Friday, January 31, 2014

Victorian ICT Workforce Development Plan

The Victorian Government has issued a draft "Victorian ICT Workforce Development Plan" and invited comments in an online forum. This aims to improve the supply of people with business technology skills. I have suggested use of Work Integrated Learning (WIL). This allows students to use what they are doing at work in their studies (and what they are studying in their work). This is a lot easier with blended and on-line courses, so the student can fit their studies in with work and other commitments. As an example, students are now signing up for my course "ICT Sustainability" at the Australian National University. This is run on-line and the students can do their assignments about their workplace.

As an example, I have a student where the employer wants them to finish their degree in four weeks, instead of six months, so they can take up a new role. I have worked out how to compress a semester long postgraduate course into four weeks, for an undergraduate. They will do the course while sitting in their workplace, doing assignments which are also part of their job.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Australian Senate Inquiry on Direct Action Plan on Climate Change

The Environment and Communications Committee of the  Australian Senate is holding an Inquiry into the Government's Direct Action  Plan on Climate Change. I have been revising the notes for my on-line graduate course on ICT Sustainability, which starts in mid February at the Australian National University. The notes are published as "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future". In these I mentioned the ALP government's plan for a fixed carbon price, to be followed by carbon trading. The new coalition government had proposed a "Direct Action Plan", but what exactly is it and how much did I need to change my course to cover this? It turned out that at a technical level there was not that much difference between the old and new approaches. The new government's approach could be characterised as a "Carbon Tax" as the cost of abatement measures by industry will be subsidised by government.
In December 2013 the new Australian Government released a Green Paper on a new "Emissions Reduction Fund" (ERF). This envisaged replacing the previous government's carbon trading scheme with a reverse auction. The reverse auction itself will be technically simpler to implement than the trading mechanism proposed by the previous government, as it will involve far fewer transactions. However, the same environmental auditing standards will be used to verify the amount of emissions traded. Also extensive measures will need to be put in place to protect the auction system from manipulation.
The then Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy released a National Carbon Offset Standard in 2010. This set minimum standards for calculating and auditing the carbon footprint of an organisation. The standard covers calculating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with an organisation's activities, product or service. It also includes the general principles of acquisition and retirement of carbon offsets. These were to be used for the former government's Clean Energy Future 2011) fixed carbon price and trading scheme and is envisaged being used for the new scheme.
While the new ERF will have a relatively small number of transactions compared to the previously proposed treading scheme, each will be of a high value. This will require measures to combat likely attempts to defraud the system. The European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), has been subject to hacking to steal emissions allowances and fraud. The cost of measures to deter, detect and investigate fraud in the Australian system is likely to be a significant part of the cost of the overall system.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is Operation Sovereign Borders Legal?

Professor Donald R Rothwell, Penelope Mathew, Clive Williams and David Letts will speak on "Operation Sovereign Borders: Charting the legal issues" at the Australian National University in Canberra,5:30pm, 13 February 2014 (RSVP to address in flyer).
Operation Sovereign Borders tasks the Australian Defence Force and civilian agencies to deter and prevent asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia.


Thursday, 13 February 2014 - 5:30pm - 7:00pm

Venue: The Australian National University Speaker:
Donald R Rothwell Professor of International Law and Head of School, ANU College of Law
Penelope Mathew Freilich Foundation Professor, ANU
Clive Williams Adjunct Professor, Centre for Military & Security Law, ANU
David Letts Associate Professor and Co-Director, Centre for Military & Security Law, ANU
The Centre for Military & Security Law will host an open forum to examine some of the key legal issues that have arisen so far under Operation Sovereign Borders.
This Forum will provide an opportunity to understand and discuss key legal issues including sovereignty (Australian and Indonesian), law of the sea, refugee/human rights law, and the law that governs the use of force in border protection operations. These issues have arisen as a result of the Federal Government’s decision, after winning the election last year, to establish Operation Sovereign Borders which is a “military-led, border security operation supported and assisted by a wide range of federal government agencies”. Shortly after Operation Sovereign Borders commenced on 18 September 2013, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection stated: “… those seeking to come on boats will not be getting what they have come for. They will be met by a broad chain of measures end to end that are designed to deter, to disrupt, to prevent their entry from Australia and certainly to ensure that they are not settled in Australia”.
Legal experts associated with the Centre for Military & Security Law, Professor Donald R. Rothwell, Professor Penelope Mathew, Adjunct Professor Clive Williams and Associate Professor David Letts, will lead the discussion for this open forum in an attempt to navigate through the legal complexities that have arisen under Operation Sovereign Borders.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Apartments with FTTN for Sale in Canberra

