Friday, August 30, 2013

RAAF Air Operations Centre

In 2011 I wrote about the design of Australian Defence Command and Control Centers. This was illustrated with images of the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoDefence Signals Directorate Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), opened in January 2010 and depicted staffed by civilians.
The other photo was of personnel in ADF uniforms in the "Air Operations Centre in Canberra". 

There is more on the room in "Taking Command", by Joris Janssen Lok (Aviation Week, 25 June 2007).

Croud-sourced Skills Assesment

Linkedin has a system where people you know can endorse your Skills and Expertise. Here for example are my top ten skills, along with the number of people endorsing each:
  • 43 Policy
  • 33 Government
  • 24 E-Learning
  • 22 Research
  • 15 Analysis
  • 13 IT Strategy
  • 12 Sustainability
  • 10 Moodle
  •  9 ICT
  •  9 Governance
Perhaps that is the list of skills I should promote, as it what people think I know about.Might be interesting to work them all into a sentence. ;-)

SPAM from Palmer United Party

Today I found I had 21 email messages from Clive Palmer of the Palmer United Party. I understand that political parties are exempt from Spam legislation, but apart from urging everyone I know to not vote for the Palmer United Party, is there some way to stop this? Can Mr Palmer's companies, which presumably funding this Spam, be prosecuted?

Two of the emails were to my ACS addresses, two to my ANU addresses and the rest my company addresses. Some of the addresses I have not used for some time. It appears that the Palmer United Party harvested the email addresses from web pages.

The email contains a link to Alacrity Technologies, which appears to be a reputable company (with a reference from the Royal Australian Navy on its home page). Alacrity might want to consider the negative effect on its reputation which an association with Spammers will have.

ABC a Bit Slow With Events

Last week I asked the ABC to put the Eco-Annandale Art Exhibition in the ABC Events Calendar. The event was added, but four days after it was over.

New Queensland Government ICT Strategy

The new "Queensland Government ICT strategy" was issued following a report into the failure of the Queensland Health Payroll System Development.


  1. Effective digital services for our clients 18
  2. Efficient digital services for government 42
  3. Transformed and capable workforce 58 

Table of contents

Minister’s foreword 3
Executive summary 4

Section A: Accountability in Queensland Government ICT 8

Section B: Action plan 17

Objective 1: Effective digital services for our clients 18
Strategic focus area 1: Improving customer experience of government services 18
Strategic focus area 2: Digital economy 22
Strategic focus area 3: Information management 27
Strategic focus area 4: Open data 32
Strategic focus area 5: Information security and privacy of individuals 35
Strategic focus area 6: Digital archiving 39

Objective 2: Efficient digital services for government 42
Strategic focus area 7: Contestability and ICT strategic sourcing 42
Strategic focus area 8: ICT as-a-service 46
Strategic focus area 9: ICT innovation 50
Strategic focus area 10: Significant and at-risk ICT asset stabilisation 54

Objective 3: Transformed and capable workforce 58
Strategic focus area 11: A capable and competent workforce 58
Strategic focus area 12: Portfolio, program and project management 62

Glossary of terms 66
Acronyms 67
Attachment 1: Links and inter-dependencies 69

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time travel implications for physics and philosophy

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Peter Riggs from the Department of Quantum Science, is speaking on "Time travel: Its implications for physics and philosophy". He asserted that time travel to the future is not philosophically problematic and theoretically possible according to Einstein. Time dilation, by traveling fast allows a one way trip to the future, as confirmed by experiment. Cosmonaut Sergei_Krikalev has spent the longest time in space and as a result has traveled 1/48 of a second into the future. Time travel to the past is more of a problem.

Dr Riggs illustrated the structure of space time as two cones on end (the "lite time cones"). To travel backwards in time a "time-like curve" can be used, using the distortion of gravity around a massive body. This starts to sound like the Blink Dr. Who Episode, where time travel was explained with space-time as "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey".

It occurs to me that as time dilation effects are observable, they would need to be taken into account in everyday laws. As an example, a component on a satellite will age more slowly, so will effect a warranty on the product.

Also while Dr. Riggs briefly discussed the transmission of information across time, it would seem to be easier to engineer physical travel but introduce its own problems in therms of physics.

ALP High Speed Rail Proposal

On 26 August 2013, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) released a proposal for "East Coast High Speed Rail". The ALP also published a "High Speed Rail Fact sheet: Implementing high speed rail in Australia". The policy is a good one, starting with planning the route at a relatively modest cost of $52M and reserving land. The system would start with the Sydney to Canberra link. However, the fact sheet published by the ALP gives the appearance of being from the Australian Government, which it is not. This would appear to contravene Australian electoral law.

Open Knowledge in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation (which grew out of GovCamp). The keynote speaker is Dr. Rufus Pollock (Founder of Open Knowledge).

Open Knowledge Foundation Australia came from the volunteer committees which have runs the GovHack and GovCamp events across Australia over the past few years.

Dr. Pollock is being streamed live by AARnet. On a related topic, the Digital Canberra Challenge was launched recently.

Free eBook on Disaster Management with Open Source Software

My colleagues at the Sahana Foundation have released "Sahana Eden: Essential Guide", a  free ebook about how to use the Sahana free open source disaster management software. The software was first developed for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and subsequently around the world for disaster relief operations. A Resource Mapping System was contributed to Sahana Eden by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and is available for other organizations to use. The book is available as web pages by chapter, one web page, ePub, and PDF (104 pages).

Table of Contents


Getting Started


Extending Sahana Eden

Meeting The Sahana Community

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Similarity in Music for SG1 and Classical Destinations

Listening to the theme music for the TV series "Classical Destinations", (credited to Paul Terracini), it reminded me of that from Stargate SG1 by Joel Goldsmith. Compare the passage nine seconds into the Classical Destinations theme, with SG1 at nineteen seconds.

Evolutionary Pressures on Enterprise Data Management

Andy Peyton, Data Management Association, will speak on "Evolutionary Pressures on Enterprise Data Management", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11am, 2 September 2013.

