Sunday, May 31, 2015

Opportunity for Australian Defence Industry in Turkish Landing Ship Project

Spanish warship Juan Carlos L-61 visiting Istanbul.
Turkish company Sedef  have been selected to build a amphibious assault ship for the Turkish Navy in Istanbul. The ship will be based on Navantia's design of the  Juan Carlos I for the Spanish Navy.

The HMAS Canberra recently commissioned by the Australian Navy  is based on the same design (referred to by the RAN as "landing helicopter dock ships"). The superstructures for Canberra and sister ship Adelaide (now under construction) were built in Australia and there may be scope for Australian industry to assist with the Turkish build.
Cutaway Diagram of HMAS Canberra LHD Ship

Friday, May 29, 2015

Designing Governance for the 21st Century

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Shahar Hameiri, Murdoch University; Joanne Wallis, ANU; Sarah Phillips, University of Sydney are speaking on "Sovereignty and hybrid state-building or state formation?". The issue is how to set up a functioning government in places where there has been a failed state, such as in Somaliland

The term "hybrid" or "hybridity" seems to be used to indicate a blend of traditional local customs, combined with some form of a European nation state (although none of the speakers have explained the term so far). What I find curious is that the speakers seem to assume that European nation states are the normal and natural state of affairs and the customary forms of running a community are unnatural and unusual.

It would be interesting to carry out a quantitative study to see how much the nation state in a western country influences the lives of its citizens and how much local customs do. I suspect that national government in Australia has relaitvely little effect on the day to day lives of citizens.

It is the customs of the family, school, workplace, companies, body corporate and local government which have more effect on what I do day to day. I live in an apartment which is governed by a "body corporate" with its own rules as to what I can do (the body corporate owns a private park). The local shopping centre is protected by a private security guard, who has more influence on law-and-order than the official police. My work behaviour is governed by a code of ethics of my profession and the rules from academia. All these are endorsed by Australian law, but that law rarely comes into play.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Managing the World’s Natural Treasures

Greeting from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the book "Protected Area Governance and Management" has been launched by the Ambassador

to the EU. The complete text is available free on-line (in PDF of individual chapters, whole book and ePub formats) and it is designed so that chapters can be used in a course for free.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Concept, Purpose and Challenges
  3. Earth’s Natural Heritage
  4. Earth’s Cultural Heritage
  5. Social and Economic Influences Shaping Protected Areas
  6. Values and Benefits of Protected Areas
  7. Governance for the Conservation of Nature
  8. Managing Protected Areas
  9. Capacity Development
  10. Benefiting from Complexity Thinking
  11. Knowledge Generation, Acquisition and Management
  12. Leadership and Executive Management
  13. Planning
  14. Engagement and Participation in Protected Area Management: Who, why, how and when?
  15. The Media and Protected Areas
  16. Managing Threats
  17. Climate Change and Protected Areas
  18. Geoconservation in Protected Areas
  19. Managing Freshwater, River, Wetland and Estuarine Protected Areas
  20. Marine Protected Area Management
  21. Managing Protected Areas for Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Functions
  22. Managing Cultural Uses and Features
  23. Visitor Management
  24. Managing Operations and Assets
  25. Managing Resource Use and Development
  26. Managing Incidents
  27. Connectivity Conservation Management
  28. Protected Area Management Effectiveness
  29. Conclusion
ps: The book contains stunning photographs, but unfortunately this makes the downloads very large (59 MB for the whole book). I have suggested ANU Press produce a version of less than 6 MB, to make it more suitable for students to download. 

pps: The ePub version of the book can be unzipped to extract a HTML version of chapters or sections for use in study.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Finding Potential Terrorists Online

Greetings from the regular Information Retrieval meeting at CSIRO in Canberra, where
Omid Rezvani (ANU) is speaking on "Community detection in large networks". The idea is that you can look at the links between people on-line to identify communities. This is typically used for targeted marketing: if someone in the identified group like a product, the others are likely to as well. Another use for the technology, I suggest, is to find people at risk of being recruited by terrorist groups (which the PM is concerned about). There has been some recent research on this.

