Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Environment Department Wasting Energy on Letters

On 8 January I sent an email message to the Minster for Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts suggesting Internet enhanced meetings for post-Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Today I received reply from the Ministerial and Parliamentary Services. This anonymous message had a facsimile image of a letter attached (signed with an unreadable signature). The letter thanked me for my email and said my letter (I didn't send them a letter) had been referred to the Minister for Climate Change.

The attached letter was in the form of an image. The resulting file was about 100 times larger than it need be and would not be readable by those with limited vision. Government guidelines (and Australian law) require services to be provided in a way does not discriminate against people with a disability, including the blind. Routinely generating correspondence in the form of an image may constitute unlawful discrimination.

If communication was necessary (which it wasn't) all that was needed was a brief email. This would have been more readable and would used much few resources.

The Ministerial and parliamentary services handled about 20,000 items of ministerial correspondence last year. Assuming that a message similar to the one I got (about 40 kbytes of unnecessary data) was sent to each, that represents about 800 Mbytes of data. As this is correspondence the department will need to keep a copy on file for some years, wasting resources (including greenhouse gas causing energy) and increasing costs. So the Department's response to my suggestion for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been to increase theirs.

The Australian Government has some excellent guidelines on how to handle communications (some of which I helped write). The Ministerial and Parliamentary Services of the Australian Department of Environment perhaps should read some of them.

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