on site, the staff helped move me down to the ground floor to the ambulance. This was a slightly undignified exit as, due to the small size of the lift, it was easier to have me sit on my office chair and be pushed along backwards. I helped propel myself with one foot, but had to be told to stop doing this when we got into the lift.

The ambulance ride was surprisingly uncomfortable: I seemed to feel every small bump in the road and my dizziness made every corner seem very sharp. During this time I could hear the staff communicating by two way radio with the Canberra Hospital emergency department. I was given an aspirin to thin my blood (it tasted like lemon, which worried me until I was told it was lemon flavoured aspirin).

At the hospital I was checked by a triage nurse just inside the door and within what seemed less than a minute pushed through to the intensive care section of the causality department. I was helped from the stretcher to a bed in a small one bed room.

At this point numerous people when through a well rehearsed routine asking me questions, reporting to each other what was known, recording details. My body was covered with what appeared to be dozens of sticky electrodes for an ECG (the staff apologising that the electrodes already attached in the ambulance where not compatible with the hospital system). After a time I was hooked up to a machine which beeped annoyingly and left for what seemed a few minutes.

I must have dozed off and when I awoke it was late in the afternoon and I felt completely better. It was a little embarrassing to find myself awake, apparently completely well and occupying what was clearly a very expensive medical facility. I was reassured that was okay as they needed to assess me (my first inclination was to get up and walk out).

For the next twelve hours I would be asked repeatedly my name, date of birth and if I knew where I was. This was annoying, but I realised after a time it was to check if I was mentally okay. Before being allowed to stand up I first had my blood pressure checked sitting and standing. Then I was asked to close my eyes and move my limbs various ways to check I had balance. Several times I had all joints tapped with a rubber hammer and reflexes noted, poked with a blunt pin to check for sensitivity, had my eyes checked for responses.

Fully conscious, I seemed to be the least unwell person in any of the sixteen or so beds (which were occupied most of the time). I even seemed to be healthier than some of the staff. My bed faced the nursing station in the centre of the room (arranged so the staff there could observer every bed. What first got my attention was that there were two large computer screens which they consulted over ever now and then.

There was a confusing array of different uniforms worn. I was asked if I had been seen by a doctor and realised I had no idea which were the doctors (almost everyone had a stethoscope). The general rule seemed to be that the more uniform-like the clothing worn, the lower status of the staff, with the consultant doctors on the top of the pecking order having no uniform.

Everyone there seemed to know what to do except me. However, just when I question would occur to me, such as "do I get something to eat?", someone would appear and ask if I was hungry. Some aspects seemed less organised. Several times someone would say something was going to happen, then leave, someone else would then come in and ask what was happening, whereupon I would explain I was being sent for some treatment. At one point I had difficulty convincing a nurse (by this point I had worked out the people in bright red tops were the emergency nurses) that I had just had my blood taken and there was no need to do it again. Most of this questioning was genuine, but I suspect some was to check on my mental state without the tedium of asking where I was again.

After a few hours, a couple of visitors, and some phone calls to reassure people I was okay, the novelty started to wear off. While I was in a room of my own I could still hear the discussions around me and of the same questions I had been asked being asked to new arrivals. There were also cries of pain and coughing indicating people in a far worse state than my own. Feeling completely well, it was frustrating to be tethered to a bed by heart rate and blood pressure monitors. I had to be unplugged by someone each time I wanted to get up.

Having a
Computed tomography (CT) scan turned out to be a much less scary experience than I was expecting. Laid on a motorised bed, my head was moved into a doughnut shaped device. This was like like putting your head into a large front loading washing machine (I could see part of the mechanism rotating trough a transparent window).

The ultrasound scan of my neck turned out to be less pleasant than I expected. This was used on my neck to check blood flow. The device is pressed on and an image displays on screen, with blood flow in colour. At the same time there is the sound of the blood flowing (something like a special effect from a low budget science fiction movie). The device had to be pressed uncomfortably, but not painfully, hard to my neck to get a clear image.

What was surprising was the speed with which tests were done. I expected to be moved to another building or at least another floor, but was instead quickly whisked around a corner, tested and then back again. One disconcerting part was the TV show in the imaging waiting area, which had advertisements for life insurance, will kits and funeral funds. I was well enough to see the humour in this, but it might might be disturbing for someone less well. Another unusual sight was the ceiling of the imaging area covered with black fingermarks, while every other surface was antiseptically clean. The staff explained that this marks were left by the electricians changing cabling.