Autonomous Weapons in Canberra

Professor Chris Jenks, from the Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law, will speak on "Crossing the Rubicon: the path to offensive autonomous weapons" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 5:30pm 1 June 2015.
"The current fixation with the possibility of autonomous weapons attacking humans overlooks their current anti-material applications as well as usage domains with minimal chance of civilian casualties. Lethal autonomous weapons systems are not coming, they’re already here. Militaries have employed defensive autonomous weapon systems for decades, and are starting to utilize them in large numbers or swarms.
At the same time the international community has paused at a legal, ethical and moral precipice of utilizing offensive autonomous weapons systems, hyperbolically called ‘killer robots’. What may prove the catalyst in crossing this Rubicon is that the most effective way to attack a defence comprised of swarming autonomous defensive systems is with their offensive analog. And the advancements in defensive systems necessitating consideration of this decision will flow from the surge in commercial use of unmanned aerial systems beginning this year with the United States issuing regulations for their domestic use.
The employment of increasingly autonomous offensive systems will not be predicated on advancements in artificial intelligence but rather on a time honored principle of military technological advances – development of an effective measure inevitably leads to equally if not more effective counter measures."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What to See in Cambridge (UK) in July

Any suggestions as to what to do in Cambridge (UK) in July? I have visited twice before by bus and bicycle.

I will be at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, 21 to 26 July 2015, to present a paper at the 10th International Conference on Computer Science and Education (ICCSE 2015). Normally when speaking at a conference I also give a free public talk for government, professionals and academics, hosted by a local body. Anyone willing to host a talk please let me know. On a previous visit I talked at the Cambridge Computer Lab.

The paper for the conference (prepared with Hao Wu), is "Time-shifted Learning: Merging Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques for E-Learning":
E-learning techniques are usually classified into two broad categories: synchronous and synchronous. The core question of this research is how to combine synchronous and asynchronous techniques in e-learning software, so it can have a stronger connection with constructivist education. The benefits and drawbacks of existing e-learning software is looked at broadly. Three popular e-learning packages used at the Australian National University are investigated: Adobe Connect (synchronous), Moodle and edX (asynchronous). The results of a brief survey of edX students is reported. Using the results of this work a team of students at the ANU Research School of Computer Science is now implementing enhanced asynchronous software to be plugged into Moodle and other asynchronous e-learning packages.
Worthington, T. & Wu, H. (2015, July). Time-shifted Learning: Merging Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques for E-Learning. In Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 20152 10th International Conference on (accepted paper). Preprint:

ps: Any suggestions on where to stop and speak on the way from Australia to Europe would also be welcome. For example, in 2008 I stopped off in Kuala Lumpur and filled in for a missing speaker at the 2008 World Congress of Information Technology.

Dr Bjorn Lomborg to Advise on Australia’s Aid Program

The innovationXchange is an initiative from the Australian Government to provide innovation in Australia’s aid program. That appears a worthwhile idea. However, Dr Bjorn Lomborg has been nominated to the innovationXchange International Reference Group. UWA recently withdrew from the Australian Consensus Centre project, due to Dr Lomborg's involvement in it. It is unfortunate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs exercised poor judgment by nominating Dr Lomborg to the innovationXchang. Other members of the reference group might want to reconsider their membership of it, as a result.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Climate change and human rights

Greetings from the Australian National University where Dr Matthew Rimmer is speaking on "Mary Robinson’s declaration of climate justice: climate change, human rights and fossil fuel divestment". Former Irish President, Mary Robinson explains in her autobiography "Everybody Matters" how she came to see climate change as a human rights issue.She latest established the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice (MRFCJ).

Dr Rimmer then discussed the Declaration on Climate Justice, modeled on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is also a three minute video "Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice Conference Animation". 

