Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ICT Initiatives for next Australian government

Here are some suggested computer and Internet related initiatives for the next Australian government on: e-polling and broadband in regional Australia. As Anthony Wong, President of the Australian Computer Society points out in his column in The Australian newspaper today the provision of health services in regional Australia can be improved with computer network access ("Web medicine an investment for the bush: broadband access"). These initiatives may be of interest to the independent members of the new Australian Parliament (Bob Katter, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott , Andrew Wilkie and Greens member Adam Bandt.Whoever makes up the next Austrlaian Government might like to attend, or send advisors to the World Computer Congress 2010, which is being held in Brisbane next month. Some of the best and brightest will be discussing how to provide broadband in regional areas and how to use this for economic development, education, health and the environment (I am speaking in the environment stream).
  1. Electronic polling at major centres: Difficulties were experienced with vote counting at the last election. To overcome this I suggest introducing the system of electronic polling at major centres used for the ACT local elections. With this system at the larger polling places, including pre-poll centres, voters have the choice to use computer based voting. The AEC already has an electronic voting system for people with a disability which can be adapted for all voters. I suggest the use of such a system be maximised by removing the restriction on pre-poll voting and so allowing any voter to vote in the pre-poll period without needing to give a reason. This will allow most votes to be cast and counted electronically, greatly speeding up the poll and reducing errors. Allowing pre-polling should also help independents and smaller parties, but making it difficult for a major parties to use large advertising budgets to influence the vote shortly before polling day.
  2. Broadband Use in Regional Australia: Regardless of it the NBN is retained, or another broadband strategy adopted, I suggest emphasis be changed to the use of broadband for the community. This should include investment in training for teachers and health workers in the use of online applications to carry out their work. This could build on the excellent work being done by federal and state funded EdNa on all levels of education, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework on vocational education and the ANU on training rural doctors. Also a programme could ensure that regional centres are equipped to use broadband, including schools, libraries, health centres and council offices.
  3. Broadband for Reducing Carbon Emissions: Regardless of what form of carbon emission control scheme is introduced, ICT can play a part. As I teach my Green ICT students, computers and telecommunications now make up a significant part of the cause of carbon emissions in Australia (about 2.7%) and could be used to reduce emissions (up to 15%). At a cost of $1M we could train on expert for each of the top 400 companies and government agencies in Australia to work to make reductions. Already my students have written green ICT strategies for several major government agencies and companies as assignments for their course and then submitted them for implementation in the workplace.

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