Evolutionary Pressures on Enterprise Data Management

Andy Peyton (Data Management Association)


DATE: 2013-09-02
TIME: 11:00:00 - 11:45:00

The amount of data collected and maintained by enterprises is increasing at near exponential rates. Traditional approaches to the management of data are unlikely to be able to support the enterprise requirements. As a result there are significant shifts occurring in database technologies, data management, and data-oriented careers. However the end-state is not really understood as we are yet to master the data volumes expected to be managed. The security of data is becoming increasingly important to large enterprises and government. A recent US investigation estimates that over $300 billion worth of intellectual property is lost each year as a result of theft, and much of that intellectual property is simply enterprise data that has been copied. Cloud computing has its implications for managing the data storage explosion, but for government agencies there are important considerations of possible third party access to data that should remain under strict access control. The Australian Government places a very high priority on the security of citizensa data that it holds. This presentation will address all the above issues in the context of large Australian enterprises for whom data is a key asset of the organisation.
Andy Peyton has over 35 years experience as an IT Professional. He started his career developing software for military aircraft, radar systems, and naval weapon systems. He then moved into the consulting field where he supported broad range of government departments designing computer systems, assessing data quality problems, running IT projects, and designing large databases. He is currently a senior solutions architect at IP Australia which is the Australian Government agency that administers intellectual property rights and legislation relating to patents, trade marks, designs, and plant breeder rights. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Sydney, and a Master of Management Economics from the University of NSW. He is currently President of the Canberra Chapter of the Data Management Association (DAMA) and was formerly Chairman of the Canberra Branch of the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Using Private Data for Public Purposes Securely

Greetings from the famous room N101 at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Professor Bradley Malin of Vanderbilt University is speaking on "Towards Practical Private Data Integration and Analysis".  He is describing the problem of using medical records to detect public health problems. People's medical records need to be kept private, but access is needed to this information to detect an outbreak of disease or an adverse drug reaction. Researchers are investigating ways to protect privacy and also make use of the data, such as Homomorphic Encryption. The mathematics involved is complex, but some of the techniques are easy to understand. One is that fields which have only a few values, such as gender, need to be scrambled more than some which many values (such as address). He has implemented this in the Secure Open Enterprise Master Patient Index (SOEMPI) is software tool. Testing of the security of such techniques is traditionally carried out by trying match public information provided by government about individuals with that which is private. The most common example of public records in the USA is voter registration. However, individuals now provide much more information themselves via the Internet. Does this additional information make such attacks easier?

One of his papers is "A Practical Approach to Achieve Private Medical RecordLinkage in the Face of Public Resources".

Towards Practical Private Data Integration and Analysis

Assoc Prof Bradley Malin (Vanderbilt University, Nashville)


DATE: 2013-08-26
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

Over the past decade, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that data devoid of explicit identifiers can be linked back to the identities of the individuals from which it was derived. This has made organizations increasingly apprehensive about sharing person-specific information. Yet, with the dawn of the big data age upon us, it is imperative that data sharing proliferate to ensure that researchers can validate published research findings, combine datasets to discover novel associations, and comply with open data initiatives. In this talk, I will review recent research on privacy preserving data integration strategies that are efficient, effective, and obscure personal identities in the process. This talk will further illustrate how such integration can enable biomedical association studies while obfuscating the identities of the corresponding participants.
Bradley Malin, Ph.D., is the Vice Chair for Research and an Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics in the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt University. He is also an Associate Professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering and is Affiliated Faculty in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. He is the founder and current director of the Health Information Privacy Laboratory (HIPLab), conducts technologies that enable privacy in the context of real world organizational, political, and health information architectures. Dr. Malin's research has been cited by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and featured in popular media outlets, including Nature News, Scientific American, and Wired magazine. He has received several awards of distinction from the American and International Medical Informatics Associations and, in 2009, he was honored as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. Dr. Malin completed his education at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received a bachelor's in biological sciences, a master's in data mining and knowledge discovery, a master's in public policy and management, and a doctorate in computer science.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ecofestival Sydney Inner West Spring Festival Today

Greetings from the Footprints Ecofestival  in Sydney's inner west. This spring festival started at 11am today and is on until 3pm.There is the Eco-Annandale Art Exhibition in White Creek Cottage, a  pedal powered Footprints Film Festival and Footprints Clothing Swap.

I am reminded of the play Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, which opened Thursday night at the New Theater in Sydney. The play takes place during a spring festival, much like the one on today.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jerusalem Here at New Theater Sydney

The play Jerusalem opened last night at the New Theater, Newtown, Sydney. This of this as the UK TV series Skins, on stage. It opens with Parry's music and Blake's words, sung by what appeared to be an angel (see the video trailer). In a remnant of English wood threatened by housing development. An outcast fights council orders for eviction, while providing a refuge for the young and those who simply want to escape suburban life. The kids come to his camp to party and the adults to buy drugs, but will any of them come to his aid when the authorities move in? As with life, the issues are not that clear cut and there are no easy answers.

Tom Bannerman has produced what at first looks like a solid rusted corrugated iron shack, but is slightly translucent, giving hints of a world beyond the camp. Nicholas Eadie as ‘Rooster’ gives a complex performance of a character who at first seems to be just a drug dealing drunk, but has connections to the ancient people of the land. The actors playing Pea and Tanya as two local "girls" have the most fun, without the cares and deeper concerns of others and just there to have a good time.

Jez Butterworth's play, first performed in London in 2009, at 2 hours and 40 minutes is a little long with two intermissions and is hard work for the audience. There are plenty of laughs at the expense of authority and the double standards of society. There is considerable bad language and some violence (plus Morris dancing). This is perhaps a play you don't take your church group to (despite the title), but then again perhaps you do. This might also make a good night out for council workers who have had to deal with the issues in real life.

 Jerusalem is on at the New Theater until
14 September 2013.I attended the opening courtesy of New Theater and the Pastizzis from the Pastizzi Pasta Cafe.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Canberra JavaScript Meetup

Web application design company Icelab hosted the First Canberra JavaScript Meetup last night at its Civic office.

Christopher Giffard talked about Behavior Assertion Sheets (Bas), for integration testing of web applications. Uses CSS syntax as a declarative language, accessibility. As example would be to make sure headings of a web pages are readable to a specified level.

Ben Williamson of Reasonwell demonstrated parsing URLs to extract user data (such as user names) This has an addition benefit that invalid URLs (according to the constructed Parser) are rejected rather than producing some unexpected result.

A prototype of the new Blogging platform Ghost was demonstrated. It is implemented using some concepts from the Haskal programming language.

It was interesting to see esoteric concepts which computing students grumble about learning, but applied in real world applications.

The meetup was held in the the Icelab office in civic, in the Canberra Innovation Precinct next to ANU. This area has expanded beyond the planned City West development and is spreading organically into the adjacent city offices. Icelab have a typical high tech startup office with beanbags, Aeron chairs by Herman Miller, Ball Chairs by Eero Aarnio (for that Austin Powers look), a sofa and bicycles in the corner.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Lexus and the Broadband Network

Political commentators in Australia are struggling to explain the difference between ALP and Collation broadband proposals to the voters in nontechnical language. The ALP proposes continued roll-out of Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) for the National Broadband Network (NBN), whereas the Collation wants to use mostly Fiber To The Node (FTTN). My suggested analogy is: Should you buy a new car or fix up the old one, or "The Lexus and the Broadband Network".

