Monday, March 30, 2015

Beer and Nappies Data Mining Urban Legend

Greetings from the Menzies Hotel, where Dr Roger Clarke is speaking on Risk Management for Big Data Projects to the Australian Computer Society. He mentioned the story of "Beer and Nappies", where it is said a data mining exercise for a retail chain found that those who buy nappies also buy beer, these being new fathers. Roger mentioned he had not been able to track down the source of this story. I got as far as finding "Beer and Nappies: A Data Mining Urban Legend" by Donald Fisk (December 1997), who attributes the story to Doug Alexander, April, 1997. Another reference was The Times (1996): ".... Ever since a data warehousing system correctly told an American retailer that putting beer and nappies next to one another on a supermarket aisle would increase...".

Then there is Daniel J. Power's "What is the "true story" (in DSS News, D. J. Power,  November 10, 2002), about using data mining to identify a relation between sales of beer and diapers?",

"In 1992, Thomas Blischok, manager of a retail consulting group at Teradata, and his staff prepared an analysis of 1.2 million market baskets from about 25 Osco Drug stores. Database queries were developed to identify affinities. The analysis "did discover that between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. that consumers bought beer and diapers". Osco managers did NOT exploit the beer and diapers relationship by moving the products closer together on the shelves. This decision support study was conducted using query tools to find an association. The true story is very bland compared to the legend."

The beer and nappy revolution; Focus.(Features). (1996-06-05). In The Times (London, England). 43.

Mike Bowern Fellow of the Australian Computer Society

Greetings from the Menzies Hotel Sydney where Dr Mike Bowern has been presented with his certificate as a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society. One of his contributions to computing was as part of the team producing the ACT's electronic voting system. He also researched ethics for computer professionals and I use that work in teaching students at the ANU.

City-wide simulations of distributed photovoltaic power production

Nicholas Engerer will speak on his thesis project "City-wide simulations of distributed photovoltaic power production", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1pm, 2 April 2015.
"The 4GW of solar energy installations in Australia are dominated by small-scale photovoltaic arrays, with average system sizes of 1.5kW in 2011, growing to 4.5kW by the end of 2014. With the continuing rapid pace of installations nationwide, providing estimates of the current and future power output of these systems is becoming more crucial.
Nicholas’ thesis project has focused on providing a simulation system capable of producing such estimates. To accomplish this, he has developed a methodology for using a selection of monitored PV systems to produce estimates of the power output from non-monitored systems.

Using Canberra as a proof-of-concept, a city-wide simulation of its 12,500+ embedded PV generators is now possible. The seminar will place an emphasis on simulations for critical ramp events, which are situations where the local meteorology causes all of the PV generators in a region to suddenly produce much less or much more power over a short period of time."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Analyzing Tweets to Asses Jakarta Flooding

Greetings from the University of Sydney Business New Approaches and Technologies for Community Resilience and Disaster Recovery". The most interesting presentaion so far is by
Rodney Clarke (UoW) onusing Tweets to monitor flooding in Jakarta with Faculty in the Sydney CBD, where I am attending a symposium on "

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cyber Security Careers at the Australian Signals Directorate

Yesterday I was taking part in a discussion of the role of national security agencies with colleagues from the IT industry. I mentioned how when giving a seminar on computer security at the Cambridge University Computer Lab (UK) I noticed someone in the back row who did not look like a student or academic. They turned out to be from GCHQ, the UK security agency, presumably there to recruit students. Much to my surprise today I walked into seminar room N101 at the ANU Research School of Computer Science (to help get the projector to work) and found it was for staff from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) presenting to students on Careers at ASD.

Redeployable Hybrid Solar/diesel Power Plant

Company Laing O’Rourke has built a 1MW redeployable hybrid solar/diesel power plant. This can be packed up a moved by truck. It would also have application for the military where bases need increasing amounts of power and reducing fuel deliveries increases safety. The Laing O’Rourke's Re-deployable Hybrid Power Product Development Report shows how solar panels are assembled onto frames which can be stacked for transport then quickly erected on site. However, it would be useful for the military if the frames were small enough to be set up by hand, without the need for a crane, and so they would fit in a helicopter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Valedictory Speech by Australia's Most IT Literate Senator

Kate Lundy is retiring from the Australian Senate, after almost two decades as the chamber's most IT literate member. I was honored to  received a mention in Senator Lundy's Valedictory Speech, about the time Senator and myself promoted Canberra, by sending live photos to the Internet from a hot air balloon floating over the city. I was also honored to be mentioned alongside "the amazing Pia Waugh", who, as Senator Scott Ludlam later pointed out, has worked with Senator Lundy (and later in various government roles) to make government more accessible on-line.

