Saturday, November 16, 2019

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Annual "unparliament" at Old Parliament House?

Asia Pacific Hall at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
SFU Asia Pacific Hall
At Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On,  we are back from work-shopping actions to progress. Mine was to propose an annual "unparliament" be held at Old Parliament House.

The Simon Fraser University  Centre for Dialogue has a purpose designed circular room, the Asia Pacific Hall, for fostering constructive discussion.

OPH Senate Chamber
In contrast, Australia's Old Parliament House has two chambers with rows of seats facing each other, designed for an adversarial approach where there is a government, and opposition (with a small amount of room for others on the "cross bench). However, the old building hardware could be updated, with some mobile devices and applicaions, to allow for techniques such as deliberative democracy. In effect we would be upgrading democracy with some teach.

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Open is Expensive, Not Just Free

At Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On, one of the un-conference presentations was on "Open is Expensive, Not Just Free". The essence of this seemed to be pointing out that open access initiatives are usually supported by unpaid volunteers. The implication is that these initiatives can't be maintain, because we can't expect people to keep working for free. I suggest the start-up community has an answer to this. There are models by which people can work on free open products, but still make money from them. One example is "social enterprises". Also start-up centers, such as the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), train people how to build a business case, which includes who is going to pay, and also trains people to ask for money. Also there is The Mill House, which specializes in social enterprises.



There is a live stream and online questions are accepted. From the

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Recommendations

Minister's Office, Old Parliament House
At Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On, we broke into groups to look at the "Engage: getting on with Government 2.0" report recommendations.  There is a live stream and online questions are accepted. From the two groups I talked to Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online , has had mixed results. There are now many ways for government to collect citizens views online. However, public servants are, if anything, more constrained in doing anything with the results of the consultation. The digital public facing system is not well interfaced to the old analogue public service hierarchy. There is then a widening air-gap between the public service and the political level of government. 

To me this problem of getting anything done in government sounded an old problem. As a public servant,I had to occasionally work around the official processes to get anything done. This was usually with official approval. For these purposes links to academia and the professions are useful. Unfortunately in the Internet age it is very much more difficult to have an off the record, or "other hat" discussion. To that end I have added "Teaching Gov 2.0 to Government" to the list of topics for discussion.

A recent example is that ANU will run the Cyber Bootcamp Project for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Such courses provide a way for government employees from across governments to have a relatively free discussion. Students can explore ideas as students, then work out how the outcomes can be put to their organizations as initiatives. This also happens in professional bodies, and standards committees.

ps: My old posts from ten years ago are at gov2taskforce 

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years Done

Pia Andrews
At Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On, Pia Andrews gave an upbeat summary of achievements.Pia  pointed out that, for example, the Australian Federal Government adopted an open access creative commons license for its documents, and state agencies adopted more online engagement. However, she suggested more recently this engagement has changed to consultation, rather than encouraging more active citizens participation. I have noticed this, being invited to what are characterized as "co-design" workshops with government, but which are really old fashioned, customer focus groups, dressed up with some hashtags. There is a live stream and online questions are accepted. 
ps: My old posts from ten years ago are at gov2taskforce 

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years Off

Nicholas Gruen,
CEO, Lateral Economics
At Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On, Nicholas Gruen is reflecting on the original intent of the Taskforce and what happened. There is a live stream and online questions are accepted. He showed some "historical artifacts" slides, which showed the excitement and potential of Gov 2.0 ten years ago. One aspect was how outsiders, not from government, could have input. The widespread interest in the report "Engage: getting on with Government 2.0", was its translation into Korean. However DR. Gruen's summary was "We got our recommendations accepted, but then they were not implemented".

Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On

Greetings from Old Parliament House in Canberra, where the Director is opening Gov 2.0 Taskforce: Ten Years On. I will be blogging on it throughout the day. There is a live stream and online questions are accepted. My old posts from ten years ago are at gov2taskforce. Here is the official announcement of the event:
"It has been 10 years since the Gov 2.0 Taskforce handed down it's report. Those were optimistic days, so let's review & plan next steps. ...