Dr Rimmer then went through some options for the Paris Accord, such as financial aid, a climate fund and access to Green technology. He also mentioned Tesla's batter technology for homes. However, I suggest that adapting the batteries from luxury cars is unlikely to provide an affordable energy system for the world's poorest people.

While well meaning, I have doubts as to the practical value of such a climate declaration. Demanding fair and just opportunities for the poor and vulnerable is unlikely to change the decision making of those who are rich and in positions of power. What is needed is to provide the poor and vulnerable with a voice in negotiations.

I suggest making use of the Internet to make up of the lack of voice of the poor and vulnerable. As an example, developing nations could be provided with an on-line system which would provide them with real time expert advice in international negotiations. This would counter the advantage which wealthy nations have in negations where they have large teams of negotiators backs up by hundreds of researches.

Developing nations delegates could use their smart phones to transmit what is happening in the negotiations to a team of thousands of volunteers around the world, who would carry out analysis, compare what is happening in other forums and make recommendations. Perhaps such a system would make a good project for Australian Ethical Investment to fund.

Dr Rimmer presented an overview of authors on fossil fuel divestment and examples at universities. What struck me was these were all from the USA (and one from Australia). What struck me was that this seems to be rich westerners deciding how to help poor people in developing nations, without bothering to ask people in those countries what they think. About the only exception to this was one quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Dr Rimmer's talk follows on from one by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Professor Broome, one of the authors of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Founding Canberra's Information Economy

Greetings from the Open Knowledge Australia event on "Open Data and Digital Services: Foundations for a New Information Economy", which is, appropriately enough being held at NICTA Canberra. The event goes until 4pm (and then we are off to the UniPub across the road), if you would like to join us.

Nicholas Gruen, Chair of Open Knowledge Australia, gave an amusing introduction on the history of public goods, before getting on to suggest more seriously that open data about the economy could reduce damaging economic cycles.

Jed Sundwall, Global Open Data Technical BDM for Amazon Web Services, mentioned that there is Landsat Satellite Data on AWS. This is a cleaver move as customers will need to pay for a lot of AWS processing to process the satellite data.

Brendan Bouffler: Scientific Computing, Amazon Web Services talked about how to process data from the Square Kilometer Array in the cloud.


Pia Waugh:  Director of Analytics and Discovery Layer, Digital Transformation Office
Steve Bennett: Community Contributor, Open Knowledge Australia
Steven De Costa: Open Knowledge Australia, CKAN Association and Link Digital
Maree Adshead: CEO, Open Data Institute Queensland

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

IT matters of interest in the 2015/2016 Federal Budget

Just about every year since the Australian Federal Budget was first put on the web, I have done a quick search though the documents to find matters of interest in information technology.


The budget search service failed at 10:30pm, reporting "A software error has occurred.". So I used Google to search for "Information Technology", finding seven results (up from four in 2014/2015):

Budget 2015 - Protecting Australia

"The new measures include $296 million to strengthen the capabilities of our intelligence agencies, including updating information technology systems. ...
New legislation requires telecommunication companies to retain metadata for two years. We are providing $131 million to assist the telecommunications industry to upgrade its systems to implement this policy." (Repeated in PDF version of "Protecting Australia - Budget").

Metadata ...Budget 2015 - Overview - Fairness of benefits
"We will invest an initial $60 million to kick start the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation to upgrade the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) information technology to meet the demands of today’s digital world." (repeated in PDF version of "Overview - Budget").