From the perspective of 2015 it is very hard to remember how the Internet and the idea of citizens having ready access to information on-line, was such an alien concept in the mid 1990s. Some of the thinking of that time is evident in my Interview with Kate Lundy, at Gorman House, 26 September 1995.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Building Australia's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data System

Greetings from QT Hotel at the souther end of Canberra's Business Boomerang where DAMA and ACS are holding a meeting on the databases used for running Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reporting system. Olga Lysenko,  Head of the Office of the CIO at the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and Jeremy O Keefe, Business Intelligence Section of CER are speaking of the challenges of building and maintaining a system for a high profile and frequently chnaging area of government policy.

While the government policy on how to reduce emissions has changed every few years, the need for a system to track emissions has remained. There were problems with different contractors writing different systems for different aspects of emissions tracking systems, but the systems were workable and passed the political test (they did not appear in newspaper headlines).

One of the difficulties of such a system is that it has to track emissions from facilities, not just businesses. If a business sells a facility, such as smelter, its emissions need to continue to be tracked over time. In financial accounting terms the smelter would disappear from one firm's records and pop into existence on another, which is no use for tracking emissions. The CER system uses XML.

All of this is of close interest to me as I have a class of ANU students learning how to do the calculations needed for emissions monitoring, so they can build such systems.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spam Making LinkedIn Unusable

The level of spam postings in LinkedIn groups, particularly "get rich quick" postings and spam messages,  is reaching the point where it will make the service unusable. LinkedIn's advice to group administrators is to change the member’s posting permissions and block offending members, but just as with email, it is not practical to deal with spam manually. LinkedIn needs to install an automatic spam filter. It should be reasonably simple to adapt a spam filter, such as the free open source, SpamAssassin, to work on LinkedIn postings and messages. The rate of increase in the spam from LinkedIn is such that it may be unusable within a few weeks.

ps: While they are at it, LinkedIn might want to fix whatever in their Javascript causes "A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. ...". I suspect the problem is that LinkedIn just is providing too much stuff. I like LinkedIn, but if it is slow and full of spam I will not be able to use it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cambridge Phenomenon's Fifty Years of Innovation

Greetings from the UNSW Campbelltown Library. Seeking more content for my innovation course, I have tracked down the only copy of Kirk, Cotton and Gates (2012) in an Australian public library. In doing so I feel I am back on a journey started twenty years ago. In 1996 I spent several sessions in the ANU library, reading one of the few copies of the report "The Cambridge Phenomenon" (Segal Quince & Partners, 1985) in Australia. I very much had the sense I was holding a precious commodity to which I had limited access. I made extensive notes, appropriately enough on a Cambridge Z88 portable computer. These notes became Appendix A "The Cambridge Phenomenon - Summary of the Report" in Worthington (1999). I have had to drive three hours to read the sequel: I hope it is worth it.

The new the book is much glossier than the original.  The forward is by Bill Gates (There is a Microsoft Research Lab at Cambridge, adjacent to the new Cambridge University Computer Lab). The preface is by Charles Cotton, founder of Cambridge Phenomenon Limited (which appears to have been set up just to write this book) and mentions the Hauser Forum (in the West Cambridge Research and Development Park).

There is a two page diagram "Cambridge Ideas Change the World" which is also available on-line as a PDF document. This takes some liberties with history to place Cambridge at the center of developments in Genomics, Monoclonal Antibodies, Computing and Software. As an example, the Computing time line starts with Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine in the 1800s (was this done at Cambridge?), then Alan Turing before getting on to firmer ground with the 1946 EDSAC computer which was built at Cambridge. The last step in this is the formation of ARM at Cambridge in the 1990s (I visited there a few years after the company was formed and wish I had bought some shares).

The introduction of the book is on firmer ground starting with Tim Eiloart founding Cambridge Consultants in 1960. The authors estimate that 4,000 technology companies have been set up around Cambridge since the 1960s, with 1,400 in 2012 and 48,000 employees.