About this Event

A few folk who were involved or contributors to the Gov 2.0 Taskforce (2009) thought it might be useful to reflect on the 10 years since the Report was delivered. Those were optimistic days and a strong community formed around the activities and engagement from the Taskforce. The Report recommendations were accepted almost entirely by the Government Response, so 10 years on, how well was the intent and vision of the Report realised, and what do we need to do next?
Our sincere thanks to the Museum for Australian Democracy (and Democracy 2025) for being the venue sponsor and supporter for the event. The event will be hosted at Old Parliament House, the perfect setting!
Thanks also to Cordelta for coming on board as a corporate sponsor and The Mandarin as media sponsor.
The goal of this event is threefold and would involve a diverse crowd that broadly reflects the communities and sectors of Australia:
  1. To reflect on 10 years since the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report, progress made or not.
  2. To identify and articulate the barriers to progress, and consider the old, new and emerging opportunities and threats.
  3. To (re}energise and activate a diverse community around the goal of better public sectors for a better society, both through reconnecting in this event, and through creating and committing to actions over the coming year.
The event will be in Canberra, where the Taskforce was launched, but people are welcome to create satellite events to connect local communities using the live stream and online tools to contribute to the day.
Please note this event is being run by volunteers, and any feedback, volunteering or support is welcome.
We hope this event helps contribute some momentum to a range of community and cross sector activities. We believe this needs to happen if we are to get the public sector we need. One that is collaborative, resilient, trustworthy, fair and which provides a stable foundation upon which all people can thrive.
Please also book a place in the kids creche if you need it, noting that teenagers are welcome in the event on a normal ticket.
We also have an anonymous survey running to get pre-event feedback to help inform the day, so if you can spare about 10-15 mins, please get a cuppa and participate in the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Recommendations Report Card survey.
The rough agenda is:
Introductions
  • 09.30 - Welcome to Country
  • 09:40 - Introductions and outline for the day
  • 09:45 - Nicholas Gruen reflects on the original intent and hopes/fears of the Taskforce and observations from the last decade.
  • 10:00 - What was implemented at the time?
  • 10:05 - Government 2.0 as an enabler of citizen led initiatives
  • 10:15 - Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report Card - survey result overview 
  • 10:30 - Report card group session: To reflect on the survey results of progress made on Report recommendations, where we went backwards and what we wouldn’t do. Fully participatory session for attendees to discuss, review and identify what success might look like today..
  •  11:00 - Break - BarCamp signups
  • 11.20 - Primer talks for barcamp session (10 mins each):
  • Gov innovation trends: Alex Roberts reflects on global trends in public sector innovation and his observations of progress in Australia since the Gov 2.0 Taskforce (including with Design Gov).
  • Emerging tech and government - what technology trends have or could have the greatest impact for public sectors from the last 10 years?
  • 11:40 - BarCamp session: short self-nominated sessions for participants to present ideas about the barriers to progress, new threats and opportunities facing us, and to draw out the hopes and fears for the future.
  • 13:00 - Lunch
  • 14:00 - Action stations: After participants vote for the topics/themes they want to action, they each go to the “action station” of greatest interest around topics or themes to identify and commit to practical actions and experimentation over the coming year to improve public sectors, to further realise the original intent from the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, and to bring about a better future for all. Teams report their actions into the online tool.
  • 15:30 - Reflections from the day and report from action stations.
  • 16:00 - Close"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Digital Law on Rottnest Island

Selfie, at Rottnest Hotel
Perth in the distance, from
the front step of Rottnest Hotel
Greetings from Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Western Australia, near Perth, where I am with a couple of dozen lawyers, discussing how to digitize the law. I have been asked to talk for an hour on cyber security, which is not my specialty, and  I suspect I will not get past my third slide, without this room full of bright young things taking us off on an interesting tangent.

Some notes:

Smart contracts

Blockchain Challenges, ACS 2019
“A smart contract can be defined as an event-driven computer program that executes on an electronic distributed, decentralised, shared and replicated ledger used to automate transactions. Even where a smart contract is not technically a ‘contract at law’, it may give rise to obligations and remedies that sound like a contract in law.”
From: Blockchain Challenges for Australia: An ACS Technical Whitepaper, by Nick Addison, Samuel Brooks, Katrina Donaghy, Mark Ebeling, Scott Farrell, Vincent Gramoli, Adrian Lawrence, Marc Portlock, Mick Motion-Wise, Bridie Ohlsson, Beth Patterson, Philippa Ryan, Mark Staples, Ingo Weber, and Tom Worthington, 2019, Australian Computer Society, Page 37 (emphasis added). URL http://bit.ly/acsblock

Protecting Smart Contracts

ANU Cyber Reading Group
“Fuzzing is an approach to software testing where the system being tested is bombarded with test cases generated by another program. The system is then monitored for any flaws exposed by the processing of this input.”
From: Fuzzing: The State of the Art, by Richard McNally, Ken Yiu, Duncan Grove and Damien Gerhardy, Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Division, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, DSTO–TN–1043. URL https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a558209.pdf

The Human-Factor in Security





Fake Day Care Centre
Webpage, SMH, 2013
  • Social engineering can be used to fool staff to give access to a secure system.
  • The attacker collects information used for phishing attacks.

