Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ICT Reducing European Carbon Emissions

BT have released the 39 page report "The role of ICT in reducing carbon emissions in the EU" (May 2016). The report makes the bold claim that ICT has the potential to reduce EU carbon emissions 37% over 2012 levels by 2030. These savings would come primarily from manufacturing, energy industries and buildings. These are very bold claims and it is not clear from the report how these reductions are expected to occur.

Interestingly, along with the usual "smarts", such as Smart Buildings, Smart Energy and Smart Logistics, are "Smart Agriculture",  e-learning,  e-work and e-health.

In the course "ICT Sustainability" I teach students about how to estimate and reduce emissions using ICT. However, as the students soon realize, the hard part is not inventing a savings measure but motivating organizations and individuals to make the changes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What it Takes to be a Technical Co-founder

Greetings from the startup accelerator, Blue Chilli, in Sydney, where Alan Jones talked on "What Does it Take to be a Technical Co-founder?". This is a meeting of the Australian Computer Society's Startups and Small-Business Special Internet Group. Alan stared by talking about the creation of Yahoo Australia and New Zealand. He explained that there was no substitute for the experience of being in a start-up and one of the band of brothers. Alan suggested that Australia is well positioned to export on-line products and services, without the talent to do it being drawn into Silicon Valley. One interesting piece of advice was to work in a start-up before launching your own bright idea. Advisers might bet 1% of the equity of a start-up in place of cash, but Alan suggested checking what it is worth. Interestingly Alan suggested not signing, or asking for, a non-disclosure agreement, as these are difficult to enforce and limit your ability to work for future start-ups. He suggested using Harvest, or similar, to track contributions to projects. I was also surprised that Alan recommended participating in competitions. He pointed out that family and friends are the major source of seed funding in Australia.

I am the instructor for the Australian Computer Society's "New Technology Alignment" (NTA) on-line postgraduate course, starts 19 June and designing an innovation course.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seizing the full opportunities presented by the government’s digital agenda

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society in Canberra, where Lalit Guglani and Andrew Robson from Callida Consulting are speaking on "Seizing the full opportunities presented by the government’s digital agenda – why bother and how? - ACS EA SIG". They outlined the benefits from having joined up digital government (and the need for security and privacy). Also they emphasized the cultural changes which accompany technological developments tend to be forgotten.

Lalit and Andrew suggested that channels need to be combined for providing services to the citizens. However, I suggest I different approach can be used, which is a digital channel, supplemented by other means. Government can't afford to  provide more and more channels: shop-fronts, kiosks, Internet, mobile, apps and so on. Instead there could be one digital platform accessed directly by the citizen as an app and mobile friendly web site. The same channel can also be accessed through a kiosk and indirectly through staff at a shop-front.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mobile Cloudlets for Energy Reduction

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the Austrlaian National Univerity in Canberra, where Qiufen Xia is speaking on "Cost-Effective Resource Allocation and Throughput Maximization in Mobile Cloudlets and Distributed Clouds". The idea is that the Internet "cloud" now has an additional bottom tier, which is mobile devices connected by a WiFi access point. It might be assumed, as I did, that the mobile devices would just act as terminals for customers to access large data centers. However, there are now so many mobile devices that they have significant storage and processing capacity. However, efficiently using so many devices so widely distributed is a difficult problem. One reason to worry about this is to reduce the significant energy use of the Internet (Xu, Liang & Xia,2015).


Z. Xu, W. Liang and Q. Xia, "Electricity Cost Minimization in Distributed Clouds by Exploring Heterogeneity of Cloud Resources and User Demands," Parallel and Distributed Systems (ICPADS), 2015 IEEE 21st International Conference on, Melbourne, VIC, 2015, pp. 388-395.
doi: 10.1109/ICPADS.2015.56 URL:

Monday, May 09, 2016


Last Friday night I attended Café Scientifique at Alliance Française de Canberra (AFC). The Australian French Association for Science and Technology (AFAS) arranged talks on "big data" (Mégadonnées) by local experts.

AFC promotes French culture and language. They have a modest building, like a school-house, in the Canberra suburb of O'Connor. The big data discussion was a little unusual and I did not understand what it had to do with Australia and France cooperating on technology. About the only recent cooperation which comes to mind is building submarines. ;-)

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Promise of Digital Government

Greetings from the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, where I have been taking part in a forum on digital transformation. The speaker was Mr Angus Taylor MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation. Mr Taylor is author of The Promise of Digital Government: Transforming Public Services, Regulation, and Citizenship (Menzies Research Centre, 1 April 2016). It was impressive to hear from a minister who is so across his portfolio that he had written on the subject. One correction to what the Minister said: the essay is available on Amazon (both in paper and Kindle formats). The forum was hosted by Inside Canberra.

IT matters of interest in the 2016/2017 Federal Budget

From 1996, when the Australian budget was first put on-line, to 2015, I produced a summary of IT related items. This year the Australian Computer Society sponsored a "Budget Insider 2016", so I have not produced my own summary. However, here are some brief comments:

The governments' Youth Jobs PaTH for pre-employment skills training sounds worthwhile. However the government needs to put in place effective measures to prevent fraud in the system, as has happened with the VET-HELP scheme (with several billion dollars lost).

What is not mentioned on education in the budget is how to manage the transformation from classroom to on-line. If Australian institutions do not make this change in the next five to ten years, the current education export industry will collapse and become an education services deficit of about $25B per year. To help prevent that I have prepared a proposal for a train-the-trainer program on Entrepreneurial Skills and Digital Technology. I plan to present this at an international computer education conference later in the year.

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) is unlikely to be any more successful than the NEHTA (National E-Health Transition Authority) it replaces, in adoption of the e-Health records. After expenditure of more than a billion dollars there is little to show. The project should be abandoned and rethought: What is the government trying to accomplish? How best can it be done? Who has succeeded at this elsewhere?

The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) has been given some more time to prove itself. But I suggest that if it does not start producing some tangible results in the next year, it should, and will, be scrapped.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Australian Government Smart Cities Plan

The Australian Government released a "Smart Cities Plan" (29 April 2016). This has three components: Smart Investment, Smart Policy and Smart Technology. There is only $50 million in expenditure proposed, for Infrastructure Planning. However, this could have a major influence on Australian investment in cities, as local and state governments would be able to obtain an Australian government guarantee for borrowing if they obtain federal approval for projects.

The Smart Cities Plan also mentions use of smart technology and Regional cities. An example mentioned are high speed rail through "innovative funding and financing" (that is by capturing the increase in land value along the route).

One way I suggest technology could be used is to accelerate the development of new cities on new high speed rail routes and reduce the cost. People will be reluctant to move to a new city until it has a hospital, university, business center, entertainment, shops and transport system. These could all be provided cheaper and more quickly by using new technology. That will enable the sale of residential and business land more quickly in the new city, thus reducing the cost of finance.

However, there is a risk that the new "Infrastructure Financing Unit" (IFU) will become a real world version of the fictional "Nation Building Authority" (NBA) in the TV comedy "Utopia". The NBA is constantly frustrated in its plans for long term development, by the short term political aims of the elected politicians.