Several times the staff would collect around the large computer screen with one operating a keyboard to scroll through a list, presumably reviewing the status of each patient. During one of these sessions, someone in a slightly scruffy suit (looking like the forensic pathologist out of an Inspector Morse episode) glanced over at me said something like "he looks well enough". I was then whisked out of the room and two beds down to a curtained area, it being explained that the room was needed for a suspected infectious patient. The next person to check my blood pressure looked a little confused as the chart for that bed said I was eleven months old.

As I had attended a talk on the
$165M project to produce integrated e-health standards for Australia, I took a particular interest in the computer systems used. Apart from the large screen used to manage patents there was a lot of ICT evident. Several of the staff were equipped with walkie talkies.

One quick change the hospital could make would be to turn on the power saving features of the large screen displays at the nursing station. These display a screen saver message after a few minutes which wastes power and is annoying to look at. The station has two displays side by side facing opposite directions. Due to the need for cooling, there was a sign on the back saying not to place notices there. This wastes a large area of the most important part of the room. A notice board could be bolted to the back of the display, leaving sufficient space for cooling. I noticed one doctor using the LCD screen as a lightbox, to examine x-rays. Perhaps the software needs a function which, at the push of a button, displays a blank white screen for this purpose.

The blood pressure and heart monitors were computer operated (it was disconcerting to have my arm constricted by an automatic blood pressure cuff every hour). But the various systems were standalone. While the devices at the end of the bed would record a sequence of readings from me over time, someone came with a paper chart to transcribe the readings.

The CT and ultrasound machines are computer controlled and produce digital images within a few minutes, but the output is turned into x-ray like transparency photographs which took an hour or so to get to the doctor (presumably this would be quicker or an urgent case).

My details had to be re-entered into each computerised device and checked. From the time I was first seen by the paramedic, my details were verbally relayed by radio, telephone, paper and face-to-face between numerous staff. ACT Health are to spend about $300M integrating these systems over the next few years (the ultrasound operator was looking forward to a new film less system arriving shortly). Apart from reducing the risk of errors, linking the systems up will reduce the cost of the processes and allow the staff to spend more time on the patients. However, linking up these systems reliably is a major undertaking.

While using the computerised equipment the staff also understood its limitations. Rather than just look at the machines, they would first look at the patent and see how they looked. This became comical at times, such as when the most important consultant was examining me but the pulse monitor was in the way. After some hesitation he unclipped it, then realised that it would sound an alarm within a few seconds if there was no pulse recorded. He handed it to his assistant who wondered what to do with it (considering handing it to the next person down in the pecking order). The consultant suggested he clip it to his own finger so the system would get a reading, but I suggested this would not be a good idea as the record of my heart rate recorded would suddenly change which might confuse someone checking readings later.

After about twelve hours in the hospital I was told I could go home. This was somewhat of a surprising anti-climax. I was handed a copy of a letter sent to my GP, with instructions on when to come back for an Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and what medicine to take and not to drive a car for a month (riding a bicycle is okay for some reason). There were no forms to sign and no mention of money (the cost of the treatment must have been significant).

Within a few minutes I was out the door. It was a bit difficult finding my way out as I had not walked in and I had never seen the outside of the building. I called a taxi and returned to the university where the last session of the Green ICT Symposium 2008, I had organised was taking place. As I entered I was greeted by a round of applause by the audience, who had obviously been told of my illness. This was heartening. I stayed for lunch with them and then went home to rest.

My thanks to the staff of the Department of Computer Science at ANU for coming to my aid, the ACT Ambulance Service and the Canberra Hospital. Also thanks to Senator Lundy, who chaired the symposium in my absence.

ps: Some might like to carry out a word analysis in postings to this blog, before and after 11:30am last Thursday, to see if I have recovered. ;-)

Green ICT ACS & TAFE NSW, 17th November 2008

The Australian Computer Society and TAFE NSW are having a free Green ICT event, 17th November 2008 in Sydney, with TAFE detailing their new ICT sustainability courses: "How will the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme affect me, my job and my business?":
Two polls taken in 2008 show that while well over 70% of the population agree that Australia should act now to on climate change less than 10% understand the Australian government’s master plan for tackling climate change, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and how it will affect businesses and individuals.

This presentation will provide a Plain English overview of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, its effects on businesses and individuals and hints on how you can act now to reduce its impacts on you and your business.

You will also hear about the new Accredited TAFE course starting in Feb 2009 "Sustainability in ICT Systems"

As with all TAFE courses you gain not only Technical knowledge but the practical backup.