Fake childcare website from: Page, F., & Jean, P. (2013, April 16). Free childcare scam aimed at intelligence staff. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/security-it/free-childcare-scam-aimed-at-intelligence-staff-20130415-2hwhq.html

Asia Pacific Hypothetical

RAAF P-3 Orion Aircraft,
photo by 'Timothy'
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
"At 02:20 Zulu, 1 April 2017, one of our maritime surveillance aircraft was reported missing. The aircraft was conducting a freedom of navigation flyover on one of the reefs, subject to claim by several nations. The last recorded radio transcript … “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is Surveillance One Zero Five Charlie Delta, one zero zero kilometers South East of ... " [Transmission ends]” ...
It is proposed to target the opposing force's electronic control systems. This is expected to disable electrical systems and cause some local electrical fires. Our intelligence assets in the area will arrange for video of the damage to be posted to social media, for maximum news value. We will be working with civilian government personnel with special expertise, to prepare a human factor attack on their Internet of Things (IoT)."

From Cyberwar: Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics, by Tom Worthington for the course ANU Networked Information Systems, http://www.tomw.net.au/basic_ict_professional_ethics/#ch170077

Cyberweapons


Information Warfare Division (IWD),
Australian Department of Defence
"the purpose of a cyberweapon is to attack an information system in order to perpetrate harm".

From Henschke, A. (2014). A decision-making procedure for responding to cyber-attacks. In M. Keelty, A. Henschke, N. Evans, S. Ford; A Gastineau; L. West, Cybersecurity: mapping the ethical terrain. National Security College (ANU). URL http://nsc.anu.edu.au/documents/ocassional-paper-6-cyber-ethics.pdf


“Offensive Cyber Security operations introduces and exercises a complete range of reverse engineering techniques and attack patterns. Students will also learn and exercise analysis of systems based on minimal information.”

From ANU (2019). Cyber Offensive Operations Course (COMP8502), ANU Handbook. URL https://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/2019/course/COMP8502

Reponse to Attack

“Credential theft. … four spearphishing emails, to ANU users ...
Compromised infrastructure. The actor built a shadow ecosystem of compromised ANU machines, tools and network connections to carry out their activities undetected. Some compromised machines provide a foothold into the network. Others, like the so-called attack stations, provided the actor with a base of operations to map the network, identify targets of interest, run tools and compromise other machines
Data theft. The actor used a variety of methods to extract stolen data or credentials from the ANU network. This was either via email or through other compromised Internet-facing machines. …”

From: From Incident Report on the Breech of the Australian National University's Administrative Systems, ANU, 2 October, 2019 URL https://imagedepot.anu.edu.au/scapa/Website/SCAPA190209_Public_report_web_2.pdf

Internet of Things

Newcastle IoT Coverage,
City of Newcastle 2018
“The Internet of Things is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.”

From: From: Council begins roll out of smart city tech, City of Newcastle, 24 Apr 2018. URL https://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Council/News/Latest-News/Council-begins-roll-out-of-smart-city-tech

ps: ANU to run 'cyber bootcamp' for ASEAN officials, By

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Autonomous Kei Car Highway

https://newatlas.com/nissan-propilot-dayz-kei-car/59085/
Nissan Dayz kei car
On Friday I attended the Spatial Futures Forum  on Intelligent Cities and Transport hosted by University of Sydney. One topic was autonomous vehicles. It was pointed out that these would not help those who do not own a car, and are outside the cities which have autonomous public transport. However, it it occurred to me that a form of miniature autonomous public/private transport system could be built for the zone just outside cities.

Nissan has announced its Dayz Wider Kei car will be equipped with semi-autonomous assistance with acceleration, steering and braking on the highway.

If such Kei Cars are used, then the width of a standard Australian traffic lane (3.5 m) could carry two lanes of oncoming traffic. Conventional vehicles, such as fire appliances, could use this road, with the oncoming traffic diverted to a passing loop (as is done with railways).

This would greatly reduce the cost of building a highway, as it would only need to be 3.5 m wide for most of its length. Where cost and space are at a premium, and conventional vehicle access is not needed, an even narrower single lane roadway could be used. This would allow bridges and elevated roadways to be quickly built from shipping container sized modules. Tunnels would only need to be about 3 m in diameter.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Information Warfare Division Video

FOR THE WARFIGHTER
The Information Warfare Division (IWD) of the Australian Department of Defence has a snappy new video on the "new and emerging threats in the digital world", to promote Information Warfare jobs in the Australian Defence Force. But this may make people think the threat is from little green men crawling up our data cables. ;-)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Design of computerized system contributed to the death of ten USN sailors

On 21 August 2017 the US Navy destroyer John S McCain collided with a civilian tanker near Singapore, resulting in the deaths of ten US sailors, and $100M in damage. The US National Transportation Safety Board report found the probable cause of the collision was "... a lack of effective operational oversight of the destroyer by the US Navy ...". However, also contributing to the accident was the computerized steering system: "Also contributing to the accident was the operation of the steering system in backup manual mode, which allowed for an unintentional, unilateral transfer of steering control.". This would be a useful report for students of safety critical systems to study.