The Lexus and the Broadband Network

The ALP FTTP proposal is like the car salesman offering you a new Lexus: sure it is expensive but it will be fast and reliable and last a long time. The Collation's custom auto centre says your ten year old Toyota Camry (copper cable) is mechanically sound, it just needs some new parts (FTTN) and will be much cheaper. Your kids say they don't want an uncool Lexus, or an old Camry, they want a cool Italian Scooter (Wireless Internet). You tell them they will grow out of the scooter in a few years and then want a real car, to which they reply "Whatever". ;-)

ps: In my view, if the government, whoever they are, want to save money, they could prioritize fibre roll-out in greenfield sites and areas with no, or poor broadband.

We have had TFFN in Canberra for just over a decade, with the Transact system. If you have power poles handy, and the citizens don't mind more overhead wires, it is a cost effective system. Also it works okay in new buildings. My apartment building has a fibre optic node in the basement and twisted pair copper to each unit. But if you are going to the trouble of putting new cables underground, then they might as well be fiber-optic, as most of the cost is in digging the trenches.

The areas with copper phone and Pay TV cable could be left for last, where it is working okay. This would be a slight change to the current government's NBN FTTP to achieve cost savings proposed by the opposition. Installing new FTTN should only be done on a limited scale, where the copper cable is new enough to be kept, but so far from the exchange that higher broadband speeds are not possible. The FTTN should be done so it can be upgraded to FTTP later.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Train ACT Government Staff in Online Engagement

The ACT Government is running a "Digital Canberra Citizen Forum" to crowd source ideas for "Digital Canberra". I am not sure what "Digital Canberra" is, it is probably a one-off event, or the sort the City of Melbourne ran last year. But in any case I have submitted  a suggestion "Government Staff in Online Engagement":
The ACT Government has the technology to interact on-line, but the staff and MLAs are not trained in how to do this. Communicating on-line in a professional was does not come naturally, even to the digital generation. This is something people need to learn to do and be tested they are competent. The Federal Department of Finance has run some "Online engagement course for the APS", which I helped with.But more formal vocational training courses, which have specified competences are required.

Reducing Military Fuel Use with Solar Power

The US military have tried a number of energy saving programs, under the DoD Facility Energy Strategy. These are for energy reduction and alternate energy production schemes on fixed military bases. There are also deployable systems such as one from Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) program, which fits in three standard shipping containers. There is a trade-off between the portability of a power system and its cost: at one extreme the power system can be permanently installed on a base, at the other it can be something an individual soldier can carry around (or wear on their uniform).

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) can't afford to spend too much building many such systems. I suggest one "sweet-spot" is for deployable, shipping container sized modules (as used for the US Air Force system). A shipping container sized module can be built in a factory and transported to a military base and set up to operate. When needed, it can be packed up and shipped to a bare base to supply power. Shipping containers can be transported by civilian trucks, trains and ships, as well as military helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

As a target size I suggest an ISO 20 Foot Shipping container. This is large enough that commercial off the shelf power systems can be used, but small enough to be moved easily. The industry standard for a shipping container allows 30,400 kg maximum
gross weight. However, the RAAF's larget helicopter, the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, can only carry 12,700 kg, allowing for 10,500 kg of equipment in the container. The weight is unlikely to be the limiting factor, as while diesel generators are heavy, solar panels are not.

The USAF containerized power supply requires three containers and considerable setup. This is not ideal for deployment on a military operation, where speed is of the essence and there is limited skilled labor available. I proposed the Australia unit should be usable with one container (but expandable with multiple units). It should be able to be assembled, or disassembled, by one technician who has received three hours of familiarization, supervising four military personnel who have received no special training, in six hours. There should be no tools or additional equipment required, apart from what comes in the container.

Container Contents

The container would have mounted in it a conventional diesel generator, power regulating electronics and a fuel tank (for seven days supply). There would also be space for solar panels, the framework to mount them, cables, tools and manuals.

A container has a volume of 33.1 m³. Assume a design which provides a conventional diesel generator and 20% solar power (a cost effective combination) and seven days fuel supply (on diesel alone). It is then necessary to calculator what capacity system would fir in the container.

Solar Panels

The Sharp NU-A188EY solar panel has a typical output of 188W and is 1328 x 994 x 57.5mm and weighs 16.5kg. Assuming an adjustable stand (which doubles as a cradle in the shipping container) and cables for this doubles the volume and adds 25% to the weight of the panel, this makes volume of 0.15 m³, or 0.807 m³/kw and 110 kg/kw. Assuming the entire container was filled with these panels, there is room for 220, providing 41kw. However, there has to be room for a generator and fuel.

Generator and Fuel

A typical generator set (CAT 300 kVA : 3406C) is 4.3 x 1.1 x 2.2 m,10.2  m³, or 0.034 m³/kw. It weighs 3,454 kg or 12 kg/kw. The fuel required, running at 50% power is 38.5  l/hr. Assume the solar panels replace 25% of the fuel, reducing consumption to 29 l/hr, or 4.9 kl per week, or 0.016 m³/kw and 163 kg/kw (allowing for tank).

Calculating Capacity of a Containerized System



m³/kw Weight kg/kw
Solar panels 0.807 110
Generator 0.034 12
Fuel 0.016 163
Total 0.857 285

ISO Container

Volume ISO m³ 33.1
Possible kw 37
Volume m³ 32
% total capacity 86%
Equipment kg 10545
Container kg 2200
Total weight kg 12745
CH47 Capacity kg 12700
% total capacity 100%

So allowing for solar panels, generator and one week's fuel, a shipping container could hold a 37 kw power supply. The capacity of the container would be limited by weight, rather than volume.

However, the ADF  already has diesel generators. So a simpler alternative energy supply would be one purely solar powered. This would remove the safety  issues around transporting liquid fuels. An ISO container could hold a 41 kw solar array, which could then be linked to one or more diesel generators.


Assuming $2,000 per kw for solar panels, mounting hardware and cables. A diesel generator costs about $300 per kw. Allowing for the cost of the container and construction, the cost would be about $200,000 per unit.

