Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 Walter Burley Griffin Memorial Lecture

Greetings from the Finkel Theatre at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, where Sue Holliday will present the 2011 Walter Burley Griffin Memorial Lecture. Before she began we were reminded there is CAPITheticAL, a competition on planning Canberra (some wags are planning to resubmit Griffin's original plan, arguing it was never implemented properly).

Professor Holliday began by asking what the symbolic role of a capital city was, as distinct from government administration and politics. She argues that the public has to feel pride in their capital city. Modernity has a role in making a capital, Professor Holliday argued.

There are no series plans to move the Capital back to Melbourne. With the public service cutbacks announced this week, there may be some scaling back, but not to the less than 30,000 people the Griffins planned for.

Professor Holliday asked the audience if they would want to live anywhere else, given the good amenity. But the younger generation would see little to hold them in Canberra, until they wanted to raise a family. This seemed a little unfair, as while Canberra could not compete with Sydney for nightlife, it would be livelier than the average Australian city of 360,000 people.

Professor Holliday pointed out that recent ACT Government planning makes no mention of Canberra's role as the national capital. She speculated this might be because there is a separate set of federal planners for the city. Having two groups of planners planning the one city has caused difficulties since self government.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Design of Australian Defence Command and Control Centers

DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoThe November 2011 edition of "Australian Defence Magazine" (ADM) has several articles on the Australian Defence Department project JP 2030 (Joint Command Support Environment) and issues of cyber security. Most interesting are "JP2030 Reaches Its Next Stage" (Gregor Ferguson, Page 40) and "The Extent of the Cyber Security Threat" (John Hilvert, page 60), "The Roles of Defence and Government in Cyber Security" (John Hilvert).
Operator and console at the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoThese articles are accompanied by photos of two operations centers. One is the Defence Signals Directorate Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), opened in January 2010. This has operators in civilian clothing sitting in a typical operations centre room layout.

The other photos in ADM show personnel in ADF uniforms in what appears to be a room with an identical layout and furniture, but with different desktop computers, telephones and wall screens. This appears to be the same room captioned "Air Operations Centre in Canberra" by RAAF News.

As discussed previously, the design of the room does not appear optimal for space utilization or group work. The desks, at 800 mm, are deeper than needed (smaller desks could double the room capacity). The use of two screens per workstation creates a situation where the operator has to look either to the left or right, not straight ahead. There are only limited gaps between the screens cutting the operators off from those in front and behind. Also the desk rows are straight, reducing the ability of the operators to see others. Narrower semicircular rows of desks would provide a better result. These could be fabricated simply (height adjustment is not used in such centres, as is evident from the photographs). Also it might be better to provide each operator with just one large monitor (up to 30 inch).

Many of the same problems are evident in the design of the ADF Special Operations Command and Control Center in Afghanistan, as depicted in the Channel Ten documentary "First Look: Tour of Duty - Australia's Secret War" (at 58 seconds into the video). This has four rows of desks, in two columns, with a walkway down the middle, and three projection screens on the front wall. Standard office desks appear to be being used, which are not optimal for such a facility, where space is at a premium.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Privacy and Cloud Databases

Greetings from the Australian National University, where Professor Chris Clifton, from Purdue University, is speaking on "Freeing Cloud Databases from Privacy Constraints". This is topical as Microsoft recently criticized the Australian Government as the Australian Government Cloud Computing Guidelines effectively require storing Australian citizen's records records in Australia. Also I raised concerns about storing student data in the cloud.

Professor Clifton is working with Qatar University on techniques of atomization (or fragmentation) to separate the person identifiers from the data about them (see papers). He claimed that this way the bulk of the data can be stored in the cloud and processed, without revealing private information. To further protect the information, the list of personal identifiers can be encrypted. Some shortcuts can be used, such as using hashing to check if records match, without having to use actual encryption.

Professor Brad Malin, Vanderbilt University, talked on Risk-based Privacy: What are we Afraid Of?, at ANU, 14 November 2011. He pointed out that matching with other information navigable on-line it is possible to re-identify the records.

Professor Clifton admitted there was a risk of re-identification. But one issue I see is the risk of what will happen in the future. While the data may be anonymous now, new data on-line or more capable computers may make it possible to identify individuals later. Professor Clifton mentioned there are techniques to address this but they also reduce the value of the data, as they deliberately introduce some errors into the data.

The techniques discussed by Professor Clifton involve a compromise between privacy and efficient processing. The data can be placed on a public server and partly encrypted. The difficulty is to decide when the data is sufficiently private. The technical terms are k-anonymity, l-diversity and t-closeness. Some data has to be suppressed completely to protect privacy, but Professor Clifton has found that this will typically be a small amount. These techniques will be added to the UT Dallas Data Security and Privacy Lab Anonymization ToolBox. Recent work has been on the Hive open source data warehouse system. Another option is to use a secure coprocessor.

Apart from risks in the data, Professor Clifton pointed out there may also be risky queries, where the aim is to confirm a suspicion about the data, rather than just a random query. This may require some queries to be rejected. Which queries would have to be rejected is a topic for future research. Also it occurs to me that the fact a query was rejected may in itself reveal information.

Apart from the risk of a change in the future, there is the more practical consideration of basic security rules not being followed for protecting data. There is no point in creating a sophisticated system, if the operating system of the server has not and the latest security patches applied, or strong passwords used, of if the staff are bribed to supply copies of the data. In may be that in practice a well run cloud server is more secure than the average small server at a company or government agency, simply because more care can be given to run a large server properly.

Professor Clifton is speaking on Privacy-Preserving Data Mining at 10: What's Next? at Ninth Australasian Data Mining Conference: AusDM 2011, 1 to 2 December 2011 at University of Ballarat, Mt. Helen Campus, Ballarat.

Lake Wobegon Effect in Education

The book "Measurement and Assessment in Education (2nd Edition)" goes into detail on the process of nationally standardized testing in the USA. One amusing sidebar is on the "Lake Wobegon effect", where a large number of US schools systematically gamed the testing system. The term is named after Garrison Keillor's fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where "... all the children are above average.".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Even Genius Needs to Do Paperwork

The exhibition "Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin" at the the National Library of Australia shows a great range of work over the centuries. Some of the manuscripts shown are of great works, such as a draft of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but others show that great people had to deal with paperwork, such as receipt from Michelangelo acknowledging funds from a patron. Others show that even geniuses don't always get it right, with Heisenberg's draft of a universal equation for everything which did not work out.

The exhibition's music room was of most interest, with a cacophony of the different music displayed being played in the background. There is an iPad on a wall with headphones, where you can pick from the works. The exhibition organisers need to install a set of white headphones on a white hook, as the room so dim (to preserve the manuscripts) and so the headphones and where to hand them up is almost invisible.