John S McCain Bridge Control Station.
Drawing from IBNS technical manual;
color added by NTSB. Figure 4 of
NTSB/MAR-19/01 PB2019-100970.
The destroyer was equipped with bridge control stations with flat-panel touch screens, and a graphical user interface (GUI), in additional to a conventional steering wheel. The stations had an "emergency override to manual" function activated by what the crew referred to as the "big red button". This was intended to provide manual control in the event of a computer malfunction, and the designers no doubt thought it was foolproof: press the red button and steer the ship with the wheel.

However, as the NTSB detailed, the crew unintentionally
transferred control of steering from one station to another, but interpreted this as a failure of steering. This confusion may have been because the crew were uncomfortable with the automated mode of the system, and preferred to use the backup manual mode. However the backup mode was not intended for normal use, and allowed the control to be transferred without the operator noticing.

The  NTSB recommended crew being instructed to only operate the system in manual mode during an emergency. However, the underlying problem appears to be that the crew did not trust the automated system. This would require training the crew so they felt they could rely on the system, or to redesign the system to provide more intuitive feedback. Part of the intuitive feedback, I suggest, could be via manual controls.

The Bridge Control Stations have a ship's wheel, but this is an input only device, and there are no physical engine throttles, just a GUI display. One way aircraft cockpit interfaces display the operation of the autopilot is by physically moving the throttle levers. Similarly, in aircraft with a control yoke  the control moves in response to auto-pilot commands, and also provides tactile and visual feedback of the control responses put in by the co-pilot. The autopilot can be overridden simply by moving the yoke. If implemented on the ships bridge control, this would provide intuitive feedback as to who is in control, and an intuitive way to take control. The operator would be able to see, and feel, inputs through the wheel and throttles. If they wanted to override the automated system, or another operator, they just need to move the controls.

Some modern aircraft lack the visual and tactile feedback in controls, particularly those using side-stick controllers, rather than a yoke. However, in aircraft pilots receive intensive training in the use of these systems, and are sitting close to each other in the cockpit, so are usually able to see and hear what each other are doing. Even so, conflicting inputs have lead to aircraft accidents.  On a ship the operators are much further apart, which makes coordination much more difficult.

Reference


Collision between US Navy Destroyer John S McCain and Tanker Alnic MC Singapore Strait, 5 Miles Northeast of Horsburgh Lighthouse
August 21, 2017, Marine Accident Report, National Transportation
Safety Board, NTSB/MAR-19/01 PB2019-100970, Notation 58325
Adopted June 19, 2019 URL https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6243999/MAR1901.pdf

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Wilcannia and Menindee Lakes

Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree
Tour 2019, Wilcannia.
Photo by - Mark Merritt,
courtesy of Earthling Studios P/L
I attended the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival, from 28 September to 2 October, in western NSW. This was by bus from Sydney to Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Wilcannia and Menindee Lakes, then train from Dubbo to Sydney. Mat Ward produced a detailed blog of the trip, there is the Water for the Rivers Facebook Page,
so I will just provide a few reflections of my own.

Sometimes you see a photo, and think: that is not real: it was staged: they added the smoke and colored lights.  Well
Mark Merritt's photo of the Corroboree at Wilcannia looks too magical to be real, but I am one of those dots around the circle: that is what it looked like. Leaving early, crossing the old lift bridge over the river to the campsite, I looked back and the moon had risen directly over the ring, the smoke hung low.

While I have written about the problems of telecommunications, and e-learning in regional Australia, this was an academic exercise conducted at a distance. There were two buses, two trucks for supplies, and a convoy of cars. It is rare for me to travel long distances with a large party, and at times voices were raised. But mostly it all worked out.

One highlight were the Brewarrina Fish Traps (Baiame’s Ngunnhu), with a tour by staff from the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum. The fist traps may be the oldest existing human made structure.


 Save Our Rivers by Copyright © 2019 Mundagutta Bruce Shillingsworth - All Rights Reserved.
 Save Our Rivers by
Bruce Shillingsworth 2019.
You may have missed this year's tour, but the Save Our Rivers Tshirt is still available. 