The modules are:-
  1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
  2. Install and Test Power Management Software
  3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
  4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
  5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet

Stanley Tonkins

Chartered Professional Engineer NSW TAFE Stanley is currently teaching students about Telecommunications and Networks, Information Technology and developing new course units including assessment and practicum delivery strategies for the Advanced Diploma, Diploma and Certificate IV and III courses.

Máire Sheehan

Is the Manager Public Sector Programs, TAFE NSW and Councillor, Leichhardt Council.

Franco Salaun

Program Manager - Curriculum Centre at TAFE and is responsible for the design and development of courses in Telecommunications and IT Networking.

About this Event


Mitchell Theatre Level 1, 280 Pitt St Sydney (Sydney Mechanics School of Arts- In between Park & Bathurst St)
Date: Monday 17th November 2008
Time: 6 pm -8 pm


Members: $0.00
Non Members: $0.00

From: "How will the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme affect me, my job and my business?", ACS, 2008

Voting online in the ACS Elections

Some years ago, when I was on their governing council, the Australian Computer Society changed its rules to allow for electronic voting. But the ACS doesn't have many elections and many of those, such as for the council itself, were done during a face to face meeting. The ACS therefore sensibly decided not to rush into e-voting. This year e-voting is being used for positions on the new national congress (which replaces the council) and for branches. Recently I voted electronically for the ACT Government in Canberra and last year for the Federal election. Voting for the IEEE and ACM are already electronic, so it may be that I never vote with a piece of paper again.

I wasn't involved with the selection of the ACS voting system. This uses a company called They have an Australian office in Sydney, but I don't know anything more than that about them. The process is much the same as for ACM and IEEE elections. I was sent a message by the ACS with a link to the independent e-voting company. This then brings up an introductory message from the ACS returning officer explaining the voting system. The next screen than displays a form which looks like a traditional voting paper. There is a link next to each candidate to display their supporting statement (some you don't get with a traditional paper ballot or the systems used for the ACT and federal elections). The statements include a photo (if the candiate supplied one) which is handy if you can't rememebr exactly who is who. The statment appers on the ballot paper under the candidate's name which is easier than the previous ACM and IEEE systems, where you are referred to a separate web page.

As with other e-voting systems, this system checks the ballot is valid (the ACT and federal systems check for valid ballots but still permit the voter to cast one which is invalid). The system also invite comments on the vote (after warning the voter not to identify themselves). I submitted a comment suggesting the system require some form of identification of the voter (such as their member number or having logged in via the member section fo the ACS web site. This would be to allow for the unlikely situation where someone other than the ACS member received the email message and can so cast the vote. The ACM and IEEE systems get around this problem by sending the member a paper ballot which includes a code to enter for e-voting. This sending a paper ballot is a nuisance and I often have difficulty entering the codes provided, so such a solution has its won problems.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pocket and Palm Projectors

Aiptek Pocket Cinema V10 projectorMint Wireless Limited loaned me one of their Aiptek Pocket Cinema V10 projectors to try. This is a unit about the size and shape of a mobile phone and projects an image of up to 1.27m. It will play videos and audio as well as show still images at 640 x 480 Pixel VGA resolution. It has a built in battery and charges from a USB cable as well as mains adaptor. You can also play composite video and stereo audio.

However, the unit has several limitations. The unit does not appear to be able to display the live image from a computer screen: there is no VGA connector and the USB link only works to transfer files for later display. The screen is not very bright and so needs to be used in a dim room. The sound quality from the tiny internal speakers is poor. The price is under $AU700.

Dell M109S On-the-Go ProjectorDELL offer the much larger (but still small), Dell M109S On-the-Go Projector for $US499. This has 858 x 600 SVGA resolution and VGA input. It appears to lack the speakers, battery and internal storage features making it dependent on external devices, whereas the Aiptek Pocket Cinema can be used on its own.

Like the Apitek, the Dell uses a LED light source in place of a conventional light bulb, making it more efficient and longer lasting. The Dell uses more power and therefore hopefully is brighter. The Dell unit looks better for use with a PC for presentations, whereas the Apitek may be useful where you just want to play a video or an audio slide show.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NZ e-Health System

The NZ Ministry of Health has issued a Request for Proposal for a " Identity Data Service Solution" for identification of patients and doctors. The RFP includes a detailed 117 page document detailing the information needed in the system and standards to be used. The requirement appears very similar to the $165M project for e-health standards in Australia. However, there appears to be no mention of the Australian work in the NZ tender. It would seem sensible for Australian and NZ to use compatible e-health systems.