Other works to get my attention were Schliemann writing about the discovery of Troy, a patent by Watt (of steam engine fame), Diesel asking for state funding for his engine and several authors complaining about reviews they got.

It is unfortunate there is not a web site to accompany the exhibition, given the work which has gone into its preparation. Such a web site could be produced with a few days work, using the materials already prepared for the exhibition. This is something the ACT Government might consider funding to boost tourist numbers.

The exhibition is open until 18 March 2012 and is free, but it is a good idea to book a free ticket online (the NLA is using an Apple iPad to check the bookings at a desk in the foyer). There are also various events associated with the exhibition.

Google Android Powered Satellite

The University of Surrey is working on a Google Android Powered Satellite. The idea is to use a smart phone as the computer and sensors for a low cost satellite.

Realistic Australian Submarine Specifications Needed

According to media reports, the Australian Minister for Defence has indicated that the Navantia S80 and DCNS Scorpene submarines do not meet Australian requirements outlined in the Defence White Paper. In my view this is not due to any failings in these submarines, but an unrealistic wish list of capabilities set out in the white paper. Essentially Australia wants 12 submarines with capabilities only available in nuclear powered vessels. However, such vessels would be politically and fiscally infeasible for Australia to acquire. The alternative contemplated appears to be a new, very large conventional submarine design. At present Australia is having difficulty maintaining the large conventional submarines it has. The probability of building an even larger and more complex submarine which would work is close to zero.

A better alternative for Australia is realistic requirements for its submarines, within the capabilities of what is available and affordable. The required range of the submarines should be reduced and submarine tenders purchased to re-supply the vessels at remote locations. The submarines should be designed primarily for surveillance and so have their armaments reduced to allow for better range. The ability to conduct deep strategic strike against land targets should be deleted, as this is technically very difficult, expensive and politically questionable. The vessels can be equipped for covert operations delivering special forces on shore, but this capability should be by offloading most of the armaments for such a mission, not by building a bigger boat.

Manuscripts from Berlin State Library in Canberra

Greetings from the National Library of Australia, where Professor Everardus Overgaauw, head of the Manuscript Department of the Berlin State Library is talking about the manuscripts on display in Canberra in the exhibition: "Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin". The Berlin State Library was founded in 1661 and the story of the library and its manuscripts is bound up with that of the German state, with formation, war, partition and reunification.

On display are handwritten documents by: Bach, Beethoven, Cook, Curie, Dante, Darwin, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Einstein, Galileo, Goethe, Haydn, Kafka, Kant, Kepler, Machiavelli, Marx, Michelangelo, Napoleon, Newton, Nietzsche, Nightingale, Nobel, Pasteur and Watt.

The exhibition is open until 18 March 2012 and is free, but it is a good idea to book a free ticket online (the NLA is using an Apple iPad to check the bookings at a desk in the foyer). There are also various events associated with the exhibition.

Making Assessment Matter

The book "Making Assessment Matter" (Graham Butt, Continuum, 2010) is a short, 145 page, introduction to assessment issues for teachers. While it is aimed at school teachers in the UK, I found it useful for my study of university assessment in Australia.


Teachers often spend a considerable amount of their time monitoring and assessing their pupils’ performance. But what are we assessing for, and can assessment practices be changed to make them more useful to teachers and learners?

Assessment activities in schools are frequently criticised by government inspectors – often being reported as the least successful aspect of schools' work.

Drawing on established research, Making Assessment Matter focuses on the purpose of assessment, and suggests strategies for managing assessment in a more effective way. The author considers the role of assessment in promoting learning, rather than simply measuring it, provides tips on setting and attaining assessment targets, and brings together considerations of ‘high stakes’ assessment at the national level with day-to-day assessment practice in the classroom.

This timely and informative book will be essential reading for anyone involved with, or interested in, the role of assessment within schools, including teachers, trainee teachers and managers.

Table of Contents

Preface \ 1. Introducing assessment \ 2. Using assessment to promote learning \ 3. Can assessment raise standards? \ 4. The influence of 'high stakes' and 'low stakes' assessment \ 5. Formative and summative assessment: 'We need to talk' \ 6. Marking, feedback and self-assessment communicating the results of assessment \ 7. Achieving assessment targets \ 8. Equality of opportunity in assessment - the case of boys' underachievement \ 9. Making assessment easier? The role of e-assessment \ 10. Making assessment matter \ References \ Index


Graham Butt, Graham Butt is Reader in Geography Education, Director of Academic Planning and Deputy Head of the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Risks for Students with e-Learning

Rodney Gedda reported in "Monash Uni moves e-learning to Moodle" (Techworld Australia, 10 May 2011):
... Monash’s decision to go with the Moodle 2.0 (released last November) learning management system (LMS) should provide greater autonomy to both educators and students, according to Moodle services provider NetSpot. ...
Netspot is the same company ANU uses for their Moodle support. But I am not sure Moodle, or any Learning Management System (LMS), necessarily provides greater autonomy for educators or students. You can use the LMS as a Panopticon, limiting choices and observing every action by staff and students. This is something ANU has wisely avoided the temptation to do.

Moodle is very flexible, but the educational design will have more effect on the student than the particular LMS used. At the moment I am studying a unit at USQ, as part of the ANU teaching certificate. USQ's Moodle implementation looks so different to ANU that the average student would not notice the same software was being used.

Monash University are also providing students with a web based suite of applications. This makes is easy to maintain and gives the students reasonable set of tools. A student would then just need a low cost laptop or tablet computer. Even a $80 digital TV set top box would do, as some of these now have a web browser built in. I will be demonstrating the use of eBooks and Moodle for and an ANU course at the the Australian Human-Computer Interaction Conference (OzCHI) at ANU 12:30 Thursday.

But cloud based applications have privacy implications: all the staff and student's work may be stored on overseas servers and thus subject to the laws of another country, without the protection of Australian privacy legislation. International students are particularity vulnerable to this. A student might express political views at an Australian university, thinking their discussions are private. But all the student's university email, assignments and tutorial discussions could be readable remotely and used as evidence of political or religious crimes.

My suggestion is to use web based applications, but ensure the data is stored on the university's computer system, on a service in Australia, or in a country with similar laws. This would exclude the USA, as it does not subscribe to the same privacy principles as Australia. That precludes the use of Google Apps and the Microsoft equivalent by Australian universities.