Currently there are three apartments available for sale in Bluebell Street, O'Connor Canberra in the City Edge complex I live in. Thes are 24/50 a one bedroom first floor apartment,  20/52 and 30/48 with two bedrooms. All have a balcony on the northern (sunny) side of the building, away from the street. 30/48 is on the ground floor at the eastern end of the complex, with more natural light. The building has a fibre optic node to the basement for the Transact broadband service. There is a park across the road with a bicycle path to the Australian National University (about 1 km) and a bus-stop at the end of the street, on the route to the university and city centre. Within the complex is a private park.

Home Locker for Secure Parcel Delivery

With the popularity of Internet shopping, collecting parcels has become a problem. For years I have had a private mailbox at Australia Post. In the past if there was a parcel which was too large to fit in the mailbox, I would go to a counter and collect it. But the Belconnen Westfield Post-office then moved away from where the postboxes are located and only staffed this area early in the morning. To make parcel collection convenient, they place a key in my mailbox which opens a locker with the parcel in it. I then drop the key in a return box. Australia Post has now introduced a system of 24/7 Parcel Lockers at some Post-Offices, for those without postboxes. With these the customer uses a code sent by Australia Post to open the locker.

For home use, there are some designs of locker which can be installed at the front fence or door. These are registered online and provide a way for couriers to access the customer's locker and indicate the item has been delivered. The My Parcel Box Vault requires the payment of a weekly service fee, whereas the Pakman Parcel Delivery Box is a one-off purchase. The Packman has a chute, which allows packets to be delivered, but not removed. There is also a combination locked door for large boxes (wine case size). Also there is a barcode on the box for the courier to verify delivery.

The Packman looks well thought out: it comes in colours which will blend in with most homes (white, sand and grey) and while larger than a normal mailbox (525 x 905 x 420 mm), it would not look out of place next to a gate or beside the front door (it can be free-standing or built in). There is an optional ordinary mailbox to go on top of the unit. At $428 with the optional mailbox, this is more expensive than the average pillar letterbox, but you are getting a much bigger box for your money,

But there are some limitations with the Packman: The unit appears to be built from steel, with no insulation, so it could get very hot in the sun (particularly the grey coloured unit). So while it is large enough to fit a case of wine, you may not want this, or other drinks or food, delivered. This may be less of a problem if you have the unit built into a brick fence or the front of the house.

The next problem is that the parcel door seems to be unsecured. This would allow trouble makers to insert rubbish, liquids, or firecrackers in the slot. But it would not be difficult to disable the chute, so the combination code is required for all deliveries. However, this exposes another problem: there is only one combination. The delivery person requires the combination to open the door to place a large item in the locker. They can then remove what is already in there. It is possible to resent the lock to a new combination, but this is a mechanical lock, requiring a fiddly process, involving a paper-clip. You then have to register the new combination on-line for subsequent deliveries. An electronic combination lock, with a different code for each delivery would be more secure, but much more expensive and complex to install.

This raises an interesting issue for apartments, where the mailboxes are clustered at the front door. There may not be enough space to install a large parcel-box for each unit. Perhaps smaller units could be provided, or a system like the Belconnen Westfield mailboxes. A set of non-dedicated parcel-boxes would be provided. The courier would place the delivery in a box and then inform the customer it is read for collection. After the customer clears the box it would be available for other deliveries. This could use physical keys, or electronic codes.

Order of Australia for Brenda Aynsley, President of the Australian Computer Society

An Order of Australia (OAM) was was awarded to Brenda Aynsley, President of the Australian Computer Society today. This is a recognition well deserved.

No doubt many who know Brenda have stories to tell about her community work. One of mine is that 21 April 2009 I was standing at a tram stop in Adelaide on my way to the beach, after attending an ACS training session for on-line tutors (which I was one of). Brenda called to invite me to see the ACS PC Recycling SIG, which she said was near a tram stop (it was as if it was as if  she knew where I was and that I was skiving off). Brenda headed the group of volunteers refurbishing old computers donated by business for those in need. This is no slipshod operation with a tidy well run workshop, with a careful procedure to erase any data on old computers, test the hardware and then installing new licensed software.

The Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General

Ms Brenda AYNSLEY ... For service to the information and communications technology sector.

Current Chair, IP3, International Federation for Information Processing.
National Vice-President, Australian Computer Society, 2002-2003 and 2010-2011; Honorary Life Member, since 2008.
Chair, National Community Engagement Board, 2009-2010.
Chair, Ageism Task Force, 2010.
Lead Tutor and Academic Program Coordinator, Professional Year Program.
Founding Member, Electronic Frontiers Australia, 1994.
Honorary Secretary, South Australian Branch, Australian Computer Society; Chairman, 1999-2001 and 2004-2006; Member, since 1989; Founder and Manager, PC Recycling Group, since 2000.
Chair, SA Committee, The Pearcey Foundation, 2006-2012.
Opened South Australia's first Internet Café, 1995.
Founding Member, South Australian Internet Association, 1995.
Fellow, South Australian Branch, Australian Computer Society, since 2003.

From: Australia Day 2014 Honours Lists, Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division (A-E), Sunday 26 Jan 2014.

ps: They left out "President of the Australian Computer Society, 2014". But that must have been after the nomination was submitted.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

US - Australian Military Relations in the South West Pacific

Dr Peter J. Dean, Senior Lecturer at the Australian Command and Staff College, will speak on "Allies of a kind: United States and Australian military relations in the South West Pacific, 1942-43", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 6:00 PM, 11 February 2014.

War Studies Seminar, No.3: Allies of a kind: United States and Australian military relations in the South West Pacific, 1942-43

Strategic & Defence Studies Centre

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (EST)

Acton, ACT

The War Studies Seminars are open to the public and are to showcase the latest research on the history, character, conduct and effects of war.
Coalition warfare, complicated as it is by different strategic priorities and cultural differences, is always fraught with difficulties. The interactions between the United States and Australia in the Southwest Pacific Area during the Second World War were no exception. Examinations of this have generally focused on the two senior military commanders in theatre, General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey.
Frequently overlooked are the relationships further down the chain, where commanders and their troops had to develop workable joint doctrine and procedures to conduct always difficult amphibious operations, as well as operate together on the battlefield.
This seminar will explore the nature of the Australian–US military relations during 1942 and early 1943, and investigate the extent to which these unexpected partners were able to forge an effective working relationship.
Dr Peter J. DeanGuest speaker
Peter Dean is a Fellow in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre as well as a Senior Lecturer at the Australian Command and Staff College, Australian National University.  In 2011 he was a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre (Sydney University) and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre For Australian and New Zealand Studies (Georgetown University, Washington DC). His major research and teaching interests are in Australian military history and defence studies. Peter is the author of a biography of Australia’s most important operations staff officer, The Architect of Victory: The Military Career of Lieutenant-General Sir Frank Horton Berryman, 1894-1981, (Australian Army History Series, Cambridge University Press, 2011), editor of; Australia 1942: In the Shadow of War (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Australia 1943: The Liberation of New Guinea (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Australia's Defence: A New Era? (Melbourne University Press, 2014).


Monday, January 20, 2014

ICT For Green Growth in Developing Nations

Dr Idris Sulaiman will speak on "How ICTs Make A Smarter Green Growth in Emerging Economies", at the Australian National University, 2:30pm, 20 January 2014. 2014-01-20:
Green ICT is as much about the financial motivation as it is about regulatory compliance and reducing the environmental impact of operating ICT and the business a"whether it be commercial, academic or government organisations. This presentation provides an overview on the status of the current technology diffusion in terms of agreening of ICT infrastructure as well as some major areas of how ICTs are agreeninga key areas of economies in the global context particularly in the emerging economies. The presentation also looks at some international award-winning agreena software technologies that have been getting the attention of venture capital players and policy makers alike.