Update: 
Indigenous community say they've lost their culture to water mismanagement, by Aneeta Bhole SBS, 18October 2019


Monday, September 16, 2019

Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival 2019

Got my tent, and sleeping bag, ready for the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival, with local Aboriginal organisations at Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Wilcannia and Menindee Lakes, 28 Sep to 2 Oct 2019. There are a few seats left on the buses: book now.

While I have written about the problems of telecommunications, and e-learning in regional Australia, I am now going to go out and experience it first hand. 
"Each dance group will perform in each township at the corroboree that will begin at dusk:

Betina Bysouth (Menindee / Bendigo)
Barkindji (Wilcannia)
Budjiti (Enngonia)
Kamilaroi (Walgett)
Mungundi (Moree)
Murrawari (Goodooga)
Ngemba (Brewarrina)
Wankamurra (Bourke)
Wakagetti (Brewarrina)
Wiradjuri (Trangie)

Also Aboriginal dance groups ...

Garul Giyalu Rock Mob (Katoomba)
Yama Guroo (Sydney)
Koomurri (Sydney)
Tal-Kin-Jeri (Adelaide)
Mujamundu (Quilpie)
Group (Darwin)"

"In Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke, the Mothers Milk Bank will involve their musicians as part of their Ruby Hunter project ... In Wilcannia and Menindee the duo JOCEAN from Shell Harbour will perform ... The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations will lead these programs  ...

Eva Cannan will lead small ethical foraging bush trips and any food collected will contribute to evening meals. ... In Walgett she will be joined with Elder Camellia Bonney  ...

The Indigenous Energy Australia stall will provide information about their leading initiatives...."

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Grapes of Wrath in the Pacific

On Friday I attended a performance of The Grapes of Wrath at the New Theatre, Sydney. This play is adapted by Frank Galati from John Steinbeck’s novel. As someone in the row behind me kept loudly telling their companion: this play is relentlessly depressing. 

This is a relatively straightforward adaption of the book, about  tenant farmers driven from the US Midwest by drought and economic depression. The promised land of California, proved not to be paradise with labor contractors conspiring with authorities to exploit itinerant workers.

While well directed, acted and with imaginative set design, I wondered how relevant this story of exploitation in the USA was to Australia today.  Then I recalled an Australian politician saying that pacific islanders should not complain about being driven from their land by rising sea levels, as they could always get work picking fruit in Australia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

GovHack 2019 Launched

Greetings from the Canberra launch of GovHack 2019. This is the tenth year of the GovHack completion where teams have a few days to build an application using open government data. This is hosted by the Australian National University for 2019. It happens  have just come from the launch of the Square One co-working space at ANU, next door.

New Reality TV Show Proposed: Geopolitical Survivor

Greetings from the National Gallery of Australia, where I am taking part in "Australia 360", a conference on regional security hosted by the Australian National University. The morning had conventional panels of security experts. The afternoon started with Professor Hugh White's provocative views, in his new book "How to Defend Australia". To make it more interactive we are being polled on questions to do with China, Australia, and the region, with the results displayed on a large screen, and Associate Professor Nicholas Farrelly, as the MC, walking around the floor getting the views of delegates. Professor Rory Medcalf quipped the MC could host a game show called "Geopolitical Survivor". My contribution was to suggest a 360 view should also include the role of India.
"Panel 3: How to defend Australia

This session is an interactive, hands-on component delving into the hard choices Australia has to make about its defence as the world rapidly changes.

Chair Associate Professor Nicholas Farrelly
Associate Dean, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU
With contributions from Emeritus Professor Hugh White, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU
Dr Joanne Wallis, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU
Dave Curran, Chairman, Westpac Scholars Trust
Professor Rory Medcalf, National Security College, ANU
Katherine Mansted, National Security College, ANU"
From Australia 360 Program

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Memoir from Programmer of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module

The book "Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir" by
Don Eyles relates his experience programming the computer on the Apollo Lunar Module. This is a relatively modest first person recounting of someone who fell into computer programming, and ended up on the Apollo program as their first assignment. It would be useful for students who have ambitions of a career in computing to read.
"In 1966 the author, newly graduated from college, went to work for the MIT laboratory where the Apollo guidance system was designed. His assignment was to program the complex lunar landing phase in the Lunar Module's onboard computer. As Apollo 11 approaches, the author flies lunar landings in simulators and meets the astronauts who will fly the LM for real. He explains the computer alarms that almost prevented Neil Armstrong from landing and describes a narrow escape from another dangerous problem. On Apollo 14 he devises a workaround when a faulty pushbutton threatens Alan Shepard's mission, earning a NASA award, a story in Rolling Stone, and a few lines in the history books.  This memoir is a new kind of book about Apollo. It tells a story never told before by an insider the development of the onboard software for the Apollo spacecraft. It makes a vertical connection between technical details and historic events, but by broadening the story using his own experiences as he grows into adulthood in the 1960s the author draws a parallel between that era of successful space exploration, and the exploration, inner and outer, that was taking place in the culture."

ps: I read the copy in Libraries ACT.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Australia Post Digital Identity Service Rescued by Chinese Shoppers After Failure 20 Years Ago?