UK Cyber Security Strategy

The UK Cyber Security Strategy: Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world, was released 25 November 2011, along with a ministerial statement on the UK Cyber Security Strategy by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. The UK approach is broadly the same as Australia, with a "GCHQ Joint Cyber Unit" having a central role (equivalent to Australia's DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre). There is also £650m over four years for a new "National Cyber Security Programme" (NCSP), a "Cyber Crime Unit" in the National Crime Agency, an expanded Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure. The "Get Safe Online" education program will continue and a voluntary code of conduct with ISPs to warn customers their computers are compromised

Increasing the Security Skills of IT Professionals

The UK government strategy includes "Encouraging a cadre of cyber security professionals". The Australian Computer Society (ACS) also recommended this to the Australian Government for their Cyber white paper, to be released in early 2012.

The ACS Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper, was prepared by the ACS Cyber task force (which I am a member of). We pointed out that the ACS Computer Professional Education Program includes Information Security as an elective. This teaches the use of international security standards and is aligned with the UK developed Skills Framework for the Information Age. The course is offered on-line worldwide and is internationally accredited, so UK IT professionals can enroll now.

Excerpts from the UK Cyber Security Strategy

Encouraging a cadre of cyber security professionals

4.22 The pace of technological change is relentless. Keeping pace will require people who have a deep understanding of cyberspace and how it is developing. But these people are currently a scarce resource across Government and in business. There are clear and authoritative voices warning that cyber security skills and expertise in the private sector will be increasingly sought after, and that business and providers of education and training need to respond. To help boost and maintain the pool of experts in the UK and encourage the development of a community of ‘ethical’ hackers in the UK who can help ensure our networks are well protected, the National Cyber Security Programme will:
  • Drive up the skill levels of information assurance and cyber security professionals by establishing programmes of certified specialist training by March 2012.
  • Continue to support the Cyber Security Challenge (see below) as a way of bringing new talent into the profession.
  • Strengthen postgraduate education to expand the pool of experts with in-depth knowledge of cyber.
  • Strengthen the UK’s academic base by developing a coherent cross-sector research agenda on cyber, building on work done by the Government Office for Science.
  • Establish, with GCHQ’s help, a research institute in cyber security, with an indicative budget of £2 million over 3.5 years.
  • Commissioning research clarifying the extent, pattern and nature of the demand for cyber security skills across the private sector.


Introduction by the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office
Executive summary
1. Cyberspace: Driving growth and strengthening society
2. Changing threats
3. Our vision for 2015
4. Action: Meeting threats, taking opportunities
Annex A: Implementation
  • Objective 1: Tackling cyber crime and making the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace.
  • Objective 2: Making the UK more resilient to cyber attack and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace. Cabinet Office.
  • Objective 3: Helping to shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace which the UK public can use safely and that supports open societies.
  • Objective 4: Building the UK’s cross-cutting knowledge, skills and capability to underpin all our cyber security objectives.

Executive summary

The internet is revolutionising our society by driving economic growth and giving people new ways to connect and co-operate with one another. Falling costs mean accessing the internet will become cheaper and easier, allowing more people in the UK and around the world to use it, ‘democratising’ the use of technology and feeding the flow of innovation and productivity. This will drive the expansion of cyberspace further and as it grows, so will the value of using it. Chapter 1 describes the background to the growth of the networked world and the immense social and economic benefits it is unlocking.

As with most change, increasing our reliance on cyberspace brings new opportunities but also new threats. While cyberspace fosters open markets and open societies, this very openness can also make us more vulnerable to those – criminals, hackers, foreign intelligence services – who want to harm us by compromising or damaging our critical data and systems. Chapter 2 describes these threats. The impacts are already being felt and will grow as our reliance on cyberspace grows.

The networks on which we now rely for our daily lives transcend organisational and national boundaries. Events in cyberspace can happen at immense speed, outstripping traditional responses (for example, the exploitation of cyberspace can mean crimes such as fraud can be committed remotely, and on an industrial scale). Although we have ways of managing risks in cyberspace, they do not match this complex and dynamic environment. So we need a new and transformative programme to improve our game domestically, as well as continuing to work with other countries on an international response.

Chapter 3 sets out where we want to end up – with the Government’s vision for UK cyber security in 2015.

Our vision is for the UK in 2015 to derive huge economic and social value from a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace, where our actions, guided by our core values of liberty, fairness, transparency and the rule of law, enhance prosperity, national security and a strong society.

To achieve this vision by 2015 we want:

Objective 1: The UK to tackle cyber crime and be one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace

Objective 2: The UK to be more resilient to cyber attacks and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace

Objective 3: The UK to have helped shape an open, stable and vibrant cyberspace which the UK public can use safely and that supports open societies

Objective 4: The UK to have the cross-cutting knowledge, skills and capability it needs to underpin all our cyber security objectives

That means a UK where:
  • Individuals know how to protect themselves from crime online.

  • Businesses are aware of the threats they face, their own vulnerabilities and are working with Government, trade associations, and business partners to tackle them. We want to see UK companies building on our strengths to create a thriving and vibrant market in cyber security services around the world. In the current economic climate the UK needs more than ever to identify and exploit areas of international competitive strength to drive growth. We believe that being able to show the UK is a safe place to do business in cyberspace can be one such strength.

  • Government has: sharpened the law enforcement response to cyber crime; helped the UK take opportunities to provide the cyber security services that will be needed across the world; encouraged business to operate securely in cyberspace; bolstered defences in our critical national infrastructure against cyber attack; strengthened our capabilities to detect and defeat attacks in cyberspace; enhanced education and skills; and established and strengthened working relationships with other countries, business and organisations around the world to help shape an open and vibrant cyberspace that supports strong societies here and across the globe.

To achieve this we have set aside £650 million of public funding for a four‐year, National Cyber Security Programme. Chapter 4 sets out what Government will do, in partnership with the private sector and other countries, to deliver the vision.

As part of this action plan Government will:

  • Continue to build up in GCHQ and MOD our sovereign UK capability to detect and defeat high-end threats.

  • Pursue the agenda defined at the recent London Conference on Cyberspace to establish internationally-agreed ‘rules of the road’ on the use of cyberspace.

  • Work with the companies that own and manage our critical infrastructure to ensure key data and systems continue to be safe and resilient.

  • Establish a new operational partnership with the private sector to share information on threats in cyberspace.

  • Encourage industry-led standards and guidance that are readily used and understood, and that help companies who are good at security make that a selling point.

  • Help consumers and small firms navigate the market by encouraging the development of clear indicators of good cyber security products.

  • Hold a strategic summit with professional business services, including insurers, auditors, and lawyers to determine the role they might play in promoting the better management of cyber risks.

  • Bring together existing specialist law enforcement capability on cyber crime into the new National Crime Agency (NCA). Encourage the use of ‘cyber-specials’ to make more use of those with specialist skills to help the police.
  • Build an effective and easy-to-use single point for reporting cyber fraud and improve the police response at a local level for those who are victims of cyber crime.
  • Work with other countries to make sure that we can co-operate on cross-border law enforcement and deny safe havens to cyber criminals.
  • Encourage the courts in the UK to use existing powers to impose appropriate online sanctions for online offences.