Defence Housing Australia — reform
"The Government will provide $4.0 million over two years from 2015‑16 to undertake a reform of Defence Housing Australia (DHA). This will include a review of DHA's accounting, information technology and business reporting systems to improve transparency of the cost of providing DHA's services, as well as a review of DHA's business plans to support the sustainable delivery of quality and accessible housing and accommodation services. "

Part 3: Capital Measures
Table 3: Capital measures since the 2014-15 MYEFO

Information technology security enhancements for Parliamentarians $6.0M

Information technology security enhancements for Parliamentarians

"The Government will provide $12.9 million over four years from 2015-16 to the Department of Finance to install more secure networking equipment and to provide additional capability for secure wireless infrastructure in electorate offices and Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices connecting to the Parliamentary Computing Network. The replacement of obsolete communications equipment will result in improved information technology security for electorate offices and parliamentary
systems in Parliament House. "

"Some of the overall reductions in staffing levels will be offset by temporary increases in particular areas to manage implementation of policy change or to build infrastructure required to achieve future automation and efficiencies. This includes investment in the information technology systems of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the first tranche of the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation Programme."


The "National Broadband Network" (NBN) recieves limited attention for such a large project, with only two mentions, down from four last year and eleven the year before. Curiously I could not find a dollar figure for the NBN, instead "Your Government online":
"The Government is delivering the National Broadband Network faster and at less cost, to enable all Australians to connect to transformative services online. ...
That is why the Government is investing $254.7 million in the Digital Transformation Agenda to transform government service delivery.
This includes the establishment of a Digital Transformation Office to drive the Agenda and ensure that Government services are simpler and easier to use and can be completed from start to finish online.
The first phase of the Agenda will include provisions to:
  • implement a Digital Service Standard to apply to all Government agencies to make services simpler, faster and easier to use;
  • design and deliver more myGov services with an improved digital inbox, ‘tell us once’ services, and a new digital account for businesses that can be accessed using myGov; and
  • a simpler, more consistent and efficient grants administration process across government.
The Agenda will also include the implementation of a Streamlined Business Registration service announced in the Jobs and Small Business package. This will simplify the process of registering a business."

The provision for the "Stage One and establishment of the Digital Transformation Office" is a relatively modest $0.3M.

Pia Waugh, from the Digital Transformation Office  will be speaking at  Open Knowledge Australia's "Open Data and Digital Services: Foundations for a New Information Economy" in Canberra, 2:30pm, 13 May 2015.

In 2013/2014 the Government "recommitted" to "Remote Indigenous Internet Access", but but without an explicit amount of money committed to the program. Last year there were no such programs in the budget.This year there is provision for: " remote Indigenous internet training"  $2.2M.

In 2013/2015 the Government announced it would save $31.2 M over two years by incorporating the functions of the National Health Information Network (NHIN) into the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system. Last year $140.6 million was provided in for the PCEHR. The government  has now renamed the project "My Health Record":
"The Government will invest $485 million to improve the electronic health record system for all Australians."
 This project has already cost many hundreds of millions of dollars for little result. I suggest it requires investigation by the Auditor-General, if not the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).


This year budget web site worked well (except the search function). Each year from 1996 to 2006 the budget web site was improved. By 2007-08 it reached a stable design, also used for to 2011/2013, using HTML 4.01 Transitional. The 2014/15 had s similar design using HTML5.  The 2015/2016 website has changed to a more mobile friendly design. The home page scored 91/100 on Google's Mobile PageSpeed Insights for User Experience. The page received a 62 / 100 for Speed, which is not as good as it could be, given the heavy traffic it is likely to experience.

The home page failed a W3C HTML Markup Validation test, with fifteen errors. These are not serious problems and easily fixed, but it is curious that such a high profile page is not tested more thoroughly.

The home page scored a very poor 0 out of 100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker. The total size of the page is  527.2KB (document: 14.6KB - stylesheets: 81.4KB - images: 431.1KB). This much smaller than  2014/2015 when the page ballooned to 17.9MB, but the style-sheets and images could be trimmed.

The budget home page failed a aChecker automated accessibility test (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) but with just two very minor and easily corrected problems.

The Budget is released under a a Creative Commons BY Attribution 3.0 Australia license, in line with open access government policy (commenced 2012/13).