Australia Post Digital Identity
announcement from 1998
Stuart Robert, Minister for Government Services, announced 24 July 2019 that Australia Post’s Digital iD service had been accredited as a trusted identity service provider under the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF). What the Minister did not mention, was Australia Post's previous digital identity service failed 20 years ago. But Daigou might provide the use case for the new service.

In 1998 I applied for an Australia Post "KeyPOST" digital certificate, at a cost of $20. Here is the text from the Australia Post web page of the time:
"Australia Post plays a role in introducing security and trust into transactions performed over the internet. It does this by providing the public (individuals and organisations) with a convenient access point to acquire a digital certificates. KeyPOST is an identity check performed on behalf Certification Authorities.
Digital certificates are now available via the KeyPOST Registration Service, from SecureNet Certificates (SNC). Information and application details for Certification Services provided by SNC are available on the SecureNet Certificates website: www.securenetca.com.au"
From "KeyPost",  Australia Post, in the Internet Archive, 20 May 2000
There were a few glitches with the process, but eventually the certificate was issued. However, Australia Post ceased the service the following year. There appeared to have been very few certificates issued and the manual processing required to issue them was unlikely to have covered the cost.
"Australia Post has decided to cease its KeyPOST(tm) operations concerning the generation of private keys and certificates from 1 August 1999. Unfortunately, the service has not met expectations and its growth and take up rate have been less than what we expected.  I would like to thank you for your support and interest in the service, but >it has become increasingly clear that the service is not commercially  viable."
From Keypost 1/04/99

Chinese Daigou Use Case

The daigou channel, by Bang Xiao  &
Sean Mantesso, ABC News, 31 Jul 2019

Hopefully, those at Australia Post planning the new digital identity service have learned from the previous failed service. A use case which might make the new service a success is the multi-billion dollar personal shopper business. Chinese consumers contract 150,000 personal shoppers in Australia (daigou), who are mostly Chinese students, to buy products for them. The Australia Post Digital iD could be used to authenticate the personal shoppers, perhaps in combination with a blockchain. The consumers could be assured who is doing the buying, and they were getting the correct product. The governments could be assured all taxes and duty were being paid.

Friday, July 19, 2019

ACT Renewables Showcase

I am running a free workshop on "How Green is my Computer?" at the ACT Renewables Showcase in Canberra, 26 July 2019. There is also an electric car exhibition.

Program

9:00-9:20 Registration
9:20-9:30 Welcome/Opening
10:00-17:00 Electric Vehicles Exhibition (in partnership with Tesla Owners Club of Australia and Australian Vehicle Association)
9:30-10:15 Panel: Policy Implications for Renewables with Geoffrey Rutledge (ACT Government), Dr Frank Jotzo (ANU), Dr Andreas Loeschel(University of Munster); moderated by Sylvia Tulloch (BAB Chairman for REIF)
10:30-11:45 Workshop: How Green is my Computer? by Tom Worthington.
11:45-12:45 Panel: Women in Renewables with Shahana McKenzie(Bioenergy Australia), Clara Mazzone (ITP Renewables), Alison Reeve (ACT Government), Michelle McCann (PV Lab), Dr Marnie Shaw (ANU); moderated by Ruth O'Connor (ANU)
13:15-14:10 Seminar: Renewable Energy Innovation and World Trends by Simon Corbell (Energy Estate).
14:25-14:50 Speed Talks: Greening the Future-Bioenergy for Transport and Industrial Application by Dr Clive Stephens (Vtara Energy Group).
14:55-15:20 Speed Talks: How Electric Vehicles Could Shape Our World? by Darryl Bourke (Tesla Owners Club of Australia).
15:25-15:50 Speed Talks: Building Blocks of a Sustainable Energy Future by Vincenzo Marciano and Ryan Wood (Evergen).
16:00-16:55 Seminar: State of affairs: Clean Energy Market Challenges by John Grimes (Smart Energy Council).
17:00-17:30 Closing Ceremony closing remarks by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
From 17:30, Energy Lab will kick off with their famous annual Hackathon. Join us to explore a variety of opportunities that will accelerate the uptake of clean energy. To register for the Hackathon, click here.
You can find tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/act-renewables-showcase-2019-tickets-63848147528

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Capped Speed Mobile Broadband Data Plans

Telstra recently simplified its mobile phone plans. Along with this were data plans, from 5 to 100 GBytes per month. What got my attention was that after the data limit is reached, the service keeps working, with no extra charges, but with the speed capped at 1.5 Mbps.