  • Seek agreement with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on the support they might offer to internet users to help them identify, address, and protect themselves from malicious activity on their systems.

  • Help consumers respond to the cyber threats that will be the ‘new normal’ by using social media to warn people about scams or other online threats.

  • Encourage, support, and develop education at all levels, crucial key skills and R&D.

  • Build a single authoritative point of advice for the public and small businesses to help them stay safe online.

  • Foster a vibrant and innovative cyber security sector in the UK, including exploring new partnerships between GCHQ and business to capitalise on unique Government expertise.Because of its links to intelligence and national security, some of the activity the Government has set in train is necessarily classified. The full range of unclassified actions is set out in Annex A. ...

    From: UK Cyber Security Strategy: Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world, UK Cabinet Office, 25 November 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canberra Dickson Centre Master Plan

Last week I found a post card in my letterbox asking for my input on the "Dickson Centre Master Plan". The is for the shopping center near where I live in Canberra. I chaired the community group which the government consulted on the previous "Dickson Group Centre Redevelopment". Now as an ordinary citizen I was deligited to be invited to comment on the new plan.

It was refreshing to receive a small simple card, rather than a large complicated brochure. The postmasters has a map of the proposed location of new supermarkets, on existing car-parks on either side of the Dickson Library. The other side had a description of the proposal and two tick box options. The text was too small to read comfortably in a light gray font. It would have been better to have less text in a bigger font, as the information is also available online.

Also it was odd that the card was from the ACT Government "Economic Development Unit", not the land planning department. While it was claimed the survey could be completed at the unit's web site, I could not fiond the survey on-line. The words "survey" and "Dickson" do not occour on the web page the residents are referred to.

Unfortunately the master plan is a 6Mbyte PDF file, making it difficult to download and read. The document says "The ACT Government is committed to making its information,
services, events and venues accessible to as many people as
possible. If you have difficulty reading a standard printed document and would like to receive this publication in an alternative format — such as large print or audio please telephone (02) 6207 7307." Unfortunately this statement is in white text on a pattered red and white background, making it very difficult to read.

The web page for the Master plan failed an automated accessibility test, with 19 Problems. The ACT Government clearly has not met its commitment to making information accessible.

NSW Government ICT Strategic Framework

A NSW Government ICT Strategic Framework DRAFT for consultation was released 24 November 2011. Comments have been invited on-line in the NSW Have Your Say Forum.

The NSW Government describe their strategic framework as "A new approach", but do not detail what the previous approach was, or how success it was. The new approach has as its first core principle "Senior leadership", but it is not clear if the NSW Government has senior leaders with the needed ICT skills and experience. It would be useful for the NSW Government to do an audit to see how many senior executives they have qualified at SFIA Level 7, with skills to set strategy, inspire, mobilise. and how many at ICT professionals at Level 5 :"ensure, advise" on the strategy and plans.
DRAFT for consultation
NSW Government ICT Strategic Framework

Introduction 1
Why do we need a whole of government approach? 3
Strategic Framework 4
Outcomes – better services, better value 4
Key service capabilities 5
Enablers to improve performance 6
Key milestones 7

Key service capabilities 8
Better information sharing 8
Providing services anytime anywhere 9
Community and industry collaboration 10
Citizen-focused services 10
Financial and performance management

Enablers to improve performance 12
Common standards 12
Better sourcing 13
Emerging Solutions 14
People 15
Investment and productivity 16

Governance 18
Implementation Plans 19
Ongoing engagement 20

A new approach
The vision for NSW Government ICT is:

The NSW Government will be a leader in the use of ICT to transform government service delivery, make it easier to do business with Government, and build sustainable public sector productivity to the benefit of the entire State.

The vision will be achieved through this new approach, which is based on a number of core principles:
  • Senior leadership – the new approach is led by the most senior levels of government to ensure the mandate and authority to affect change. The NSW Government has established a new ICT Board, of Directors General of key Departments, to drive and be accountable for a whole of government approach to ICT.
  • Strategic industry engagement – we will engage with the ICT industry and research sector throughout strategy development and implementation to ensure that emerging technologies and opportunities are aligned with government service priorities. The NSW Government has established a new ICT Advisory Panel of industry leaders from the private sector and research community to be an independent source of advice to the ICT Board.
  • A focus on service delivery – at the centre of the new approach is a whole of government focus on improving our capability in key ICT-enabled service delivery areas. Collaborative industry and government Working Groups will be established to identify and prioritise the actions required to improve performance.
  • A portfolio management approach – a new portfolio management approach to ICT in New South Wales will reduce duplication, improve the productivity of government operations, and ensure efficient and effective investment in ICT. Improving the efficiency of the NSW Government’s investment in ICT will allow for savings to be reinvested in improved services across government.
Working Groups will be established to report back by March 2012 on detailed Implementation Plans for improving performance in the key ICT-enabled service delivery capabilities identified in this Strategic Framework. The Working Groups will comprise expertise from across government, industry and the research sector.

Bringing expertise together from across government will support the development of common approaches and shared solutions to the Government’s service delivery challenges. The Working Groups will provide a forum for sharing expertise, experience and best practice across Departments. ...


Carbon markets, Australia and the Durban Climate Change Conference

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet AM MP, is speaking on "Carbon markets and international linkage: Australia and the UN Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011". A podcast of the presentation will be provided later.

The minister said we are in what has been termed "the critical decade" when we can address climate change most effectively. He claimed that Australia had made "real progress" in tackling climate change. That might be true in political terms, but is not in scientific terms. While legislation has been passed to introduce carbon pricing, this has not yet been put in place and indications are that carbon emissions have been increasing at an accelerating rate. The new policy is likely to change that (I expect it will be much more effective than official projections suggest), but this has yet to be proven in practice.

The Minister admitted that Australia is one of the world highest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita, with emissions intensive electricity generation and transport. These electricity and transport are two of the sectors most easily targeted for change.

What is less clear is if the international carbon market can operate effectively. This will require confidence that claimed carbon credits are genuine. The relatively simple ceiling insulation scheme of the Australian government had to be abandoned, due to the level of fraud. A national carbon trading system, with an international scheme is much more complex and more open to corruption. The Australian Government will need to act to see that measures are in place to deter, detect and prosecute gaming the scheme. Even the EU has had difficulties with the security of their on-line carbon trading system.

The minister mentioned successful local carbon training schemes in places such as California. He neglected to mention that some such schemes have recently ended.