The chapter on the early days acknowledges Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, found by Horace Darwin in 1881 to make precision instruments, but it was not until the 1960 that conditions were right to make such companies more than a rarity.

The next chapter "Growing Pains: 1970 - 1979" covers Sinclair Radionics, which made the Sinclair Executive calculator, Also Arcorn Computers Ltd. The Mott Report (1969) lead to the Trinity Science Park. The Bolton Report (1971) resulted in government policies to encourage "small Firms".

The authors attribute Matthew Bullock at Barclays Bank in Cambridge with discovering a "triangle of activity between the river, Bridge Street and Jesus Lane" (Kirk, Cotton & Gates, 2012, p. 44). However, looking at a map of Cambridge, I am not sure where this triangle is. Bullock with Jack Lang of Topexpress (one of the companies in the triangle) then invited staff of the other companies to meet informally.

Kirk, Cotton & Gates (2012, p. 45) describe how some of these staff had been students and staff at the Cambridge University Computer Lab and meetings in the Eagle pub acted as a replacement for previous university common room discussions. Outcomes included changes to planning laws to allow R&D functions in commercial, rather than industrial, premises. Bullock identified Cambridge as an area for Barclays to invest in due to improved transport combined with the industry startups.

The next chapter "Putting the Phenomenon on the Map: 1960-1989" starts with a brief description of the first Cambridge phenomenon report (Segal Quince & Partners, 1985). Given that the later work has a name very similar to the first, this work gets remarkably little acknowledgement or analysis. I had assumed that the new report was by some of the same authors, or the same consulting company, or by people in some way associated with the first, but I could find no connection in the text. There appear to be just five paragraphs in this chapter of a book of 244 pages summarizing the previous study. The rest of the chapter describes the rise of various companies, most notably Acorn Computers making the BBC Microcomputer. The chapter ends by discussing the slow start for the Trinity Science Park.

Strangely the next chapter "Momentum: 1990-1999" has a large photo of the Cambridge Judge Business School, with no explanation of what this has to do with technology startup companies (p.66). I recall seeing this building in Trumpington Street on my way to talk to  Andy Hopper at the the much more modest Olivetti Research Laboratory (ORL) in 1996. After reading the original Cambridge Phenomenon I had set out to see what it was all about in person.

At this point, about one quarter of the way through, I lost interest in the book and went for lunch at the UWS Cafe. After a lunch of fish and noodles I came back to the library to consider what I had read. The remainder of the book appeared to be the same detailed catalog of companies and funders as before. What was lacking was an analytical analysis of the reasons for this development which was in the original report.

This is not an updating of the original report, more catalog of what happened later. I suggest anyone interested in the how and why of tech startups should read the original report. You can then read 2012) which gives a good summary of the second report.

The Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang

Is there anything from this book for my innovation course? Not really. The idea of an informal way for people from different startup firms to meet is useful. The concept of new companies starting in a small area in proximity to a university is not new, but worth restating.

Such an area is now forming in Canberra, on the western edge of the ANU campus and has been referred to as the "Canberra Innovation Precinct". However, the area is now expanding to cover much of the western side of Canberra's CBD. Given the shape of this precinct, it could be called the "Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang": from Marcus Clarke Street extending east to London Circuit, and from Barry Drive in the north to Gordon Street in the south. At the center of this, both geographically and strategically, is the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN). Also it should be noted that this is not far from where the Griffins' first plan for Canberra (1912), had marked as the location for the "Technology" building of the national university.

The Wig and Pen Bar, which was across the road from CBRIN, and serves as the equivalent of the Eagle pub in Cambridge, has moved slightly further away to the foyer of the ANU Music School.

Other Works on the Cambridge Phenomenon

A Google Scholar search finds more than one million references to the "Cambridge phenomenon". Miao and Hall (2014) look at the more ‘cultivated’ Chinese science parks, as a contrast to Cambridge.
Moog (2002) comments "Knowledge intensive new firms often result from high educated, academic founders or directly from academic institutions".
WESTHEAD (1988) points out that the phenomenon of closely clustered high tech firms may not be able to be replicated. may not be replicated. Benneworth and Groen (2010) describe how more formal university entrepreneurship programmes, which grew up partly as a response to the Cambridge Phenomenon, act as gateway to wider entrepreneurship system outside the university.
Yuehua. (2002) concludes that developed countries' experience of science parks is applicable to developing countries.