Cost $/kw
Solar panels $2,000.00
Generator $302.00
Fuel $25.00

Total per kw $2,327.00
Total for module $86,099.00
Shipping container $5,000.00
Total Materials $91,099.00
Build factor' 200.00%
Total $182,198.00

Number of Containers

A reasonable deployable solar capacity for the ADF to aim for would be 200 shipping container sized modules, producing 7.4 MW, at a cost of $40M. That might sound like a lot of shipping containers and money, but they would all fit in the Navy's two LHD ships, now under construction at a cost of $2B.

Smaller Containers and Modules

Smaller containers might be a more practical option, allowing for more flexible use and transport on smaller vehicles. A ten foot ISO container could hold a 18.5 kw PV system, using a standard military generator such as Advanced Power's 16 kVA, APD016. Also for maximum flexibility, the equipment should not be permanently mounted in the container. The container could have minimum modifications from a standard unit, with a generator and fuel tank which can be removed for separate use. The PV panels which could be in packs which can be carried out by two personnel and set up by hand, with no lifting equipment required.

PV Panels to Supplement Small Generators

An area for research would be solar panels designed to supplement smaller standard military diesel generators, regulate their voltage output and make them "smarter" and more fuel efficient. 727 Watt PV modules with built in power conditioning electronics could be made light enough to be moved by two personnel (about 80 kg). Two modules could be paired with a small diesel generator, such as Advanced Power's 1.3 kW APD1300, or four with the 2.5 kVA, APD2500. These configurations would be small enough to be transported by the Light Cargo Trailer of a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon and a medium utility helicopter.

Normally connecting a PV array to a generator is a complex process requiring a trained technician. Instead the modules could be fitted with their own electronics and a simple plug and socket to connect in between the generator and the load. There would be no need for any controls on the PV panel: it would be simply plugged in and supplement power from the generator, lowering fuel use and providing a constant voltage for sensitive systems.

Scope for Research

Packing a solar array into an ISO shipping container would require some design and engineering, but is not particularly difficult. Further work could suit the system more for the military environment. In particular commercial solar panels are bright blue with a glass cover. Research could produce a camouflaged panel which was also less liable to breakage.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lower Cost Dual Flush Outlet Valve for Toilet

In 2006 I installed a "Fix-A-Loo" dual flush valve to convert an old toilet cistern from single to dual flush. Recently I needed another unit and noticed the "R&T Outlet Valve, Button and Base" distributed in Australia by Gemini Industries at Magnet Mart. The R&T unit was about half the price of the Fix-a-Loo and was simpler to install.

The R&T has most of the mechanics housed in a cylindrical body with two sliders near the bottom to set the water levels (for full and half flush). I thought this would be harder to adjust that the Fix-a-loo which has the adjustment near the top. But the whole cylinder of the R&T unit un-clips easily from the base. So you can remove the whole unit. You can remove the unit to make adjustments.

Also the push buttons of the R&T unit are attached to the top of the cistern, so it can be simply removed with the buttons in place. The Fix-a-loo has the buttons fixed to the outlet valve body, so you have to unscrew the buttons from the cistern lid to access the unit.

One problem with the R&T unit is that you have to cut to length the rods which connect the buttons to the valve. There is a screw thread to make fine adjustments to length, but there is still the worry you will cut the rods too short. In contrast the Fix-a-loo has clips to set the length with no cutting required.

I could not find any details of the R&T unit on-line, but it is similar in appearance to the  Robertson Universal Dual Flush Outlet Valve. There are some Toilet Dual Flush Valves on, but it is not clear if these are suitable for Australian cisterns.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Publishing in Nature Climate Change

Dr Bronwyn Wake, Associate Editor of Nature Climate Change, will speak on "Have your Climate Change research published", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 2:00 PM 28 August 2013.
Nature Climate Change launched in April 2011 and is a monthly journal dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science and impacts of global climate change and its implications for the economy, policy and the world at large. The journal covers the physical, biological and social sciences and strives to synthesize interdisciplinary research. Dr Bronwyn Wake works at Nature Climate Change as an Associate Editor covering the physical sciences and the marine and aquatic environment. Bronwyn will talk about her experiences as an Associate Editor, explain the philosophy of the journal and will provide advice on how to submit manuscripts to Nature Climate Change. About the Speaker: Bronwyn is a chemical oceanographer, with a PhD in trace element biogeochemistry and first class Honours in Antarctic Studies from the University of Tasmania, Australia. Her undergraduate work was at the Australian National University. Prior to joining Nature Climate Change in February 2012, Bronwyn was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southampton, UK and European Institute for Marine Studies, Brest, France. Her research work focused on trace metal cycling in marine waters and their roles as micronutrients for phytoplankton.

Governance for climate change adaptation

Dana Dolan, George Mason University, will speak on "Governance for climate change adaptation", at the Australian National University in Canberra,  4:00 PM, 19 August 2013.
More than ever, water allocation in the Murray-Darling region depends on decisions made in Canberra. Climate change is expected to exacerbate water scarcity, adding further urgency to the challenge of adapting to a highly variable climate. Meanwhile, across the globe, Washington DC faces its own climate challenge as federal agencies attempt to coordinate States’ efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The challenge in this watershed isn’t about who gets to extract how much from the rivers and streams, but who gets to add how much – in terms of pollution. Climate change exacerbates this challenge as well, with more frequent intense storms threatening to wash additional sediment and pollution into the Bay.

With climate impacts on water resources at opposite extremes of the spectrum, what can these two regions learn from each other? Recent institutional changes in the Murray-Darling and Chesapeake regions share a number of intriguing similarities, with implications for adaptation.

This seminar aims to draw parallels between the regions as a first step in furthering cross-national policy learning and collaborative scholarship between the U.S. and Australia.

About the speaker

Dana Archer Dolan is a PhD Candidate in Public Policy at George Mason University, and a Visiting Scholar at The Australian National University. Field work in Australia is funded under an EAPSI Fellowship from the U.S. National Science Foundation, and supported by the Australian Academy of Science. Dana is grateful to her host scholar, Professor Stephen R. Dovers and Dr. Karen Hussey for their continued support and guidance, and to the wider Murray-Darling community for welcoming her during her time in Australia and participating in her research.

Friday, August 16, 2013

War With Mutually Assured Precision

Dr. Albert Palazzo, Australian Army Land Warfare Studies Centre, will speak on "The Revolution of Limits and the Changing Character of War" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 5:30pm, 12 September 2013. Dr. Albert Palazzo is author of "The Future of War Debate in Australia", Land Warfare Studies Centre Working Paper No. 140, August 2012.