The minister pointed out that China and the USA are important to the success of any global carbon emissions scheme. The Australian Government is open to new approaches to achieving this. However, in my view, the rest of the world should proceed to an agreement, even if China and/or the USA do not take part. The measures in the Kyoto Protocol were watered down in the hope of making it palatable to the USA. In the end the USA did not sign, so the world ended up with a weaker protocol and without USA participation. This mistake should not be repeated. To quote StarTrek: "Only a fool fights in a burning building.".

At question time the Minister was asked about recent comments from China that they were prepared to sign an agreement if the USA was. The minister said that he would be taking this up in Durban with the parties. He also mentioned he would be talking to Japan about their proposal to sponsor an Asian region carbon market.

I asked the minister if his department had given thought to if there were sufficient trained people to implement the Australian Government policy and similar schemes around the world. I pointed out that I teach ANU students how to estimate and reduce carbon emissions ("
ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future"), which takes six months. The minister replied that he saw skills development as mostly a matter for the market. But after getting the legislation passed and the international negotiations in Durban he will be looking at implementation, including training.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet AM MP, was first elected to Parliament for the NSW seat of Charlton in 2007. After the 2007 election he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement in the Rudd Labor Government and in February 2009 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change. During 2009 and 2010 Mr Combet served as Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and as the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. In this latter capacity he was responsible for winding up the insulation program and implementing the new Renewable Energy Bonus program.

Following the 2010 election, he entered Cabinet as Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and has overseen the development of the Gillard Government’s plan for a Clean Energy Future, including a carbon price. Before entering Parliament Mr Combet was Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He went to the peak union body after starting in the union movement as a research officer for the Waterside Worker Federation. Mr Combet has degrees in engineering and economics and graduate qualifications in labour relations law.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hotel Room of the Future

French hotel chain Accor have equipped a Noveltel hotel room with Micrsoft Kinect to create the "Hotel Room of the Future" until 14 February 2012: room 3120, Novotel Vaugirard Montparnasse. The Kinect can be used to operate room controls, as well as play games.

I am a fan of
Accor's budget F1 hotels. This is perhaps where the technology could be most of use, to make lower cost, more environmentally efficient hotel rooms. The video screen could display a web cam image from the roof of the hotel and be draped make a virtual window, allowing for budget rooms to be placed in the core of the building. The "window" would also provide a TV screen, web browser and games console.

Europe some budget hotels have communal bathrooms, but these are not popular in Australia. An on-line booking system on the screen, would allow for an automatically cleaned bathroom to be shared by several rooms. This would get over the worry of wandering down the corridor, with towel in hand, in the hope the bathroom is free and is clean. Instead you would know the bathroom is reserved for you and be able to unlock it with your room card.

Without a bathroom, the rooms could be reduced to be just large enough for the bed and space to walk around it, about 3 x 3 m for a double room.
There could be a flip down desk underneath the video screen to form a desk, with the person sitting on the end of the bed to work.

New Australian University Standards for 2012 Not Ready

It will be interesting to see what effect the new national the new Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will have, along with an emphasis on universities reporting publicly against external standards. Starting in 2012 a Higher Education Standards Framework will be used to evaluate the performance of universities (and other higher education providers). The framework has not yet been completed (although it it is to come into force in a few weeks time).

  1. The Higher Education Standards Panel , with five senior academics from Australian universities, was announced 9 November 2011.
  2. Provider Standards have not yet been released.
  3. Qualification Standards have been released in draft form in September 2011.

  4. Teaching and Learning Standards are less advanced than other parts of the framework, with a discussion paper, Developing a framework for teaching and learning standards in Australian higher education and the role of TEQSA released 17 June 2011.

  5. Research Standards are described bt TEQSA as "at the initial stage of development". However, commonly accepted codes of practice for research, such as "Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research" should allow this work to progress rapidly.

Emergency Warning System for China

According to a report in the People's Daily newspaper, China has started work on a national public emergency warning to issue alerts within ten minutes ("China to build 10 min emergency warning system", Han Shasha, People's Daily Online,m 16:24, November 23, 2011). No technician details are provided, but it is likely that text messages via mobile phones will be used.

There have been problems experienced with prompt message delivery with the landine voice message part of the Australian Emergency Alert System. There have also been problems with formatting and addressing of the SMS based text messages. China should be able to learn from this experience.

One option might be to ring land-line phones with a distinctive cadence to alert citizens of an emergency. They could then turn on their TV, radio, or mobile phone for details. This would get around the problem of having to broadcast the voice message over the phone network, which is not set up for broadcast. This would also alert the citizens to an emergency situation, with them then in the frame of mind to receive the details.

Also use of cell broadcast for the delivery of text messages to mobile phones would be an option to consider. This gets around addressing and capacity problems, but still has some technical problems of its own.

Google Cancels Renewable Energy Projects

Google has canceled its "Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal" (REsaving energy in its offices and data centers, which is a much better idea.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Report Administration of Canberra's Memorials

The Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories tabled its report Etched in Stone? on the administration of National Memorials in Canberra, 23 November 2011. My submission "Keep the Vision of Parliament Clear", is included in the report as submission number 14.

It is useful that deliberative democracy was recommended by the committee. Unfortunately the report recommends an overly prescriptive process, which duplicates the town planning process which is already in place for Canberra, just for one type of land use (a memorial) Instead the committee could have recommended applying the planning processes which are supposed to be used in Canberra for any land use and then just add the extra processes needed for deciding on national monuments.

List of recommendations

National Memorials Ordinance 1928
Recommendation 1
The JSCNCET recommends to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government that, rather than attempting to amend the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, the Ordinance be repealed and replaced with a new Commemorative Works Act, as proposed in Chapter 4 of this report.

Reforming the process
Recommendation 2
The JSCNCET recommends to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government that, while new systems are put in place, residents of the Australian Capital Territory be immediately appointed to the Canberra National Memorials Committee,
as required under the National Memorials Ordinance 1928; and that these persons have acknowledged expertise in heritage matters, with one to be a member of the ACT Heritage Council nominated by the ACT Chief

Recommendation 3
The JSCNCET recommends that, as part of the decision-making process for National Memorials, each proposal for a National Memorial be required to undergo heritage assessment, prior to final approval, including the creation of site specific Conservation Management Plans
and Heritage Impact Statements.

Recommendation 4
The JSCNCET recommends that the National Capital Authority’s Commitment to Community Engagement be applied to the decision-making process for National Memorials, with the NCA to report publicly on the
public consultation process undertaken with regard to each National Memorial proposal.

Recommendation 5
The JSCNCET recommends that proponents of memorials provide resources and funds to conduct public consultation processes as part of the assessment and approval process for new National Memorials.

Recommendation 6
The JSCNCET, recommends that the National Capital Authority review its Commitment to Community Engagement to reflect the principles of deliberative democracy, and that it design and report upon public
consultation processes for each National Memorial in accordance with these principles.