Restructuring the Australian Government Through IT

Susan Monkley, Group Manager, Technology Solutions Group, Department of Education
Susan Monkley, Group Manager, Technology Solutions Group, Department of Education, will speak on "Merging IT in government (and de-merging)" at the Australian Computer Society in Canberra, 5pm, 4th February 2014.
Susan will discuss the transformation journey of the Department of Education’s IT operations including the challenges specific to IT operations in federal government.
Machinery of Government changes significantly impact the operations of government business. Department’s may merge, new department’s may be created, and functions can be transferred from one agency to another. People working in government IT operations are impacted in two key ways. Firstly they have a significant role supporting business areas and people move between departments. Secondly, Machinery of Government changes sometimes result in significant changes to the size, structure, client base and nature of the IT operation. The Department of Education has recent experience of such a change and Susan will discuss the approaches and outcomes of managing transformational change.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

International Sustainable Development Conference in Indonesia

ICoSI 2014 is being held in Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 3 to 4 June 2014. A call for papers, closing 15 February 2014, has been issued for  two symposia topics: innovation technology for natural resource exploitation toward sustainable environment; and sustainable development of technologies, the built environment, green cities and green economy. The organisers have included a optional tour of Borobudur Buddhist Temple after the conference.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Australian Youth Orchestra Concerts in Canberra on Saturday

Greetings from Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) are giving a concert as part of the AYO National Music Camp. There are further concerts Friday (Composition including a work by Sally Greenaway 5:30pm and Brass Ensemble 8pm) .  and Saturday Orchestral Concerts 4:30pm and 8pm. The Saturday afternoon concert will be recorded for broadcast on ABC Classic FM on 8pm 20  January 2014. The concerts are free, but a donation at the door would be appreciated.

Saturday 18 January, 2014

4:30pm CONCERT

MOZART Symphony No. 31 in D major Paris 
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 

8:00pm  CONCERT 2 

BEETHOVEN The Creatures of Prometheus Op. 43: excerpts
RACHMANINOFF Symphony in D minor, Youth                                            
STRAVINSKY Petrushka (1911) 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Kogan Ultra High Definition TV as Desktop Monitor Replacement

Kogan have announced they will offer a 55" Ultra High Definition TV for $1000. As well as the4K (3840x2160) resolution, this has Android 4.2, Wi-F, Ethernet, 4 USB ports and a Micro SD slot. It is less basic unit than the Seiki Digital 50 inch model, which is US$999 on A use for such large screens I would like to try is as a desktop computer display. At 55 inches, the monitor is so large it could stretch across the whole of the back of a 1200 mm desk. Mounted on the partition behind about 140 mm above the desktop, it would extend up to the hight of an office partition. The screen would fill much of the peripheral vision of the user and create an immersive effect.

The user is unlikely to be able to use the screen as one large display and would instead put their main window in the lower centre, and then move items used occasionally, such as a diary, off to the side and family photos above. The screen would in effect become a pin-board. The flat screen close up may create some problems, with the outer edges harder to see. This could be corrected by distorting the image to enlarge the images at the edges. When sitting in the centre of the screen everything would look in proportion, with the screen's edges appearing to curve inwards. Standing away from the screen it would look distorted.

Friday, January 10, 2014

4k TV as Desktop Monitor Replacement

Seiki Digital are now selling a 65 Inch 4K UHD LCD TV (model SE65UY04) for US$1,600. The smaller 50-Inch model got a not very flattering review on CNET. Essentially, apart from the high resolution, these are not very good TVs, but might be a useful replacement for a desktop computer monitor, for those who need a very large display. Rather than having two or three LCD displays side by side on a desktop, one 50 inch 4k TV could be used. The 65 inch unit could be attached to the wall behind a desk and be used as a sort of a virtual noticeboard. The user could position windows of information where required. The screen would then also be large enough to use for a small group presentation.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Air Pollution and the Energy Industry in China

Professor David Y.H. Pui, from the University of Minnesota, will speak on "China: Sources, Effects, Mitigation, and Its Impact on China: Sources, Effects, Mitigation, and Its Impact on Energy Industry", in the Ian Ross Seminar Room, Ian Ross Building, at the Australian National University in Canberra, 2pm, 6 February 2014.