Garnsey, Lorenzoni and Ferriani (2007), detail the formation of ARM, as a spin-off of Acorn Computers. Ahmed (2013, pp. 122-139) has a useful chapter on "Entrepreneurs, Spinning Out, Making Money andLinking with Industry", with case studies on Shape Data Ltd, Acorn/ARM, Sintefex Audio, Bango,, RealVNC, Sophos plc, Jagex, blinkx, Camrivox,  Green Custard, The Raspberry Pi Foundation XenSource and Rapportive. Also there is a section on how the computer lab supported these developments. Unfortunately this 179 page e-book has very high resolution color images which makes it a 9.5mbuyte download (a version with smaller images would be more useful for students).

Curiously some of these works cite my own summary of the "Cambridge phenomenon" (Worthington, 1999), rather than, or in addition to, the original report. Livesey, Sullivan, Hughes, Valli, and Minshall (2008) in a Cambridge University Economics and Policy Working Paper quote me accusing the the Australian government of believing “if a
high technology/ science park is created, with suitably high-tech buildings, then high
technology firms will be attracted to move in from somewhere.”


Ahmed, H. (2013). Cambridge Computing: The First 75 Years. Retrieved from
Benneworth, P., & Groen, A. (2010). " No longer the sparkling new idea": anchoring university entrepreneurship programmes in academic, entrepreneurial and regional policy networks. Retrieved from

. (2012). Viewpoint: The Cambridge Phenomenon, five decades of success. BBC News UK. Retrieved from

Garnsey, E., Lorenzoni, G., & Ferriani, S. (2007)Speciation through Entrepreneurial Spin-off: The Acorn-ARM story. Retrieved from
Kirk, Kate & Cotton, Charles & Gates, Bill, 1955- (2012). The Cambridge Phenomenon : 50 years of innovation and enterprise. Third Millenium, London

Livesey, F., O’Sullivan, E., Hughes, J., Valli, R., & Minshall, T. (2008). A pilot study on the emergence of university-level innovation policy in the UK. Centre for Economics and Policy Working Papers. Retrieved from

Miao, J. T., & Hall, P. (2014). Optical illusion? The growth and development of the Optics Valley of China. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 32(5), 863-879. Retrieved from

Moog, P. (2002). Human capital and its influence on entrepreneurial success. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 157-180. Retrieved from

Segal Quince & Partners (1985). The Cambridge phenomenon : the growth of high technology industry in a university town. Segal Quince & Partners, Cambridge

Trani, E. P., & Holsworth, R. D. (2010). The indispensable university: Higher education, economic development, and the knowledge economy. R&L Education.

Worthington, Tom (1999). Net traveller : exploring the networked nation (Ed. 1.0). Australian Computer Society, Dickson, A.C.T Retrieved from

Yuehua, Z. (2002). A developing economy oriented model for science park management. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Asymmetric Conflicts and the Law

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Pnina Sharvit Baruch, Tel Aviv University, is speaking on "Asymmetric conflicts: applying the rules". She discussed her experience in applying the rules of armed conflict when operating against non-state actors. This included questions such as if targeted killing of leaders of non-state organizations engaged in operations against the state. The result seems to me to be to apply some of the decision making process to the military which would normally be carried out by the civilian police force.

Pnina pointed out that the Israel Defense Force legal officers are not in the chain of command of the operational commander and so their decisions cannot be overridden by the commander of an operation.

 As Pnina pointed out the problem with non-state actors is that it is more difficult to work out who are the combatants and who are "civilians". Under the rules of war anyone part of an "organized armed group" is a legitimate target, even if they are not armed. The ICRC suggested that those with a "continuous combat function" are armed forces, but does this include personnel not in uniform training or supporting the combat function.

It seems to me this also has implications for western nations who do have conventional armed forces, but increasingly rely on civilian contractors. A civilian driving a truck load of ammunition to the battlefield might be considered a legitimate target, but what about someone cooking food for ration packs?