Comments on past budgets:

2014 Changes to Australian Higher Education in the 2014/2015 Federal Budget

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Accessible Web Based E-Books for Education

I will be speaking on "Accessible Web Based E-Books for Education", at the A11y Bytes Canberra, as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, 6.00pm 20 May 2015 (register for free).
"In 2008 the Australian Computer Society commissioned an e-leaning course on reducing greenhouse gas emissions using computers. The course is offered via the web using the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), through ACS Virtual College, from Open Universities Australia, the Australian National University and Athabasca University (Canada). The notes are available with the courses as a simple Moodle eBook, web pages, an Amazon Kindle eBook, ePub eBook, or an IMS Content Package. Using a subset of HTML to prepare the material allowed it to be easily ported before formats , as well as making it easier to download on a mobile device and on a slow link. The format also makes the content more accessible."
There are also events on digital accessibility in Sydney and Melbourne on 20 July and an all day conference on digital accessibility in Sydney, 22 July.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

We'll Always Have Paris: Climate Change Agreement in 2015

Greetings from the at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will speak on "The Road to Paris - Efforts to Achieve a New Climate Change Agreement in 2015".  Secretary Figueres started on a surprisingly positive note, saying that preparations for the Paris negotiations are ahead of schedule. Nations are currently working out what measures they can present. Currently there are 38 proposals registered, mostly from developed nations, including the EU and USA.

Secretary Figueres pointed out that Pope Francis and other faith leaders had identified climate change a moral issue. She also referred to the Umbrella Group which is one of the groupings with Australia is notional member of (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US).

Four issues:
  1. How can countries with unique requirements b accommodated?
  2. Less progress on adaption, than reductions. This is a particular for developing nations.
  3. How to deal with emissions from emerging developing nations.
  4.  How will the ecological balance be restored in the next century? The current negotiations, even under the most optimistic estimates will not reduce, let alone reverse, global warming.
  5. Ensure legal basis of Paris agreement. Countries can withdraw from the agreement if they are not meeting their obligations.
  6. "Who is going to pay for this?"
It seems to me that one way to have the negotiations more equitable would be to have emissions measures per capita. Developed nations would therefore have more to do as each of their citizens are causing much more pollution.

It would seem to me that in terms of international enforcement, it would be best to have incentives for business. As an example, products imported from a non-signatory country could be subject to a carbon tariff, whereas those from signatories would be tariff free.

Last month Professor Broome explained how previous climate change negotiations were manipulated by some developed nations who could afford large well staffed negotiating teams, to the detriment of developing nations. I suggest that the Paris meeting should be held on-line, allowing developing nations to pool their expertise and take advice from on-line volunteers.

Secretary Figueres was not what I was expecting for a UN official, being passionate, entertaining and informative. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is in safe hands.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Internet and the Chinese Government

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Greg Austin, Professorial Fellow, EastWest Institute (New York) is speaking on "China and Ethics in the Information Age". Professor Austin is the author of Cyber policy in China (Wiley, 2014) and a talk on the book from the Brookings Institution is also available.

Professor Austin's talk was of interest as I teach computer ethics to ANU students, including those from China. His work is based on the question of how "leadership values" are changed by the Internet. He argues that China's adoption of the Internet accelerated the ethical contest with the USA.
Professor Austin seems to be assuming there are ethical values built into the Internet, these are the same as those held by the US Government and are different to these of the Chinese leadership. It would be useful if he could provide details.

Professor Austin claimed that the Chinese government claimed they could control the Internet in China and maintain communist ideology. But it is not clear what form of "control" he thinks the Chinese government was aiming for. Also he makes no mention of western government's attempts to control the Internet. Censorship does not need to have 100% coverage to be effective, there just has to be enough of a risk of punishment for citizens to censor themselves.
Professor Austin's assumption seems to be that western governments do not want to, or need to, control the Internet, because it has western democratic values built in. However, I was once asked by an Australian Senator in a hearing on Internet censorship why all material to be put on the Internet could not be simply sent to the Australian government for approval before publication. This Senator clearly did not believe in free and open communication. More recently the Australian Parliament passed laws to allow all citizens use of the Internet and telecommunication to be monitored by the security services without requiring a search warrant from a judge.
What might be useful would be an empirical analysis of information flows in different countries, to see how open they are, rather than an analysis of what their governments (and others) say is the case.