In this paper I consider the implications of resource peaks and climate change, their possible effect on the character of war and the challenge these developments pose for the future of Australian security. The analytical approach I use is one that will be familiar to most military and security professionals, the idea that periodic Military Revolutions are responsible for discontinuous shifts in the nature of society which have a cascading effect on the parameters of what is possible (and not possible) in the art of war. I explain why conditions are becoming likely for the onset of another Military Revolution; perhaps one that has already begun but whose effect is not yet being felt. The paper will highlight that the guiding force of the coming Military Revolution will be global limits on the availability of resources, particularly food, water and energy. In making the case for the Military Revolution of Limits I will outline possible repercussions on Australian society that will effect the Army and suggest ways forward in order to adjust to coming changes.


Dr. Albert Palazzo is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre in Canberra. His Ph.D. is from The Ohio State University and his thesis was published as Seeking Victory on The Western Front: The British Army & Chemical Warfare in World War I. He has written widely on warfare in the modern age and on the Australian Army in particular. His many publications include: The Australian Army: A History of its Organisation, 1901-2001; Battle of Crete; Australian Military Operations in Vietnam; Moltke to bin Laden: The Relevance of Doctrine in Contemporary Military Environment and The Future of War Debate in Australia. His current research concerns the implications resource shortages to lead to conflict and the waging of war in an age of mutually assured precision.

Finding Videos on Mobile Devices

Lexing Xie will speak on "Scalable mobile video retrieval with sparse projection learning and pseudo label mining" at the CSIRO on the Australian National University campus in Canberra, 4pm, 19 August 2013.

IR and friends

Scalable mobile video retrieval with sparse projection learning and pseudo label mining 

Lexing Xie (ANU)

Monday 19 August 2013

Retrieving relevant videos from a large corpus on mobile devices is a vital challenge. We address two key issues for mobile search on user-generated videos. The first is the lack of good relevance measurement, due to the unconstrained nature of online videos, for learning semantic-rich representations. The second is due to the limited resource on mobile devices, stringent bandwidth, and delay requirement between the device and the video server.

We propose a knowledge-embedded sparse projection learning approach. To alleviate the need for expensive annotation for hash learning, we investigate varying approaches for pseudo label mining, where explicit semantic analysis leverages Wikipedia and performs the best. In addition, we propose a novel sparse projection method to address the efficiency challenge. It learns a discriminative compact representation that drastically reduces transmission cost. With less than 10% non-zero element in the projection matrix, it also reduces computational and storage cost.

The experimental results on 100K videos show that our proposed algorithm is competitive in the performance to the prior state-of-the-art hashing methods which are not applicable for mobiles and solely rely on costly manual annotations. The average query time on 100K videos consumes only 0.592 seconds. This is joint work with Guan-Long Wu, Winston Hsu and others in National Taiwan University....

Defence Rapid Prototyping Program

The Defence Rapid Prototyping, Development  and Evaluation Program (RPDE) is an interesting model for government-industry cooperation on problem solving. The Defence Department pays for industry personnel and academic experts to work on RPDE projects, which aim to come up with quick solutions to problems:
  1. Quicklooks: in less than three months.
  2. Tasks:  delivers a prototype or report in a year to a year and half.
The industry participants of the RPDE are a "whos who" of defense companies. University members include the ANU.

This is similar to some US DARPA programs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Magic of Australia: Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture Live From Canberra

Greetings from the Shine Dome in Canberra, where  Caroline Pidcock, Architect and Chair of the Living Future Institute Australia, is presenting the centennial Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture. You can contribute to the conversation and submit questions to be answered during the Q&A session via the Livechat facility. The webcast is provided by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
Caroline Pidcock is an architect with genuine interest and experience in sustainable built environments. This has been developed and enhanced through her involvement in a wide range of professional, academic and other commitments. This includes current roles as Chair of the Living Future Institute Australia and Carriageworks, and past roles as lecturer/tutor at a number of Universities.
"The Magic of Australia" in the title of  Caroline talk is a reference to Marion's book The Magic of America, the surviving drafts of which were placed on the web by the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. This work ranges over issues of democracy and spiritualism, as well as architecture and land use planning. Similarly tonight's talk ranges over issues of democracy, education, the Internet and equity in Australia.

I asked  Caroline about the role of the NBN in the built environment. She replied that the NBN would allow use of the existing buildings in regional Australia, rather than confining development to the cities.
The annual Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture, instituted in 2009, has attracted capacity audiences. The Lectures have focussed on particular facets of Marion’s personality, architectural career in the USA, Australia and India, creative works as architect, illustrator and graphic artist, passionate life interests and her marriage and partnership with Walter Burley Griffin. Recently, Griffin scholars have been publishing much more and new material about Marion and her achievements. Her life with Walter and her role in producing the winning plan for the National Capital are bound to be of keen popular interest in Canberra’s 2013 Centenary celebrations.

The Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly presented by the Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc., the ACT Government and the Australian Government Your Community Heritage Grant.

A Symposium The Griffins’ Canberra: 100 years, will be held here, Friday 16 August 2013, 12.45pm – 4.30pm, The Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science, Gordon Street, Canberra

Duck Chart Threatens Renewable Energy Expansion

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Arnold McKinley, is speaking on "PV-Grid Integration Issues in the United States, Recent Developments, 2013". He showed what a graph of non-renewable energy demand over a day, showing a large dip during daylight hours (when solar panels provide power) and then a steep climb at sunset. The graph resembles a duck, thus the term a "duck chart". This represents a danger to the network as it is difficult to supply the sudden rise in power need during the evening, when the sun goes down (so solar power is not available), just as people get home to cook dinner and demand more power.

There are also problems caused by the rapid changes caused by solar panels as clouds cross the panels. This can cause voltage fluctuations on supply lines. Arnie discusses some low-teach solutions, such as heavier gauge wire to overcome some problems. A higher tech solution is to use smart inverters on the solar panels which help adjust the voltage.

One interesting option presented was power-pole mounted solar panels. This makes use of space the utility company already owns and the panels each have a smart inverter to help regulate the voltage as well as supplement power use.