PM2.5 (Particulate Matter less than 2.5 Am) was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997 as the standard method for sampling fine particles, because of concern over the health effects of fine particles in the ambient environment. The Particle Technology Laboratory (PTL) has developed many instruments and samplers to perform atmospheric measurements, which helped to establish the PM2.5 standard. The effects of PM2.5 pollutants on the atmospheric visibility and human health will be addressed. PM2.5 sources in China have been identified to come from pollutants from coal burning (approx. 40%) and from vehicle emissions (approx. 25%). The strategy for pollution control must be based on reducing the pollutants from these two primary sources. Filtration is one of the principal means to control PM2.5 pollutants. Baghouse filters are used to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and Diesel and Gasoline Particulate Filters (DPF and GPF) are used to reduce vehicle emissions. The PM2.5 impact, both short-term and long-term, to the energy industry will also be addressed. An integrative approach, from collaboration among academia, government, and industries, can effectively manage and mitigate the PM2.5 pollutants in China.
David Y. H. Pui, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, is the L.M. Fingerson/TSI Inc Chair in Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Particle Technology Laboratory and of the Center for Filtration Research, University of Minnesota. He has a broad range of research experience in aerosol science and technology and has over 230 journal papers and 22 patents. He has developed/co-developed several widely used commercial aerosol instruments. Dr. Pui is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and has received many awards, including the Max Planck Research Award (1993), the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists (2000), the Fuchs Memorial Award (2010)--the highest disciplinary award conferred jointly by the American, German and Japanese Aerosol Associations, and the Einstein Professorship Award (2013) by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). He was a past President of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR) and of the International Aerosol Research Assembly (IARA) consisting of 16 international aerosol associations.

Planning to Use Broadband in Australia

In "It’s time for politicians to get technical" (AFR, 3 January 2014), Paul Smith writes about how broadband might be used in Australia. Amongst many others,  I get quoted about the effect on regional employment:
 Tom Worthington, an adjunct senior lecturer at the Australian National University’s school of computer science, also believes the advent of high-speed internet may not prove to be the boon for regional Australian living that many imagine.
He says while better broadband will allow those in regional areas to access services online, this may also result in a loss of face-to-face services.
In other words, while you will be able to consult a doctor, accountant, lawyer or teacher online more easily, you may not be able to see one in person, as they will have moved to the city or to another country.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Stayed in the Convent Glen Innes

On my way from Sydney to Brisbane by car this week I stayed overnight at The Convent Glen Innes. This, as the name suggests, is a former convent building in the NSW town of Glen Innes, which is being refurbished as accommodation. So far two floors of the north wing of the building has been turned into backpacker standard rooms. There is also a TV lounge and kitchen with complementary tea and coffee (there are fast food stores across the road). The night I stayed I was the only guest and had my pick of the higher standard rooms on the top floor. These have a wide screen HDTV, double beds, a wash basin, heater and space for hanging clothes. There is a shared toilet and bathroom at the end of the floor.

Everything is very clean and newly refurbished. The building has been sensitively converted keeping the character of the old dark brick building. There are wide cloisters and a statue (presumably of some saint) on the front of the building.  It was a little creepy being the only one in residence and this might be a good location for a murder mystery weekend or a Rocky Horror Picture Show themed event.

There is more work to be done on the building (it was apparently purchased in 2008). I was able to peek through a hole in the partition to see a new floor which has started to be laid in the front wing (some of the best architectural details of the building, such as stone fireplaces and stained glass, are still hidden away). One change which needs to be made are inset screens in the windows, as there were a few mosquitoes during the night.The windows have patterned glass (to be changed to clear) and only open about 100 mm, giving a slightly claustrophobic feeling (or perhaps "cloistered" would be the word). In the current extremely hot weather I would wish for a small fan.

I booked The Convent via, but you can phone directly on +61 0417222777  or email. One problem I had is that the location of The Convent Glen Innes is about 200m north of that shown on by car navigation maps (including Google maps). The official address given is  161b Church Street, 2370 Glen Innes. But the actual location is on the north side of St Josepth's School, to the north of a roundabout (not the south side as the maps suggest). You enter though an unused looking grass and dirt drive, then around the front of the building to the abandoned looking north side, where there is a door to the office.

Australian Public Wi-Fi Network

In "iiNet plans massive public Wi-Fi network" (IT Wires, 7 January 2014) Graeme Philipson reports that the Western Australia based telecommunication company will expand the WiFi service it provides in the Adelaide CBD to other states. While Phillipson describes this as a "massive" network, it is likely to be confined to city centres and other locations with high concentrations of potential users. In his book "Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia" (2013), Anthony M. Townsend, describes how non-profit groups provided such access previously.