Professor Austin claimed there were 130 million unregistered mobile phones in use in China. He suggested these could be used for making anonymous postings to the Internet. However, all mobile phones transmit an identifying serial number. It would be very simple to correlate the number with the pattern of use, to identify the user.

Difficult issues about regulation of the Internet applies to all governments. As an example, three people have been arrested for plotting over the Internet, to carry out an ISIS terrorist attack at Melbourne ANZAC Day commemorations,

Professor Austin made the point that western countries have far more capability to monitor communications than China and so do not need so much overt censorship. He also pointed out that the consequences of on-line dissent is so much less in the west. However, I suggest this is changing. As an example, employees and public servants in Australia are now less free to discuss issues due to social media. Employees of Transfield Services may have their employment terminated for taking part in a discussion of immigration policy on-line or if they join a church or political party which opposes current Australian government policy.

Efforts to Achieve a New Climate Change Agreement in 2015

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will speak on "The Road to Paris - Efforts to Achieve a New Climate Change Agreement in 2015" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 4.30, 7 May 2015.
"Christiana is in Australia to meet with the Australian government to talk about the upcoming climate change conference at the end of the year in Paris. Countries are currently developing a new legally binding agreement on climate change. It is hoped by many, that this new agreement will initiate new and decisive action to address climate change from 2020 onwards."

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

History and Future of Programing Languages

Greetings from the Canberra branch of the Australian Computer Society where Dr Jan Newmarch, from Box Hill Institute, is speaking on "The history and future of programing languages". He sees there will be a division into complex (Java, Scala)and simple (Go, Rust) languages in the future.

Dr Newmarch prefers the simple languages, provided they easily support libraries from other languages. He pointed out the usefulness of reflection, where a program can examine and modify itself.

Dr Newmarch described object-orientated imperative languages as mainstream, with some functional techniques being introduced. He also described the explosion of specialist languages, such as R and frameworks which are almost languages, such as Hadoop.

At question time Dr Newmarch  as asked about Australian developed programming languages. I suggested "Blue", which he explained was a teaching language from University of Sydney. 

While in Canberra, Dr Newmarch has been introducing the Australian Government to the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry PI is a recent product of the "Cambridge Phenomenon".

ps:  Dr Richard P. Gabriel and Dr Guy Steele reprised their presentation "50 in 50: 50 Programming Languages in 50 Years" in Canberra in 2010.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Fossil Fuel Lifestyle on a Renewable Budget

Frank Jotzo and Luke Kemp, from the Australian National University, produced the report "Australia can cut emissions deeply and the cost is low" (2015) for the World Wildlife Fund. That is a bold claim to make and, as I encourage my sustainability students to do, I thought it worth doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see if it is possible.

Jotzo and Kemp suggest Australia can be carbon neutral by 2050 though:
  1. "Ambitious energy efficiency improvements throughout the economy.
  2. Low carbon electricity supplied by either 100% renewables or a mixture of renewable energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  3. Electrification and fuel switching towards biofuels and gas. 
  4. Reducing non-energy emissions through carbon farming and forestry, process improvements and CCS in energy intensive industrial applications."
But rather than make a whole of nation calculation, can a single householder maintain their lifestyle and be carbon neutral? The back of my ActewAGL electricity bill indicates that a one person household uses about 10 kWh of electricity a month.

A Nissan Leaf electric car has a range of 117 km with a 24 kWh battery, or 0.2 kWh per km. The average car is driven 12,881 km a year, or 1,073 km a month, which would require 220 kWh.