Economics of Spam

The paper "Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion", details how researchers hacked into a spam network to measure its effectiveness. I was interviewed about it ("Spammers making a profit") on ABC Radio for the PM program. The researchers suggest that Spam is not as profitable as previously thought. My main concern with the research was over the ethics and legality of the research technique.

Ever wondered how the companies that send out junk emails make any money, when most people delete the emails without reading them? Well, a group of computer scientists in California has found that spammers are turning a profit, despite only getting one response for every 12.5-million emails they send.

From: Spammers making a profit, PM, ABC Radio, Wednesday, 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio, 12 November, 2008 (audio also available)

The researchers hacked into the "Storm" botnet network and monitored how many messages were sent. They then set up two fake e-commerce web sites to see how many people would click through the spam ads to buy the products. They found only one in 12.5 million clicked through. Based on this they suggested Spam is not very profitable. It seems a reasonable conclusion and I suggested in the radio interview that the people doing this could probably earn more from the effort involved via legitimate e-commerce.

There are numerous research papers on the economics of Spam. The wall Street Journal covered this in 2002: For Bulk E-Mailer, Pestering Millions Offers Path to Profit. That spam may not be as profitable as previously thought is interesting, but does not necessarily lessen its appeal to criminals.

However, my main concern was the methodology of the research. It is ethically and legally questionable for the researchers to hack into a spam network. Like any citizen, when a researcher finds someone doing something illegal, they have a responsibility to report that to the appropriate authorities so it can be investigated and those involved prosecuted. In this case the researchers do not appear to have done that and instead monitored the network and even set up their own e-commerce store to exploit it.

The researchers are from Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, Berkeley and University of California, San Diego. Those institutions have ethical guidelines for research which the researchers should have consulted before proceeding.

In the ethics section of the paper, the authors state: " First, our instrumented proxy bots do not create any new harm" and "Second, our proxies are passive actors and do not themselves engage in any behaviour that is intrinsically objectionable; they do not send spam e-mail, they do not compromise hosts, nor do they even contact worker bots asynchronously. " and "Finally, where we do modify C&C messages in transit, these actions themselves strictly reduce harm. Users who click on spam altered by these changes will be directed to one of our innocuous doppelganger Web sites.".

However, the authors do not address the issue of if they were taking part in a criminal activity or if they should have reported the criminal activities to the appropriate authorities. It seems a flawed argument for the researchers to say their activities were no more harmful than those being observed.
The “conversion rate” of spam — the probability that an unsolicited e-mail will ultimately elicit a “sale” — underlies the entire spam value proposition. However, our understanding of this critical behavior is quite limited, and the literature lacks any quantitative study concerning its true value. In this paper we present a methodology for measuring the conversion rate of spam. Using a parasitic infiltration of an existing botnet’s infrastructure, we analyze two spam campaigns: one designed to propagate a malware Trojan, the other marketing on-line pharmaceuticals. For nearly a half billion spam e-mails we identify the number that are successfully delivered, the number that pass through popular anti-spam filters, the number that elicit user visits to the advertised sites, and the number of “sales” and “infections” produced.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.4.1 [Public Policy Issues]: ABUSE AND CRIME INVOLVING COMPUTERS
General Terms: Measurement, Security, Economics

From: Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion, Chris Kanich, Christian Kreibich, Kirill Levchenko, Brandon Enright, Geoffrey M. Voelker, Vern Paxson, Stefan Savage, CCS'08 Conference, ACM, October 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Allow Pre-poll voting at next ACT Election

I have proposed to the new Greens members of Canberra local government that the ACT electoral laws be amended to remove the restrictions on pre-poll voting at the next ACT Election. This would allow most of the votes to be cast and counted electronically.

This could be done by the following change to the Electoral Act 1992:

Replace: "expects to be unable"

With: "does not wish"

In: Section 136B "Ordinary or declaration voting in ACT before polling day"
(1) (a).