The Telstra speed cap is much higher than for the Belong service I had been using, of 64Kbps. As I am using the service for email and web browsing, not watching moves, 1.5 Mbps should be sufficient. So I signed up for the minimum 5 GBytes for $15 per month.

I found Telstra's website very confusing. So I went into a Telstra store and a very helpful sales person provided a new SIM and signed me up. I walked out with a working service. I am using this with a tiny Wingle (Wifi equipped USB modem dongle). For those wanting a low fuss, low speed broadband, this looks a good option.

Some other mobile data providers are also offering a 1.5Mbps cap. Belong is owned by Telstra and uses the Telstra network. It will be interesting to see if they switch to a 1.5 Mbps cap.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Creative Bureaucracy Festival in Berlin 20 September

I would love an excuse to visit Berlin again, but perhaps the "Creative Bureaucracy Festival", is not it. My invitation arrived from the UK Cabinet Office in the form of a 20 Mbyte PDF file. The document had 18 pages with complex charts and photos of dozens of people with impressive titles. Despite having events such as "Fu*kup Night" and "Legislative theatre work", apparently this is not a spoof. There really is a festival devoted to creative bureaucracy, in Berlin, 20 to 21 September 2019. But if they are really being creative, perhaps they could produce a smaller, simpler brochure for the event, but that might not be in the spirit of bureaucracy. ;-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Blockchain Challenges for Australia: An ACS Technical Whitepaper

The Australian Computer Society has released "Blockchain Challenges for Australia". This is a technical whitepaper produced after a workshop at the new ACS HQ in Sydney.  I contributed to the section on blockchain for education and will be speaking on "Mobile Learning with Micro-Credentials for International Students", at EduTECH in Sydney, 4pm 6 June 2019.

This is the third in a series of ACS Blockchain reports. The first was "Blockchain 2030: A Look at the Future of Blockchain in Australia" prepared by CSIRO (April 2019), and "Blockchain Innovation: A Patent Analytics Report" by IP Australia (November 2018).
"Bitcoin gave birth to the blockchain technology ten years ago. Blockchain promises to disintermediate interactions between individuals by offering security of exchanges without relying on a central authority of trust. As a result, blockchain has been trialled in various sectors ranging from finance and insurance to energy.

A decade later, Australia is at the forefront of blockchain technology in terms of regulation, research and industry applications. Among many achievements, its standards organisation has been chosen to lead the secretariat of blockchain standards for the ISO; ARC-funded research has produced one of the most scalable blockchain systems; and the World Bank chose an Australian bank to implement the first blockchain-based bond.

Yet, blockchain poses significant challenges that prevent Australia from fully exploiting its promised benefits for our economy and society. This technical white paper identifies some of the predominant challenges for applying blockchain technology in different contexts in Australia and proposes technical directions to overcome these.

The identified challenges are scalability, security, regulation, education and employment. These challenges are of strategic importance, as blockchain promises not only to reshape the Australian economy but also to rethink business interactions within the Australian society.

The directions that this technical white paper explores for solving these challenges include the analysis of use cases; the education of key actors; the exploration of blockchain development, especially surrounding consensus; and further understanding of regulations. They specifically include assessing the requirements for each use case in terms of speed, volume, scalability and security, in order to identify the most appropriate blockchain proposal for a given application. They also include a roadmap to help
technical and legal professionals interact on specific topics."
From: Blockchain Challenges for Australia, ACS 2019.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

High Throughput Time Series Data

Greetings from the Canberra Big Data Meetup, on High throughput ingestion of time series data. This is at the Canberra Innovation Network/E29 offices. The first talk was by, Jordan Braiuka, from the host for the event, Canberra company Instaclustr, on using Cassandra to store 1 million metrics a minute. Not to be outdone, Mike Leonard, from Reposit Power (also a Canberra start-up), talked about ingesting 12 Million Data Points per Hour with OpenTSDB.