Assuming your job takes another 2010 kWh per employee per year, or 168 kWh a month.

That is in total, per month:
  • Home: 10  kWh
  • Transport: 220 kWh
  • Job: 168 kWh
  • Total: 398 kWh

Annual average solar radiation for the least sunny parts of southern Australia is 12 MJ/m2 per day, or 101 kWh/m2 per month. Assuming photo-voltaic system with 15% efficiency, this would be 15 kWh/m2 per month.

So the householder would need 27 m2 of solar panels. A modest one bedroom, one story home would have a roof area sufficient for this and so be able to generate enough energy for a reasonable Australian lifestyle.

Please note that I have not allowed for the energy needed for food production, manufacture of goods or their transport, nor losses for storage of energy. But also I have not allowed for the savings in energy from multiple dwelling households and use of public transport.

Also there is the issue of cost. Assuming PV solar panels cost $2,000 per kW (including installation) and get 3 hours of peak sun a day, producing 91 kWh a month. To power the single dweller's lifestyle will cost about $8,700 in PV panels. However, if these were installed as part of a manufactured home's roof the cost may come down to $4,400 (and lasting 10 years).

But the householder will also need batteries to store energy, which is where renewable energy becomes expensive. The 24-kWh battery pack for a Nissan Leaf costs $6,500 and is expected to last 8 years. The householder will need 13 kWh a day, even when the sun is not shining. Enough batteries for three days electricity supply would cost $10,600, or  about $111 a month.

However, this all assumes no energy saving measures, which Jotzo and Kemp point out can make a difference. As an example, while the typical one person household in Canberra uses 10 kWh of electricity a month, my energy efficient apartment uses about half that. Also I can walk to work, at my home office or corporate office, most days and so drive my car about one tenth the national average. As I need little more than a computer, my workplace uses about one half the amount typical. Adding up all this, per month:
  • Home: 5 kWh
  • Transport: 22 kWh
  • Job: 76 kWh
  • Total: 103 kWh
This would require a 7 m2 PV panel costing $2,300 and $2,700 of batteries, or $48 a month. There would be enough room on the roof of an three story apartment block for the solar panels to power each apartment.

The above figures are approximate "back of the envelope" calculations. However, they are relatively conservative and suggest a comfortable Australian lifestyle could be carbon neutral using current technology.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Will The Internet Change the Chinese Government?

Professor Greg Austin, Professorial Fellow, EastWest Institute (New York) will speak on "China and Ethics in the Information Age", 12:30pm, 6 May 2015, at the Australian National University in Canberra. Professor Austin is the author of Cyber policy in China (Wiley, 2014) and a talk on the book from the Brookings Institution is also available.

It occurs to me that the "universalizing effects" of the information age Professor Austin refers to also apply to other governments, including that of the USA. It is usually assumed that the Internet is a product of the USA and brings with it US values, but it should be noted that the World Wide Web was developed by and for European scientists, with different values.

Abstract for Professor Austin's Canberra Talk

China’s leaders want the country’s citizenry and other governments to believe that the Communist Party controls the ethical settings of the country’s participation in the global information society, especially in respect of the principle of “internet sovereignty” and state censorship. This is a propaganda claim that can be challenged on several levels. At the theoretical level, relying on philosophers of the information age, we can conclude that once China’s leaders made a commitment to transform it into an advanced information society, deeply integrated into a global information ecosystem, they became subject to new ethical realities.

A theoretical view of the information age as portending some sort of ethical transformation finds support among China’s ruling elite. These theoretical views are being reflected in public source analysis in China of the evolution of ethics in response to the dilemmas of the information age. On the basis of both theory and observed reality, one can argue that the macro-ethical settings for China’s participation in the information age are very different from what Chinese leaders want it to be and say it is. There are, simultaneously, powerful universalizing effects of the information age, for better and for worse, and powerful fragmenting forces, for better and for worse, that the Chinese leaders say they can contain but almost certainly cannot.