A lawful target can include a civilian location which offers a definitive military advantage. So a private home being used for launching rockets is a lawful target, but the family home of a military officer is not. However, if the military officer works from home, issuing commands by phone, is this a target? In the case of cyberwarfare it is likely that military operations will be carried out from homes and civilian offices: are all these targets?

Australian Government Digital Transformation

Miguel Carrasco from Boston Consulting Group will speak on "Accelerating the digital government transformation", at the Australian Computer Society in Canberra, 4:45pm, 14 April 2015.

The Prime Minister and Minister for Communications announced the "Australian Government Digital Transformation Office" (DTO) on 23 January 2015 "... so that government services can be delivered digitally from start to finish and better serve the needs of citizens and businesses ... The DTO will operate more like a start-up than a traditional government agency, focussing on end-user needs in developing digital services.". The ACS Virtual College runs a 12 week on-line course "New Technology Alignment" in how to identify such transformations. I am tutoring the course and the students are up to week 7 at present. Also I am designing an innovation coruse specially tailored for Canberra and will be discussing it in "Innovations in teaching innovation" at CSIRO ICT Centre on the ANU campus, 4pm, 27 April 2015.

ACS Enterprise Architecture Special Interest Group (SIG): Accelerating the digital government transformation 

The Australian Government recently announced the establishment of a Digital Transformation Office (DTO) to advance the national e-Government agenda. The Prime Minister and Communications Minister have stated that the DTO will operate "more like a start-up", bringing together developers, researchers and designers to put customer needs and user experience front and centre. The idea of government being as well designed and easy to use as AirBnB or goCatch sounds attractive, but just how feasible is it to create a digital startup inside government, and what can we learn from other Governments, like the UK, U.S. and Denmark, that have taken similar approaches?
In this presentation, members will learn about the approaches taken by global leaders in e-Government highlights some best practice principles for establishing a ‘digital office’ including the importance of whole of government enterprise architectures and standards. Miguel will cover why Australia is in a prime position to learn from and adapt best practice from these countries and accelerate digital transformation of the government, and the Australian economy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Professor Don Tillman at University of Canberra

While at the University of Canberra for a workshop today, I noticed signs in the library saying that the book of the year for students to read is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This fictional work (and the sequel, "The Rosie Effect") features Professor Don Tillman, through whom Graeme pokes fun at academia.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Xanana Gusmão Gives Australia a Lesson in Diplomacy

Greetings from the Wig and Pen Bar at the Australian National University. His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste just made a speech in the hall next door. His excellency talked about the failure of peacekeeping operations in Africa which did not take into account local political considerations and his own efforts to help. He criticized large multi-national companies and powerful nations for exploiting the resources of developing nations. He mentioned how Australia had urged other nations to respect the UN laws on the exploitation of maritime resources, while not doing so with Timor-Leste. However, he also acknowledged Australia's role in bringing independence to his country. He ended on a note of optimism speaking of the development of his country since independence. ps: This talk has some parallels with the earlier one by Professor Keith Jeffery on intelligence agencies, as Australia stands accused of having spied on Timor-Leste during resource negotiations.

Intelligence Organisations and IS

Greetings from the Australian National University where Professor Keith Jeffery, Queen’s University Belfast, is speaking on"Keeping secrets? Lessons from history on the challenges facing intelligence organisations in the age of IS". He commented that the Internet had redressed the balance of information in favor of the public. However, there is a danger of information which needs to be kept secret by government becoming public. He pointed out that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden were relativity low level functionaries in the US intelligence community, they had access to large volumes of information. He also pointed out that the quantity and quality of information about consumers which businesses have may be of higher quality than that at GCHQ. He related how Sir Compton Mackenzie revealed some details of UK intelligence in WW1 (he also appears in the novel "Murder and Mendelssohn" by Kerry Greenwood with the fictional Phryne Fisher).
Professor Jeffery also commented that "techies" seemed to be more likely reveal secrets that others and that ideological driven whistle-blowers are most useful sources of information.