It occurred to me that not-very-smart appliances in homes might help stabilize the grid. As an example, could smart phones and tablet computers be programmed to stop charging their batteries when the grid is stressed. In addition large power appliances such as air-conditioners could switch to low power.
ABSTRACT: The first global energy crises of 1973 and 1979 initiated a large number of energy studies within the United States that outlined future energy scenarios. Many experts expected a growth in solar and other renewables during the last few decades of the 20th century. That expectation did not occur, primarily because the crises disappeared and the price of oil in the US remained low. Recently, climate change scenarios, a more receptive political climate, and a successful growth in renewables in Europe has set the stage for another possible rise in these technologies in the US. Several global indicators suggest that this time the rise in renewables may be successful. But there are problems. The principle hindrance to PV penetration on the electrical grid comes from the inherited cost of already built power generation facilities, which become less and less needed as PV comes on line. The utilities are worried about paying for them. They are also worried that renewables cannot provide the same level of grid security and stability that traditional fuels have provided. This talk is about the current perspective of several US utilities and Independent System Operators (ISOs) as they speak about these problems in their own words. We will examine the projects that operators in several states have put in place to gather data on the effects that PV actually has on the grid system. We will also discuss projects underway by the Department of Energy and the NREL. Lastly we will talk about an interesting project now underway in Belgium to study the efficacy of micro-grids.
BIO: Arnold McKinley worked as an intern in the Electrical Planning Department at San Diego Gas and Electric company in the early 1970's. In 1977 he led a multi-disciplinary team of faculty, graduate students and industry experts at Stanford University in a study of the US Energy System to the year 2025 for the US Department of Energy. He co-taught a course at San Diego State University on Energy issues in the Physics Department in the early 1980's. From 2005-2009, he worked as Senior Scientist at Apparent, Inc a startup in California on a micro-inverter for PV solar modules. He wrote the internet applications used to browse data from the device and wrote several papers on how micro-inverters can help manage voltage levels and reactive power flow on the electrical grid. His name appears on two of the patents. Since coming to the ANU in 2010 to work on a PhD, he has lectured on renewables and grid integration in several courses.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia

Greetings from the atrium of the Hedley Bull Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University, Allaster Cox, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Solahudin are launching the book The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jema'ah Islamiyah" (by Solahudin, with English translation by Dave McCrae, NewSouth Publishing 2013). The book is already available in electronic format from

The launch event started 20 minutes late. Also the book was not available at the launch (blamed on the incompetence of Australia Post). Perhaps this is one reason why combating terrorists has been difficult, as they are better at logistics. ;-)
The Lowy Institute is pleased to invite you to the launch of The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: from Darul Islam to Jema'ah Islamiyah by a leading expert in Islamic extremism in Indonesia, Solahudin.  Published jointly by the Lowy Institute and New South Publishing, the book is an edited English language edition of Solahudin's best selling NII Sampai JI: Salafy Jihadisme di Indonesia, translated by the Lowy Institute's Dr Dave McRae.  Based on a remarkable array of original sources it shows how the ideas and form of activism that lead to the Bali Bombings in 2002 have a long and complex history, stretching back to the Darul Islam revolt in the 1950s.  The translation and publication of the book was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Speakers at the launch will include Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor of the Australian National University, Allaster Cox, First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the book's author Solahudin. ...

NBN Household Assistance Scheme

Some devices which rely on an analog phone line, such as medical pendants and security alarms, may not work with the NBN. Previously the Australian Government provided financial assistance to aged pensioners and people with disabilities to have their TVs converted to digital. I suggest the Household Assistance Scheme (HAS). scheme be extended to the NBN. Under the NBN Household Assistance Scheme, those on an Age, Disability or Service pension would have the cost of connecting thier medical pendants and security alarms to the NBN paid for. This would include any additional or replacement equipment and installation.

E-monitoring and regime improvement in China

Professor Christian Goebel, Vienna University, will speak on "E-monitoring and regime improvement in China: technical capabilities and systemic limitations", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 4:00pm 10 September 2013.

In 2003 I attended a 3-day conference on the Beijing Olympic 2008 Official Website. I was a guest of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). One thing I noticed was how Internet literate the Chinese government people and academics were, including those from the People's Daily newspaper.

ANU China Seminar Series

ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Australian Centre on China in the World 

E-monitoring and regime improvement in China: technical capabilities and systemic limitations

Information technologies are often regarded as “liberation technologies” (Larry Diamond), because mobile phones and the Internet enable citizens to organize and coordinate resistance against autocratic rule. However, all political systems – democracies and autocracies alike – depend fundamentally on information feedbacks to maintain their equilibrium, and digital technologies greatly facilitate the gathering and processing of such information. The better the information flows between regime and society are, the more political authorities are able to fine-tune their policies in line with the stability requirements of the system.
The “liberation technology” perspective misses that information technologies can also serve to stabilize autocratic regimes, for example by enhancing surveillance, accountability, indoctrination, and participation. It follows that improved information flows can both strengthen and undermine autocratic rule, and the puzzle is how autocratic regime elites deal with this dilemma. China is a good case to study this question, because an increasing number of local governments is applying information technologies to strengthen their “social management” (shehui guanli) capabilities.
The talk contributes to a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of e-monitoring in China by introducing the results of first-hand research an e-monitoring platform in a Chinese province. It illuminates how information technologies are used to gather information about the preferences and grievances of the local population, how this information is processed, and how it motivates government action. On the other hand, it sheds light on the systemic limitations that prevent such solutions from being implemented more broadly than is presently the case.

About the Speaker

Christian Göbel is Professor of Modern China Studies at Vienna University. His current research projects examine the role of change agents in policy innovation in China and the impact of information technology on the operation of non-democratic regimes. He was trained in Political Science and China Studies in Erlangen, Taipei, Heidelberg and Duisburg. Previous to his appointment to Vienna, he held positions in Lund and Heidelberg. He is the author of "The Politics of Rural Reform in China" (Routledge 2010) and "The Politics of Community Building in Urban China" (Routledge 2011, with Thomas Heberer) and has published widely on topics related to state-society relations and political reform in China and Taiwan. ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fix ACT Government Fix My Street Website

Recently I was asked why a road sign had been changed. Rather than ask in a general on-line forum, I suggested the inquirer report the matter to the agency responsible for the road. If you don't know which agency, you can try Some of the government services by this name can be difficult to use, for example while the ACT Government has a web page titled "Fix My Street", it does not seem to have an actual service for reporting street problems. Instead the ACT Government has 25 different services:
  1. Abandoned Vehicles
  2. Air Pollution & Noise
  3. Bicycle Paths
  4. Domestic Garbage Bins & Collections 
  5. Damaged or stolen bins may be reported on the Canberra Connect website.
  6. Driveways
  7. Election Campaign Signage
  8. Footpaths
  9. Graffiti
  10. Grass
  11. Litter & Illegal Dumping
  12. Nature strips
  13. Pot Holes
  14. Roads
  15. Road Safety
  16. Road Signs
  17. Shopping Trolley
  18. Stormwater
  19. Street Lights
  20. Street Sweeping
  21. Suburban Parks & Playgrounds
  22. Survey Infrastructure (Survey Marks)
  23. Traffic
  24. Traffic Lights
  25. Other

AccessibilityOz Reporting Tool

The Australian company AccessibilityOz have just launched their new web accessibility tool "AccessibilityOz Reporting Tool" (OzART). This carries out W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) tests on website and provides advice on how to make the sites accessible by those with a disability.
AccessibilityOz claim that their tool can automatically test more of the WCAG guidelines than other tools, which require human interpretation.