Recommendation 7
The JSCNCET recommends that the proposed Memorials Master Plan incorporate provisions for establishing a wider range of subjects for commemoration with a view to funding them through a combination of private and government subscription.

Recommendation 8
The JSCNCET recommends to the Australian Government that the Government consider the ongoing funding of a national commemoration program, with a particular focus on memorials that are unlikely to be built without government support.

The New Model
Recommendation 9
The JSCNCET recommends that the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 be repealed and replaced with an Australian Commemorative Works Act, based on the United States model. This Act would provide for a two-pass assessment process for National Memorials, the first pass focused on commemorative intent, the second pass on character and location; and that:
  • At the first pass, a motion be introduced to Parliament to approve the commemorative intent of a proposed National Memorial.
  • Following the introduction of the motion, the proposal be referred to the JSCNCET for consideration and report, based on the following approvals:
    • the memorial proposal be referred to the National Memorials Advisory Committee—a Committee made up of history and heritage experts, with one ACT Government representative, chaired by the National Capital Authority—to ensure that it complied with the Criteria for Commemorative Works in the National Capital
    • the National Capital Authority assess the proponent’s budget for the design, construction and maintenance of the proposed National Memorial, and capacity to finance the proposal.
  • Once approved by the National Memorials Advisory Committee, and with financial arrangements certified by the National Capital Authority, the JSCNCET would report upon the proposal. The motion would proceed at the pleasure of Parliament, and if passed, the commemorative intent of the proposed National Memorial would be approved.
  • Following passage of the motion establishing the commemorative intent of the proposed National Memorial, responsibility for identifying a location for the memorial and initiating a process for its design would pass to the National Capital Authority. This would require memorial proponents to develop a design completion brief and run a public design competition (if necessary); and undertake, in conjunction with the National Capital Authority, the following tasks:
  • Identify possible locations
    • Conduct mandatory public consultations
    • Seek independent expert advice
    • Seek planning advice from relevant authorities and, if required, advice from relevant government agencies
    • Have assessments made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
    • Develop draft conservation management plans and/or heritage impact statements for proposed sites, if required
    • Develop the budget and business plan for construction, maintenance and associated infrastructure costs.
  • At the second pass, assessing design and location, the proposal would be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories for consideration and approval on behalf of the Parliament. If required, the Committee would be able to invite submissions from the public and undertake public hearings.
  • Second pass approval by the JSCNCET would provide the final approval for the proposed National Memorial.
  • Commemorative works, as defined by the Act, could be initiated by the Commonwealth or ACT Governments.
Recommendation 10
The JSCNCET further recommends that the proposed Commemorative
Works Act:
  • Define a ‘commemorative work’, encompassing both National Memorials and National Monuments as currently defined.
  • Establish a National Memorials Advisory Committee, consisting of recognised experts in a range of disciplines, including history, heritage, architecture and planning; representatives of veterans, the services and relevant Commonwealth Departments; representatives of organisations with a strong focus on Australian history and culture at a national level; one representative of the ACT Government, appointed on the recommendation of the ACT Chief Minister; and chaired by a representative of the National Capital Authority. Membership to vary depending on the nature of the proposed National Memorial.
  • Include the Criteria for Commemorative Works in the National Capital as a schedule to the Act.
  • Include a Memorials Master Plan, including a map of existing memorials and potential sites for new memorials in accordance with the Criteria, as a schedule to the Act.
  • Require the National Capital Authority to maintain a register (published on a specific National Memorials website) of all National Memorial proposals, including their current status, and all relevant decisions and approvals, along with all supporting documentation, including:
    • Independent expert advice
    • Public submission
    • Reports of public consultations
  • Define responsibilities of proponents in meeting design, construction and maintenance costs, including providing ten per cent of the overall costs towards ongoing maintenance of the new National Memorial.
  • Prohibit the appearance of donor names or names of relatives on or near National Memorials and National Monuments, except where the specific object of the commemoration—its commemorative intent— is individuals, families of groups that have been found to be worthy subjects of commemoration.
  • Exclude minor commemorative works, such as plaques or individual trees outside the Parliamentary Zone, from its operation.
Transitional Arrangements for Current Proposals
Recommendation 11
    The JSCNCET recommends to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government that the current approved National Memorial proposals stand for the life of their current site reservations, but that these site reservations not be extended beyond their current terms.
From: Etched in Stone? report on the administration of National Memorials in Canberra, Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Australian Parliament, 23 November 2011.

Public Lecture by Minister for Climate Change on Friday in Canberra

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet AM MP, will speak on "Carbon markets and international linkage: Australia and the UN Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011" at the Austrlaian National Unviersity in Canberra, 11am, 25 November 2011.

Public Lecture

Carbon markets and international linkage: Australia and the UN Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet AM MP, was first elected to Parliament for the NSW seat of Charlton in 2007. After the 2007 election he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement in the Rudd Labor Government and in February 2009 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change. During 2009 and 2010 Mr Combet served as Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and as the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. In this latter capacity he was responsible for winding up the insulation program and implementing the new Renewable Energy Bonus program.

Following the 2010 election, he entered Cabinet as Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and has overseen the development of the Gillard Government’s plan for a Clean Energy Future, including a carbon price. Before entering Parliament Mr Combet was Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He went to the peak union body after starting in the union movement as a research officer for the Waterside Worker Federation. Mr Combet has degrees in engineering and economics and graduate qualifications in labour relations law.

Please click here to RSVP

Speaker/Host: Crawford School of Economics and Government, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Date: Friday, 25 November 2011
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Enquirers: Events on 6125 4144

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remote Assistance for Real World Tasks via the Internet

Greetings from HCC (and friends) at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, where Matt Adcock (CSIRO) is talking about Depth Sensing Cameras . CSIRO is research "remote assistance" where a worker is provided with assistacne over the internet from an expert at a remote location. One example is CSIRO’s ReMoTe (Remote Mobile Tele Assistance) for mine workers and RIDES (Remote Immersive Diagnostic Examination) for health workers. These systems rely on use of specialized sensors. More recent research uses the Microsoft Kinect games sensor and uses WebML for display, to provide a low cost system.

The Kinect comes with basic code for developers to detect the location of people and their limbs in a scene, but not positioning of fingers, as would be required for manual tasks. With additional software the Kinnect can be used to create a virtual multi-touch interface.

As well as maintenance and medical uses, this interface might be applicable to military uses. This would include interpretation of Army Hand and Arm Signals. As an example, a mule vehicle carrying supplies for a patrol could be controlled with the same hand signals as used for communication between personnel. Another use would be the control of complex operations, such as the Airbus Military Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) for Airbus A330 MRTT tanker aircraft, which has proved problematic with more conventional controls.

The technology also has potential for domestic use, enhancing video conferences and for scanning the inside of a room for virtual redecorating.