Professor Jeffery mentioned the UK Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament's report "Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework" (12 March 2015):
i. The internet has transformed the way we communicate and conduct our day-to-day
lives. However, this has led to a tension between the individual right to privacy and the collective right to security, which has been the focus of considerable debate over the past
18 months.
ii. The leak by Edward Snowden of stolen intelligence material in June 2013 led to
allegations regarding the UK Agencies’ use of intrusive capabilities – in particular those
relating to GCHQ’s interception of internet communications. This Committee investigated
the most serious of those allegations – that GCHQ were circumventing UK law – in
July 2013. We concluded that that allegation was unfounded. However, we considered
that a more in-depth Inquiry into the full range of the Agencies’ intrusive capabilities
was required – not just in terms of how they are used and the scale of that use, but also
the degree to which they intrude on privacy and the extent to which existing legislation
adequately defines and constrains these capabilities. "
Unfortunately I had to go across campus to hear his Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and so missed the mention of IS by
Professor Jeffery.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Synthesizing Ambient Sound for Webinars?

Greetings from the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, where Miles Thorogood, PhD Student at SFU, is talking about his research on generating ambient sound-scapes for films and video games automatically. The idea is that a computer program can take the text description in the script "haunted house" and produce suitably creepy sounds.

It occurs to me this technique might also be used for webinars. At present typically most participants will have their microphone turned off to prevent interference. As a result the ambient sounds changes greatly from speaker to speaker, often with disconcerting completely silent sections then very loud distracted sounds. Perhaps the ambient sound software could be used to synthesize a consistent background sound, which is less distracting.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Building a Corporate Emissions Database

Olga Lysenko, Head of the Office of the CIO at the Australian Clean Energy Regulator
Olga Lysenko, Head of the Office of the CIO at the Australian Clean Energy Regulator (CER) will speak on "Building Australia's Premier Corporate Emissions and Energy Dataset: Making Sense of Complex Data from Multiple Databases for Multiple Programs" at DAMA/ACS, in Canberra, 5pm, 24th March 2015

ACS Canberra endorsed DAMA event: 

Building Australia's Premier Corporate Emissions and Energy Dataset Making Sense of Complex Data from Multiple Databases for Multiple Programs 

Established in 2012, the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is the government body responsible for administering legislation that will reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of clean energy. The CER administers the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS), the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the Carbon Pricing Mechanism (CPM), the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units and the Renewable Energy Target. This talk focuses primarily on the many challenges of developing the NGERS corporate greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and energy production dataset and reporting solution:
  • Consolidating data from 6 years in 4 instances of a legacy data entry system and in 1 instance of a new data entry system under concurrent development;
  • Making sense of complex data for all major fuel combustion and industrial processes for thousands of Australian facilities under legislated reporting rules that change every year;
  • Overcoming technical challenges including building a new enterprise data warehouse, consolidating the data and building an externally facing reporting portal; • Overcoming business challenges including setting up a data management group and data policies, and getting buy-in from key players;
  • Meeting reporting needs for multiple users and programs: CER as data user for administration of NGERS, ERF and the CPM, CER as publisher of certain public data on its website, and CER as data provider to other Commonwealth, state and territory agencies for policy development, program administration and international energy and climate change reporting; and
  • Steering the project through the maturing governance processes of a new agency under pressure to deliver politically contested programs in a very short timeframe.


Olga Lysenko Olga Lysenko is currently the Head of the Office of the CIO at the Clean Energy Regulator (CER). Prior to this she was the Executive Officer to the Chair and CEO of the CER. Before taking up that post she was the Director of the Business Intelligence area in IT where she established the Business Intelligence Section at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in 2010 and transitioned it to the CER when it was established in 2012.

Rino Ciaccia is a data management professional currently employed as Principal Consultant at RXP Services, based in Canberra. He has over 25 years’ experience in designing and building data management solutions both locally and abroad. He worked with Reuters in Australia and then Singapore providing software support for the development and maintenance of financial data products covering: fixed interest securities, equities, money, commodities and futures.

Jeremy O’Keefe Jeremy O’Keefe has managed the Business Intelligence Section at the CER since 2013, building up the CER’s Enterprise Data Warehouse and BI reporting capabilities for NGERS and other datasets. He has worked on climate change policy and programs since 1998 including setting up Carbon Price Mechanism registration and reporting processes, managing registrations and emissions reporting under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007, running tenders for ETS auctions and the ANREU (national register of carbon units), compiling emissions estimates for Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts, compiling economic projections of Australia’s emissions for electricity generation, agriculture and other sectors, and providing policy advice on emissions trading and carbon sinks.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Growing the Green ICT Sector in Europe