Web accessibility for the disabled has been required by law in Australia for more than a decade and in many other countries. However, many web sites do not comply with guidelines. Perhaps it is time for an activist approach for dealing with the issue of unlawful discrimination. One way would be to produce a back end for AccessibilityOz's tool which would automatically prepare the documents for a class action against every organization which has a non-accessible web site.

There are precedents for consumer activism in Australia. The Australian Ethical Investments Advocacy Fund allows the public to invest a small amount which is used to buy shares in companies which are not acting ethically. Pressure can then be brought on the company at shareholders meetings to change their ways.

This same approach could be effective if the companies and government agencies with the worst one hundred websites were all taken to court over their illegal activities. Apart from the damages and court costs, organizations would then need to consider the negative publicity. Pressure could also be put on the senior executives, board CEOs and minsters responsible for these organizations to take responsibility for the unlawful actions of their organizations by resigning.

As well as the negative aspect, the top ten accessible websites could be singled out for praise, with their CEOs receiving a certificate.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quiet Achievers of the United Nations

Last night I attended the dinner for the United Nations Association of Australia annual conference (UNAA) in the Great Hall of the Australian National University. The after dinner speech was by Mr Ian Martin, Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in East  Timor, Nepal and Libya on: ‘From East Timor to Libya: the Role of UN Political Missions’. It is very easy to be cynical about international bureaucrats attending diplomatic cocktail parties on on tax free salaries. But Mr Martin reminded the audience of the day in and day out work of not that well paid UN staff, unarmed in trouble spots, facing road side bombs and armed militias, to help with food, medicine and, most importantly, good government.

Mobile Web Interface Better Bet on Desktop Computer

One of my house-guests recently wanted to place a bet on-line with using my desktop computer (which has the Firefox for Linux browser). The site reported "You need to have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player installed to access the wealth of features ...". But it also said "You can REGISTER, DEPOSIT and PLACE BETS using if you can't download or update Flash.". This simplified mobile web interface looked a little odd on a 24 Inch monitor, with a small amount of very large text. But my friend commented it was faster and easier to use that the Flash interface they usually used. It does make me wonder why interface designers produce complex "flash" designs, when the punter just wants to quickly place a bet.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Queensland Health Payroll System Failure Report

The inquiry headed by Richard Chesterman has released the "Queensland Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry Report" (31 July 2013). The 264 page report looks into the reasons for the failure of the IT system development for the Queensland Department of Health. The cost of additional manual payroll processing due to the failure of the automated system is $1.2B over eight years. The commissioner recommends that the Queensland Government apply an appropriate structure to oversee future large ICT projects and staff have skills in project management. This document should be required reading for all students of computer systems development.

The building of large corporate computer systems is a complex, high risk endeavor, even where those carrying out the task are honest and competent. When at the Australian Department of Defence one of my first tasks was to review the progress of a personnel system development. Along with other staff I reported the project had little chance of success and it was abandoned. A new project was started, only to be scrapped some years later. A third attempt, using package software, was successful.

Over the last ten years I have been engaged as an expert witness to assess failed IT projects, which have been the subject of court action between the developers and their clients. From reading the documentation for these projects, there is a general pattern: after the initial enthusiasm and wish to do the project properly, there are setbacks about one quarter the way into the project. Rather than make a decision stop at that point and carry out a review (as  project methodology requires), a non-decision is made and the project continues in the hope things can be fixed up. From this point increasingly desperate attempts are made to get the project back on the original track (when the correct procedure would be to devise a new plan, or stop). In every case the matter has been settled out of court and so the evidence of experts is not made public, avoiding embarrassment to the computer company and their client. The Queensland Health Payroll System Report provides a valuable public study of how such computer projects fail.

Chesterman writes of the project:
"Its failure, attended by enormous cost, damage to government and impact on workforce, may be the most spectacular example of all the unsuccessful attempts to impose a uniform solution on a highly complicated and individualised agency. ...
The system did not perform adequately with terrible consequences for the employees of QH and equally serious financial consequences for the State.
After many months of anguished activity during which employees of Queensland Health endured hardship and uncertainty, a functioning payroll system was developed, but it is very costly. It required about 1,000 employees to process data in order to deliver fortnightly pays11. It is estimated that it will cost about $1.2B over the next eight years12. ...
The replacement of the QH payroll system must take a place in the front rank of failures in public administration in this country. It may be the worst. ..."

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

1. Procurement 15

  1. Introduction .15
  2. Reviews of the SS Initiative 16
  3. Request for Information (RFI) 36
  4. Request for Proposal (RFP) 37
  5. Invitation to Tender (ITO) .57
  6. Procurement: Conclusions .85

2. Contract and Project Management 90

  1. Introduction .90
  2. Overview 92
  3. The Contract 99
  4. Scoping 100
  5. The Deficient System and the Opportunities to Redress it ..113
  6. The Decision to Go Live 143

3. Settlement 170

  1. Introduction 170
  2. Preliminary Observations 171
  3. The Supplemental Agreement 171
  4. Factors that Influenced the Decision ...194
  5. Mr Reid 206
  6. Mr Grierson 208
  7. Conclusions 210

4. Summary 213

5. Recommendations 217

  1. Introduction 217
  2. Lessons to be Learned 217
  3. Project Management for Future Projects 220
  4. Future of the Queensland Health Payroll System 220
  5. Principles of Project Management 221

Appendicies 225

  1. Establishment and Operations 226
  2. QH Payroll System Timeline 230
  3. Opening Remarks 232
  4. Copy of Public Notice 244
  5. Acknowledgements 245
  6. Inquiry Staff 246
  7. Legal Representatives 247
  8. Exhibits List 248
  9. Report Glossary 258

Plan for Australian High Speed Trains

The Greens party have released "Building High Speed Rail: 21st Century Infrastructure" (The Greens, 5 August 2013). This proposes a dedicated High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) with a budget of $664M for preliminary work and a $570M environmental impact study. Two lines would be investigated (Sydney - Canberra - Melbourne and Sydney - Newcastle - Brisbane). The trip times appear based on the best current in service technology with Sydney to Melbourne at 2 hours 44 minutes.