This would allow more voters to use the pre-poll polling places (whioch are equipped for e-voting) in the weeks before polling day, without needing to give a reason to do so. It would have several advantages:
  1. REDUCED FUEL USE: Votes could be cast on a planned shopping trip or work break, instead of needing special trip on polling day. As well as being convenient for the voters, this would reduce the number of car trips on polling day and so reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. REDUCED PAPER USE: Allowing more use of the electronic voting system would reduce paper consumption. It would also reduce the size needed for polling day booths, cut the cost and speed the count.
  3. INCREASE RESPECT FOR LAW: I have heard a number of anecdotes about people pretending they were going to be away from Canberra so they could pre-poll vote using the electronic system. While it is unlikely anyone would be prosecuted for this breech of the law, it would be better to change the law to allow voters to do what they want to do, legally.
Otherwise I may implement "plan B" and organise "Leave Canberra Day" for the next election. ;-)

An eCommerce Perspective on Carbon Trading

Roger Clarke will present "An eCommerce Perspective on Carbon Trading", Thursday 20 November 2008 (4pm) at the ANU in Canberra:

Carbon trading has been touted as the market-based answer to global warming. The argument used to justify that position are outlined. Armed with that understanding, the nature of the tradable item is examined. Even though commodities markets are inevitably electronically supported, carbon trading appears to have attracted far more attention among investors and in the trade press than in the eCommerce literature. This presentation brings the perspective of electronic commerce theory and practice to bear on how 'carbon' is being, and might be, traded.

The slide-set is available, together with an annotations.

Open Source for Australian e-Health

Ian Bull from ACT Health delivered an excellent talk on ICT in Health Delivery in the 21st Century at the ACS Canberra meeting, 11 November. The state and federal health authorities have been working on a $165M project over the last three years to produce integrated e-health standards for Australia. I suggest this work be expanded with an additional $50M to produce open source software implementing these standards.

Ian discussed the work of the
National EHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) and intermeshed with state health authorities, including the ACT. This is a complex project involving data standrads, changes to medical business processes and issues of access to health data accross state boarders. While a high risk project, it has large potential benefits for improved health and savings in health care costs.

One interesting aspect is that this project avoided being mired in the failed health and social services access card project of the previous federal government. There are no plans to issue a standard health card as part of the project, although this would be done for identifying doctors and other health workers.

The techncial standards being developed are available free online for use by Australian medical system developers. However, I suggest that the project could go further and develop open source software implementing the standards. This could be used to prove operation of the standrads, to aid Australian software developers in implementation, to help developing nations with implementing e-health systems and to boost the Australian e-health export industry.

The Australian medical software industry is fragmented with very many small companies producing software packages for doctors and other health professionals. Producing software to interface to the new national standards will be a large burden for this firms. Instead, the government (Medicare Australia in particular) could fund development of open source software which would proud a proof of concept of the new standards. The companies could then incorporate this software in their systems to produce commercial packages. As well as providing for the domestic market, this could create an export industry in e-health. Exports could concentrate on new markets in developing nations using new technologies, such as mobile phones to replace doctor's computers.

Detect Influenza outbreaks with web searches

Graph of five years of flu estimates for US Mid-Atlantic region compared with CDC dataGoogle have created a service to "Explore flu trends across the U.S.". The system tracks the use of search terms which indicate that people have influenza and plots this on a graph over time and a map of the USA. According to "Google Uses Searches to Track Flu’s Spread" (By MIGUEL HELFT, The New York Times, November 11, 200), a paper on this will be published in Nature.The idea of using web searches to detect natural phenomena is not a new one, with previous proposals to use internet traffic to detect earthquakes. The technique might be used as part of an ICT system to deal with an Avian Influenza Pandemic.

Each week, millions of users around the world search for online health information. As you might expect, there are more flu-related searches during flu season, more allergy-related searches during allergy season, and more sunburn-related searches during the summer. You can explore all of these phenomena using Google Trends. But can search query trends provide an accurate, reliable model of real-world phenomena?

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States. ...

From: How does this work?, Google Flu Trends, Google, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Broadband, libraries and the creation of Australia’s digital culture

The National Library of Australia is hosting "Broadband, libraries and the creation of Australia’s digital culture" on Tuesday 18th November 2008, 9:00 AM, NLA Theatre, in Canberra:

With the new federal government establishing a Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, maximising the potential of Australia’s digital culture has become a new strategic focus. Libraries, archives and related information agencies have a central role to play in exploiting these opportunities by helping communities and organisations – from the local to the national, and across sectors – come to grips with the possibilities that this focus on the digital world offers.

This seminar, the third in a series jointly supported by the National Library of Australia, Charles Sturt University and ALIA is intended to provide a broad overview of what this means for libraries and information agencies in strategy and in practice.