Mr. Leo Brincat, Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, has called for Green ICT to Boost Green Growth and Create Green Jobs in Europe, at an EU Environment Council Meeting (Government of Malta Press Release 7 March 2015). I am not sure what the Minister had in mind, but I have been teaching ICT Sustainability at the Australian National University (ANU) and designing a new course in "Innovation: Commercialisation and Intrepreneurship in Technology" to help students start-up their own business. I plan to be in Europe in late June for the 10th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE 2015). ANU has a Centre for European Studies funded jointly with the European Commission. I would be happy to discuss green ICT for growth with government and industry while in Europe.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Greetings from the Great Hall of the Australian National University in Canberra, where Ms Rose Gottemoeller, US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security is speaking on "Stemming the Nuclear Tide: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45". She has written on and been cited about "Nuclear Nonproliferation". Ms  Gottemoeller pointed out that it is the 40th anniversary of the "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons". Under current agreements Russia and the US will cut the the number of nuclear weapons to 1,550 by 2018. Ms  Gottemoeller credited Australia for putting in place the framework which allowed chemical weapons to be removed from Syria.

While reductions in numbers of nuclear weapons is a good thing, it occurs to me that those held by major powers are probably the least dangerous as they are unlikely to be used. A few weapons in the hands of small unstable states are far more likely to be used.

Also nations need to consider the control of new weapons which could make the risk of nuclear war more likely. In particular cyber-warfare has the potential to destabilize current international procedures to reduce tension. In addition the conventional arms race with submarines and amphibious warfare ships has the potential to increase the risk of war.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

UK Government Green ICT Report

The UK Government has released a "Greening Government ICT 2014 Annual Report". However, the report seems to be more about an abstract "Green ICT Maturity Assessment Model", than real reductions in energy use.

The report notes a lack of Green ICT skills and the use of the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). The ICT Sustainability course I run for ANU (this year's students are up to week 3) was commissioned for the Australian Computer Society who use SFIA and so is designed to align with SFIA (Version 4, Level 5).

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Terrorism Funded by BBQ Charcoal Smuggling

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Alan Cole OBE of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is speaking on "The ‘southern route’ and Indian ocean maritime crime". UNODC is looking for interns to work in the UNODC Maritime Crime Programme.

After discussing how the UN helped with the legal issues of warships dealing with piracy in the Indian Ocean. The UN has arranged for countries in the region to set up courts and prisons to accept those arrested for piracy.

Dr. Cole went on to the largely unsolved problem of interdicting drug trafficking outside territorial waters. While piracy is covered by international law, drug smuggling is under national jurisdiction and so difficult to deal with on the high seas.

Dr. Cole then made the surprising point that charcoal is being smuggled to fund Al Shabaab. Apart from the difficulty of finding a legal way to board ships and deal with people apprehended with something as harmless as charcoal, there is the issue of how to dispose of the seized cargo. In the case of charcoal it cannot be simply tipped overboard, as there could be hundreds of tons, which will float and be a pollutant. Reselling the contraband creates a risk of corruption and disrupting local markets. One option I suggest might be to turn the charcoal into briquettes or to burn it in the nearest coal fired power station or furnace. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

Greetings from the ANU Energy Change Institute in Canberra, where Dr Helen Locher from Hydro Tasmania is speaking on "Greening of the Hydropower Sector?". She is an Accredited Lead Assessor for the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. The protocol document (2010) is available in English, (as a 2.2 Mbyte PDF file od 220 pages), French Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and  Chinese.

One question is how this fits into more general envrionmental standards, such as the ISO 14000 environmental management series. The only two mentions of ISO 14001 are:
"Management: In addition, processes are in place to anticipate and respond to emerging risks and opportunities; and plans and processes are embedded within an internationally recognised environmental management system which is third party verified, such as ISO 14001." (p. 59)
"The approach of the Operations assessment tool is similar to that of ISO 14001, in that the existing condition is taken as the baseline, and risks are assessed against that condition." (p. 172)
I found there was work on a "Sustainability Assessment Protocol for Geothermal Utilization". Perhaps the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol could be generalized for any energy generating project.

Dr Locher explained that there had been limited take-up of the protocol in developing nations. But she also mentioned that the assessors had to take a week long course in London. Perhaps an on-line course would help make the process more accessible.