Mr. Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, released the High speed rail study phase 2 report, 11 April 2013. However, the ALP government has no proposals to implement high speed rail. Insetad Mr. Albanese is proposing to build a second airport in Sydney (which would not be needed with a high speed rail line from Sydney to Melbourne)

The Greens proposal does not estimate the cost of high speed rail. My suggestion is to fund the project from the increase in land value along the route, building new cities in regional Australia. New cities could be built rapidly, relying on broadband for many services currently provided by bricks and mortar. This would relieve development pressure on Sydney. Also a second airport would not be needed, with passengers changing from aircraft to trains on the busy Sydney -  Canberra - Melbourne air corridor..

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Canberra Not a Finnish Vision

Competitor number 18 Eliel Saarinen Perspective view general Canberra Planning Competition.
Greetings from the National Archives of Australia in Canberra where Dr Robert Bell AM, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, National Gallery of Australia is speaking on "A capital through Finnish eyes". He is discussing the entry in the 1912 competition for the design for the City of Canberra by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who lost to the design by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony.

Saarinen placed a railway station at the heart of his design for Canberra. This would have been handy for recent proposals for high speed rail. The text of Saarinen's submission is available from Cornell University (from Australian Archives, ACT, Series A762):

To facilitate an undisturbed growth we must first place the different parts of the town in groups, so that each can grow without encumbering the other. We must moreover set down the plan for the nearest surroundings of the town and choose suitable places for its future suburbs, each with a character of its own.
We have, -
(a) the official town with the Houses of Parliament, the Ministerial Buildings, and all houses which are to surround them.
(b) the university quarter;
(c) the military quarter;
(d) the commercial quarter;
(e) the industrial quarter with its population of workmen;
(f) the quarter for hospitals etc....

Greening UK Government ICT Report

The UK Government have released their second annual "Greening Government: ICT Annual Report" (UK Cabinet Office, July 2013). This 19 page report is available in PDF and Microsoft Word. There is also an ODT version offered, but I was unable to open the document. It is curious that the report is not simply offered as a web page. The document is better designed than last year. Appended are the highlights. Curiously I could find no mention of education or training of staff in green ICT in the report.

4 Key highlights

Implementing the strategy

Over the past year we have made significant progress in implementing the Greening Government ICT strategy. Not only have the roadmap and maturity model been adopted across government departments, but these departments now have plans in place to reach level 3 of the model, the government target is to meet level 3 by 2015. The average green IT maturity score for departments is now 2.9 compared to 2.4 last year.
The Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU)
A forum of government and wider public sector green IT sustainability leads. It’s primary function is to lead the development of the Greening Government ICT Strategy and drive forward its implementation.

Progress has been made in measuring our technology related energy usage and in signing up to the EU Code of Conduct. The Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU) continues to drive efficiencies and is looking to modernise ways of working using technology to reduce travel, improve collaboration and find better ways to reuse and recycle IT equipment.
Data centres
With the increase in the use of online services for government transactions, data centres are a key focus of the GDU and government’s green IT strategy. Four government departments have endorsed the EU’s Code of Conduct for Data Centres1 over the past year and a number of other organisations are progressing towards this goal. In addition a number of data centres used by suppliers to government are now registered as participants under the Code.

Defra is currently working to design guidance for buyers on effective practice for procuring energy efficient data centre services and ensuring sustainability has a high profile in contract management for the increasing number of cloud hosting services being used. The guidance has been discussed with Intellect, the UK industry body
representing both larger industry players and hundreds of smaller companies, and this is being coordinated with input from other government stakeholders. There have also been discussions with the European Commission via its EU wide Green Public Procurement process2.

Recycling and reducing waste
IT Recycling
The GPS agreement was used to dispose of 66,448 items, of which 33,514 were resold, generating £405,881.68.  A further 8738 items were able to be donated, further reducing the items sent for disposal.
Recycling of IT is key to achieving efficiencies and being greener. The Government Procurement Service (GPS) offers organisations a method for recycling IT assets.  The service agreement has been used by at least 33 bodies including schools, councils, agencies and government departments.
Currently work is underway in the GPS to refresh the service agreement to increase the financial benefits. This will focus on money raised from the recovery and sale of components plus that of rare and valuable raw materials, and the sustainability benefits, for example, reducing waste sent to landfill or for incineration.  

Public service delivery
In the last year the Government Digital Service published the Government Digital Strategy. This was followed by the publication of individual digital strategies by government departments. These strategies are fundamental to shifting government’s approach to interacting with citizens and businesses. The shift will need to be supported by the right technologies and systems to make the most efficient use of hardware and power. Digital by default also reduces the environmental impact of physical and paper based processes by using technology to create more cost effective, efficient and user-centred online services.

The move to digital by default is crucial as shown by the shift to online in HMRC which has seen more than 80 per cent of HMRC’s tax returns submitted via the internet. These online submissions have resulted in a big paper saving alongside cutting the carbon emissions by 760 tonnes. The use of different channels like SMS for alerts, have also played their part in reducing paper. Streamlining processes has also improved sustainability and efficiency, HMRC now send one Tax Credits award notice to joint households, for example, whereas previously each person in a household would have received a separate letter.3

Exploiting collaborative tools
Departments continue to maintain effective working whilst reducing business travel by conducting their business via video, web and teleconferencing. The Home Office extended to all staff members its departmental contract for teleconferencing facilities (this was previously only available to a small number of staff). MOD increased its use of videoconferencing and teleconferencing as part of its travel budget cuts and efficiencies. Peer-to-peer instant messaging is now available and a peer-to-peer webcam trial is underway. These tools and other methods of remote working were used to help reduce travel by government employees during the Olympic games.

The Public Services Network (PSN) continues to drive sustainable savings and efficiencies by removing duplicate network connections, providing simpler procurement and greater competition, and allowing public sector employees to work in more flexible, collaborative ways.  PSN creates a common network of networks and a more open and competitive telecommunications marketplace for the UK public sector.  It provides assured networks, based on industry standards, over which government can safely share services, including many G-Cloud services, to collaborate in new ways, substantially reducing the cost of communication services across UK Government and enabling new, joined-up and shared public services.

This year we have worked closely with colleagues in academia and are grateful to the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)4 for sharing use of its tools to record the use of energy from operating ICT. We have also discussed our plans and sought and received feedback from Industry through Intellect events. Colleagues in local government and the National Health Service (NHS) sit on the GDU and share knowledge about green IT which helps others learn effective practices.
2 The European equivalent of the UK’s Government Buying Standards, which identify sustainability requirements for public procuring authorities.
From: Greening Government: ICT Annual Report, UK Cabinet Office, July 2013