Recordkeeping for government web information

Archives New Zealand have issued a Request for Proposal for "Development of Web Information Continuity Guide". There is a four page description of the work, available for download from the NZ Government website.
Information produced and maintained on the web as part of public sector business is covered by the Public Records Act 2005. This includes information on public websites, intranets, shared workspaces, wikis, blogs and other types of sites, as well as information in the administrative systems used to run these sites.

Archives New Zealand is receiving increasing requests for advice on recordkeeping for web information. Current guidance contained in the Continuum Recordkeeping Resource Kit was largely developed in 2003 and needs to be updated and expanded to provide more useful support to public sector agencies on strategies and tactics for current web information management that will support the aims of the Public Records Act.

Archives New Zealand is looking for a contractor to undertake the project over the period to 31 June 2009:

Interested individuals or consultancies are invited to submit an expression of interest along with a proposal outlining how you would approach the work and details of relevant experience by Friday the 21st November 2008. ...

From: Development of Web Information Continuity Guide, Archives New Zealand, 21/11/08

Intellectual property webinar

The Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre hosted a web based online seminar (webinar) on "IP Growth Cycle of Early-Stage Companies", 11 November 2008. This was free and a useful event, although it did not cover open access/open source. I wanted to ask about that but the event suddenly ended twenty mintues early, before I had a chance to. The "webniar" format pfoved useful, apart from the abrupt end. But then an IP seminar whi9ch doesn't address open source in the first 30 mintues is of little value.

After I signed up for the event online I was sent a message with a web address for joining. I tried clicking on the link straight away but just got a response saying the site would not be available until the scheduled time. This was frustrating as when it can to that time I found I had to download and install software. This took several minutes so I was late joining the event.

The event used Citrix 's GoToMeeting. This was used with audio broadcast to the participants and synchronised Powerpoint type slides. There was no video used. One problem was that there was no image of the speaker and so less sense of who they were (a still image would have done). Also there was only one voice talking all the time, which gets tedious. It would help to have a different person talking.

The system provides a text back channel for asking questions and for when there are problems with the audio. This arrangement works well, as you do not need to interrupt the speaker. Also there is a "raise your hand" function to get attention.

The audio worked well (I was using the ANU's high bandwidth Internet link so problems would not be expected). It is also possible to use a telephone conference with the Internet used for the slides and text chat.

Other Internet based products provide similar facilities. Also one integrated e-meeting product may not be the best approach. With the synchronised slides you can't go back a slide or skip forward to see how may are left: you are stuck looking at the slide the presenter wants you to. Also you can't read or search the actual text of the presentation (particularly important if you a re blind), as all you have is an image of the slide, not the slide itself. So it might be more useful to simply provide the slides and have people follow along themselves. A separate text chat and audio system can be used, perhaps with the text saying what slide the speaker is talking about occasionally.

Using multiple tools would also make the abrupt end which occurred with the IP webinar less likely. What happened with the Citrix software was suddenly I had a message saying the event had ended and then the application disappeared, along with the slides and text chat. This would be useful for those wanting tight control for a presentation. But for most events it would better iof the slides did not suddenly disappear and the text chat could keep going after the audio ended.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Google Affiliate Network: where are the ads?

I signed up for Google's "Affiliate Network" to try it out with just a few ads on a few of my web page and see how it works. So far I have been approved by several advertisers to allow their ads on my web site. But what is not clear is how I get their ads onto my web site. The usual way this is done is that the advertiser provides a small bit of HTML code I put in my web page, which then displays the ads and includes my account code so I can be paid for the ad. I have the list of advertisers, but can't see how I get the ads.

From the help site, it appears the ads are called "links". It took me some time to work out I could go to a page "get links" and this would generate a list of the available advertisements. For here I can select the ad, size and have the required HTML generated. I started cautiously, putting what I hope is an uncontroversial ad on a transport and smart apartment web page.

ICT in 21st Century Health Delivery

Ian Bull will be talking on ICT in Health Delivery in the 21st Century at the ACS Canberra meeting 11 November:

The role of ICT in the delivery of health initiatives has come to the front with both the Federal and ACT governments have announced new strategies particularly in health and patient records and the concerns about security and privacy.
Ian will provide an overview of key National activity and explain the role of the National EHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) and how ACT Health initiatives link to the national activities.
Ian Bull has been working in Health involved in Information Management and a variety of Health ICT implementations for both Public and Private Organisations for over 20 years. His present role is with ACT Health is concerned with the coordination of National EHealth Initiatives being progressed through the National EHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA) and their links to ACT Health ICT Initiatives.