Privacy Icons for eMail

Stanford Centre for the Internet and Society (CIS) has released a set of Privacy Icons for eMail ("Privicons") and an implementation for Google Chrome. The icons (pictograms) The "Don't Attribute" and "Don't Print" are reasonably clear, the others are a bit hard to fathom. But as long as they are used consistently that doesn't matter.

I like the idea of the "Don't Attribute". This is teething with Creative Commons is lacking: every one of the licenses requires you to acknowledgment the originate author.
  1. Don't attribute (Anonymous)
  2. Delete after reading/X days
  3. Don't print
  4. Keep internal
  5. Please share
  6. Keep private

Freeing Cloud Databases from Privacy Constraints

Professor Chris Clifton, Purdue University, will speak on "Freeing Cloud Databases from Privacy Constraints" at the Australian National University, in Canberra, 4pm 28 November 2011.

Freeing Cloud Databases from Privacy Constraints

Assoc Prof Chris Clifton (Purdue University )


DATE: 2011-11-28
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

Privacy regulations can constrain how data is managed, particularly trans-border sharing and storage of data. This has significant implications for the use of cloud databases to manage private data. While management of encrypted data has received some research attention, this limits the services that can be provided by a cloud database. We propose to instead encrypt only the link between identifying data and sensitive information, thus eliminating the "individually identifiable" aspect of data that triggers most privacy regulations. This frees the cloud database to provide value-added services such as data cleansing and data analysis without constraint of privacy regulations.

This talk will discuss our early results in this area, including schema development (how do we ensure that sensitive information cannot be identified?) and query processing (how do we handle the fact that part of the data needed to process the query is encrypted, and only the client has the key?) In addition to our existing results, we will discuss ongoing work, including the challenges posed by database systems designed specifically for cloud computing.
Dr. Clifton works on data privacy, particularly with respect to analysis of private data. This includes privacy-preserving data mining, data de-identification and anonymization, and limits on identifying individuals from data mining models. He also works more broadly in data mining, including data mining of text and data mining techniques applied to interoperation of heterogeneous information sources. Fundamental data mining challenges posed by these applications include extracting knowledge from noisy data, identifying knowledge in highly skewed data (few examples of "interesting" behavior), and limits on learning. He also works on database support for widely distributed and autonomously controlled information, particularly issues related to data privacy.

Prior to joining Purdue in 2001, Dr. Clifton was a principal scientist in the Information Technology Division at the MITRE Corporation. Before joining MITRE in 1995, he was an assistant professor of computer science at Northwestern University. He has a Ph.D. (1991) and M.A. (1988) from Princeton University, and Bachelor's and Master's degrees (1986) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative Proposal

The Commonwealth Internet Governance Forum issued a 57 page Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative Proposal 19 October 2011. This is mentioned in the CHOGM 2011 Final Communique.

The proposal should be read alongside the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) "CyberWhitePaper" proposal and the Australian Computer Society has released a Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper.
Executive Summary

The Internet is one of the truly revolutionary phenomena of our times. It has changed the way we live and work and we have come to rely on it in every sphere of our
endeavours. From a population of 20 million connected to the Internet in 1998, we now have more than two billion and rising. It is estimated that this connectivity will now double in the coming years as a result of a number of factors including the introduction
of non-Latin script top level domains for Internet addresses, expansion of the Internet’s generic domain name space and the increasing prevalence of smart phones and tablets with Internet access.

While the benefits of this borderless ecosystem have grown exponentially, the Internet has also become an irresistible magnet for criminal behaviour. Cyber criminals have become increasingly inventive and gravitate to jurisdictions which offer them most protection because of outdated and non-harmonised legal regimes and law enforcement agencies which do not have the skills and resources to monitor Internet traffic, to investigate complaints, to prosecute or invoke any intervention that may be warranted.

The global and borderless nature of the Internet enables criminals to co-operate and co-ordinate their activities and distribute their assets over several jurisdictions with
impunity. The Initiative which is the subject of this paper aims to address these issues by providing assistance to Commonwealth member states to implement a comprehensive legal framework for responding to cybercrime and acquiring cyber evidence. In so doing it will utilise the Commonwealth Model Law which is consistent with the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. It will also develop the other components of an effective capability, including 24/7 networks and working protocols with service providers, and gateways for the exchange of intelligence and evidence. It will also assist law enforcement and national security agencies in acquiring the necessary technology and skills to enable them to conduct their work. It will help states wishing to accede to the Budapest Convention to achieve this objective and ensure that states unwilling or unable to do so will develop consistent and effective laws and procedures. The Commonwealth’s ability to instigate such changes benefits from the common institutional backdrop, traditions, language and value system of member states; this is the Commonwealth’s comparative

The Commonwealth as an institution has little by way of specialist capacity or funds for such a venture. Rather it is a catalyst and broker working with the broad alliance of partners with each partner having a unique contribution to make. Development and donor agencies are also expected to play a vital role in the Initiative. It is anticipated that much of the assistance in capacity building will be sought in less developed countries, including small states who do not have the resources and means to pay for this.

This Initiative was developed by the Commonwealth Internet Governance Forum, a multi-stakeholder entity established within the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in recognition of the desperate and urgent need for action to tackle the growth of Cybercrime. The support for it has been overwhelming because a safer Internet is vital to our economic recovery and one of the principal motors contributing to global social and economic growth and development. ...

From: Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative Proposal, Commonwealth Internet Governance Forum, 19 October 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open Access for On-Line Education

Last week I commenced the course Assessment, Evaluation and Learning EDU5713, at University of Southern Queensland, via e-learning. One technique I have found useful to supplement the materials provided for the course, is to first look up terms in the Wikipedia and the search for materials in Google Scholar. Wikipedia generally provides a brief, easy to understand overview of the topic and Google Scholar provides authoritative papers (it is not a good idea to cite Wikipedia in your assignment).

As an example the Wikipedia entry for Assessment_for_Learning is very readable and the Google Scholar Entries are useful.

One way Google Scholar could be improved would be with an "Article Available" option. It is frustrating to have numerous articles listed, but then find most are behind pay-walls, so that it is not possible to read more than the abstract, without paying a fee or signing up to a service. I Suggest adding an extra option "Article Available" to allow only those articles where the text is available on-line without the need for payment or signing in.

It would also be useful to have the same open access options (for looking for articles with Creative Commons and similar licenses), as in the non-scholar advanced search, would also be useful.

While institutions, such as USQ, provide access to on-line papers via their library, it is much easier for the staff and the students, if freely available articles are selected for readings. This way the student does not need to login to the university library system to get to the article.

ps: Surprisingly on the topic of e-learning, many of the papers found are from Australian authors. This may be because the Google search engine, seeing I am in Australia is giving me local results, or that doing an Australian course I am searching on topics of particular interest to Australians. But it may be just that Australia is a leader in e-learning.