It is unlikely iiNet will be providing WiFi broadband access throughout suburbs. However, one option iiNet might like to try is to offer its customers an incentive to provide WiFi to their neighbors. Under such a scheme the customer allows the WiFi on the home broadband to be used by registered users. However, such a scheme would still be limited by the availability of unlicensed spectrum for WiFi. Another option would be to provide 4G picocells, as well as WiFi.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Australian Broadband Report

The Australian Department of Communications released a Broadband Availability and Quality: Summary Report, 23 December 2013. The report found 91% of Australian premises have access to xDSL and 28% other high speed broadband fixed connections. In this report "availability" is a synonym for geographic coverage of premises and "qualify" for broadband speed. The report did not look at the affordability of broadband, which should be a factor in availability, nor does it look at reliability or latency. The issue of latency is one for satellite links and some terrestrial wireless links, where the data takes a long time to transit the network making some real time applications unworkable.
The report found the major issue with access and quality were regional areas and some pockets in urban areas. One option I suggest which could be used to address this is are 4G wireless networks. Rather than build a completely separate fixed wireless network which was the policy of the previous government, I suggest supplementing the 4G networks of the mobile phone carriers.
Curiously the DOC version of the report at 1.4 Mbytes is about five times as large as the PDF version. This is due to one image of a tag cloud being stored in the wrong format. The image is a 1.2 Mbyte JPEG file, when converted to PNG format it reduces to 180 kbytes (with no loss of quality). As I pointed out previously, on its own broadband will do little to benefit Australia. What is also needed is training in how to make use of computers and telecommunications. In this case it appears that staff at the Department of Communications have not been trained in how to format documents correctly.

The total of this section exceeds 100 per cent because the majority of premises have access to multiple broadband technologies.

  • Approximately 9.9 million premises (91 per cent) have access to fixed line broadband services delivered via xDSL technology.
  • Approximately 3.1 million premises (28 per cent) have access to a high speed broadband platform (defined as including fibre-to-the-premises, fibre-to-the-node, hybrid fibre coaxial networks and fixed wireless networks).
  • Approximately 8.8 million premises (81 per cent) have access to 3G mobile broadband services and about 6.4 million premises (59 per cent) have access to 4G services.
  • All Australian premises are covered by satellite broadband, although there is a ceiling to the capacity of these services and therefore not all premises can access a service.


  • Approximately 3.1 million premises (28 per cent) have access to peak download speeds of between 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and 110 Mbps.
  • Approximately 7.1 million premises (65 per cent) are in areas that have access to peak median download speeds of less than 24 megabits per second over the copper network.
  • About 0.7 million (6 per cent) premises are unable to get access to a fixed broadband service.
  • Of premises with access to xDSL broadband services over copper, about 3.7 million are located in areas with an estimated peak median download speed of less than 9 Mbps, and 920,000 in areas with an estimated peak median download speed of less than 4.8 Mbps.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Broadband for Smart Cities

Smart Cities by Anthony M. Townsend
The book "Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia" (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013) by Anthony M. Townsend, looks at how cities can use information and communications technology. Townsend covers a lot of territory, looking at cities not only in the USA but in developing nations and issues from security, to the environment. Unfortunately the narrative is a little hard to follow and for the first hundred pages I wondered what the book was about. It was only when Townsend started relating his own experience of building community non-profit WiFi services in New York that the book started to make sense. The heavy emphasis on US developments of technology is also a little distracting. There is barely any acknowledgement that many ICT developments came from elsewhere (for example, the World Wide Web from Europe, the ARM chip from the UK and WiFi from Australia). Townsend raises many issues but then seems to move on to another. This is a useful book to dip into, but frustrating to read from start to finish.

The attempts Townsend relates of communities to provide ubiquitous broadband are very relevant to current Australian discussions of the National Broadband Network (NBN). He relates lobbying of government by telecommunications companies interested in not having a public sector rival. Townsend is suspicious of private company involvement in community networking. He portrays non-profit community providers of broadband in USA as heroes and credits mobile data networks in developing nations with being important in economic development, However, Townsend seems reluctant to acknowledge the role of telecommunications companies in providing wireless broadband in developed nations. There has been a problem that the telcos have charged prices for mobile broadband. For Australia I have suggested that mobile broadband could complement cabled services, with some govenrment intervention.