MyBus2.0 App for Canberra public transport

The MyBus2.0 App for Canberra public transport timetables is available now. It was created by Australian National University student, Zakaria Bouguettaya, and won the ‘Unleash Your App’ competition.
This is an application for the ACTION bus service in Canberra, that provides a schedule, and allows people to find a closest bus stop to their current location, or to a chosen point, and tells them what time the next bus comes.

The data now contains 100% of all the bus routes listed on the ACTION website! View all the timetables from the comfort of your phone without a need for an internet connection or computer!

Thanks to your support and efforts the government has released the GPS data for bus stops! We hope to be able to use this data in news ways in a near future update. ...

National Library of Australia Newspaper Digitalization Project

Kent Fitch will talk about Scaling up: the technology behind the NLA's newspaper digitisation and the Trove search service, at the Australian Computer Society, Canberra Branch Forum, 6 December 2011.
Australian Computer Society, Canberra Branch Forum

Scaling up: the technology behind the NLA's newspaper digitisation and the Trove search service

Each week, the NLA's Trove search service, receives around 200K "real" unique visitors and delivers almost 3M page views. Although Trove describes a diverse set of 250M items, its most popular content are digitised Australian newspaper articles.

This talk will describe the technology behind Trove in general then focus on the technical aspects of digitising and full-text-indexing over 60M newspaper articles, discussing aspects of image formats and processing, OCR correction, the scalability of the Lucene text indexing library, search result ranking, and how commodity SSD has made the unthinkable both easy and cheap.

The presentation will encourage audience interaction and questions.


Kent Fitch has worked as a programmer for over 30 years. Since 1982 he has been a principal of the Canberra software development company, Project Computing Pty Ltd. He has developed many commercial systems and communications packages and custom software for many clients. In the past ten years, his work has focused on library-related systems including AustLit, NLA Newspapers Digitisation, and Trove.

About this Event

Date: Tuesday 6th December 2011
Time: 4:45pm registration for 5:15pm start

CPD Hours offered: 02 hours


Who should attend:
All ACS members and non-members.
A light meal of quality hot and cold finger food and refreshments are also provided at the event.
Workshop Registration:

To ENSURE you gain your Professional development (PD) hours, please register online AND attend the events.

Online registration is required.

Event Prices (Inc GST)
Regular Fee:
Members: $0.00
Non Members: $40.00
Regular Fee - Guest:
Guest: $20.00
Onsite Fee:
Members: $10.00
Non Members: $60.00

Cancellation Clause
A cancellation refund will only be given to paying guests provided that notice is sent to Jenalle Wei no later than 2 working days prior to the event.

Contact Details

Jenalle Wei
Branch Events & Office Administrator
Australian Computer Society - Canberra
Tel: (02) 6230 1588 Fax: (02) 6230 0290

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Computer Science Education Week 2011

Computer Science Education Week 2011 is 4 to 10 December 2011. This is a US based initiative, but perhaps should be expanded globally.

Having the web site more streamlined so it would download quicker and work on mobile devices would help promote the event. At the moment it scores 0% on the W3C mobileOK Checker , with: 2 critical, 3 severe, 0 medium and 5 low failures.

Codesign for Governance

At GovCampNSW, my "Teaching Open to Government" was followed by one on "Codesign for Governance" by Jax Wechsler. Codesign recognizes there is a role for the community in the design process, not just answering questions at focus groups.

An example given was Experienced based design (ebd) at the UK National Heath Service.The also provide documents for a ebd masterclass and Measures checklist.

It stuck me that this was the way computer systems are developed (or should be developed). Given that many new government initiatives will invocable some on-line and computer component, the software design can be combined with the project design.

Teaching Open to Government

For GovCampNSW, I suggested the topic "Teaching Open to Government". The idea is that government is made up of people, if we want them to work in a more open and consultative way, using on-line tools, we will need to teach those people how to do that. Some of the techniques used for teaching creative thinking and innovation could be applied, along with teaching how to converse on-line. Examples:
  1. Cancer Council Australia' wiki platform: Publicly accessible web site for building complex medical policies. Only registered experts can edit the documents, but anyone can comment.
  2. Wosk Centre for Dialogue: Purpose built facility for having public dialogue and deliberative democracy events.
  3. Innovation ACT: A program for university students in Canberra, teaching how to take an idea and turn it into a business.
A blended teaching mode, combining face-to-face sessions with on-line eduction would suit for teaching openness to government. For the mechanics of how to do social networking, there are some tools, such as Backupify. There is a Social Media 101: A beginner’s guide for Finance employees. The NSW Department of Education has a School A to Z on Homework and study. My own course on Electronic Document and Records Management, may be of use.

As a last thought training for senior military officers, such as the ANU Military Studies Program, might provide insights for the public service.

Public Policy Development Online

One system demonstrated at GovCampNSW, was the Cancer Council Australia' wiki platform provides a version of the Wikimedia platform tailored for policy development. This provides for two levels of interaction with the wiki: the general public can post comments, but only registered experts can edit the content. The system includes formal traditional references, as needed for schoolyard work and formal policy documents:

Wiki-based clinical practice guidelines will ultimately improve the standard and consistency of clinical practice according to the best and most recent scientific evidence available. It is a service provided by Cancer Council Australia to inform clinical practice. Unlike written guidelines wiki guidelines are constantly updated as new evidence becomes available and are linked to source abstracts and other evidence-based sites that add to the value of visiting the wiki site.

Sydney Top Level Domain Name

An interesting discussion at GovCampNSW, was over Sydney top level domain name. This is available, but there are numerous issues around its use: can Sydney Australia have exclusive use? What rules government it? How are commercial and community interests balanced? AUDA set up Community Geographic Domain Names for community domain name use. The Sydney top level domain might be used similarly. In my view the NSW government should purchase the domain name, at least as a defensive measure and perhaps turn administration over to local government. Some sub-domains would be valuable, such as and others would need to be reserved for the obvious user, such as

See also Carving up the web by Paul Wallbank.

NSW Co-social case builder software not usable

At GovCampNSW I tried to use the GovCampNSW Co-social case builder to submit an idea. But this requires I register and that requires filling in a form in a pop-up web window. On my screen the fields to fill in are off the bottom of the screen and I can't scroll down. As a result of the flawed web design I can't submit an idea.

Some tests on the web page:
  1. W3C Markup Validation Service: 56 Errors, 3 warnings
  2. W3C mobileOK Checker: 42% critical 0, severe 3, medium 0, low 3
  3. TAW Automated WCAG 2.0 Analysis level A: 4 Problems in 3 success criteria: Perceivable 2, Operable 0, Understandable 1, Robust 1