Instaclustr monitor servers, and Reposit Power the batteries in people's homes, but from a data storage point of view these are similar. The emphasis here is on being able to store large amounts of data quickly, and be able to query it for standard reports. For today's IT professionals, brought up with relational databases, the concepts used to do this efficiently will be novel. However, for someone like myself, trained in the mainframe pre-relational era, it is all very familiar. It is good to see there are modern tools to implement these decades old techniques, and proponents using them.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Steam Punk Pygmalion New Theater Sydney

Saturday night I attended "Pygmalion", at the New Theater, Newtown,  Sydney. This is not My Fair Lady, and is more Weill than Lerner and Low, set in a smoggy, dangerous, grimy London.

Much was made in the promotion of this show about it being set Steampunk style. The costumes are striking, with characters adorned with assorted old odd items. Some characters reminded me a little too much of "The Doctor's Wife" episode of Dr Who. But it is worth seeing this show just for the costumes. Hopefully they will be preserved.

However, the upper-class characters were still allowed to look suitably fashionable. But, what stuck me more was how tall they looked. I spent the first thirty minutes trying to work out if it was some trick of false perspective in the set design, if the cast were on stilts, or they were just very, very, tall. After that I gave up wondering, and just enjoyed the show.

The elaborate costumes, and a few pieces of furniture, contrasted with a muted abstract set. The New Theatre doesn't have the space, or budget, for elaborate set changes, but I would have liked a little more detail and color on stage. Also I have seen a little too much of the same steel mesh ramp in New Theatre productions.

For me Mr Doolittle stole the show, with a menace underling his friendly cockney banter. Clara and Freddy were suitably upper class twitish.

The lead performances were good. However, Pickering seemed to be being played by someone channeling Kenneth Branagh, with too many flicks of the mop of hair. Eliza's flinching whenever Pickering touched her was very effective, as was her girlish glee at chocolates, contrasted with a later steely determination.

The play retains its relevance as social commentary. Especially in the middle of an election, where both our major parties are offering handouts to the middle class, but next to nothing for those on Newstart allowance, treatment of the "undeserving poor" is unfortunately very relevant.

Pygmalion is at the New Theater, Newtown, in Sydney, until 25 May. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Canberra Trams Working but Need Safety Improvements

On Saturday I took my first ride on Canberra's new light rail system. The trams work, are fast, and reasonably comfortable, but some improvements need to be made to the information systems, and the safety of the network.
In late March I suggested to the Minster and Transport Canberra, some improvements for the safety of Canberra's trams. Here is the reply:
"Hi Tom, thanks for contacting us.

 Automatic Train Protection is a range of different signalling technologies that have been adopted to varying degrees across train networks in recent times. Only small parts of the Australian train network currently operate ATP. It is based upon (train) railway signalling systems that are utilised on train networks but not light rail/tram networks. There has been no adoption to date of ATP in light rail/tram networks.

Once the ATP technology is developed for light rail/tram systems it is expected most operators across the world will examine whether it is suitable and required for their networks.

Thanks, TC." Apr 2, 2019, 3:33 PM
In my view it would have feasible to at least install automatic stopping at stop signals for the trams, given far more sophisticated automatized systems are provided by the contracts in Europe.

Neither TC nor the Minister replied to my suggested upgrades to pedestrian crossings. However, one safety improvement I did notice at the  Macarthur Avenue stop, was a large retro-reflective sign "< LOOK>" had been painted on the pedestrian crossing. This is well placed to be seen by people looking down at a mobile phone while walking. However, the yellow sign is not as easy to see as you would expect. These signs are normally applied to a black road surface, and are harder to see against the gray concrete of the tram line. I suggest the signed be given a dark background, to increase the contrast.

The electronic signs at the stop proved to be confusing. These display the last stop on the line in large letters with a number next to it: "GUNGAHLIN PL 6". Another passenger asked me if this was the right platform for Gungahlin, and it too some time to work out what the sign meant. After a few seconds under this in small letters appeared "TO: Gungahlin 23 min". As the trams were supposed to be running every 15 minutes this made no sense. Then the large digit changed to "5" and I worked out this was a countdown to the next tram, and the smaller display was the one after that.

The tram arrived as per the sign, and I got on to what was a moderately crowded service. Even so I was able to get a seat. The trams are very similar to those on the Sydney and Newcastle lines. The ride was much less smooth than the older Newcastle line. The tram swayed from side to side, jerked over bumps, stopped and started with a jerk, and squealed around the corner at Epic. This is surprising for a new installed system. At one location I noticed what appeared to be welding metal left on the track, which may have added to the bumpy ride and indicates poor instantiation and testing of the track. Also at one point in my travels, the tram stopped suddenly, sending standing passengers sprawled onto the floor, fortunately without any apparent injuries.
not as
I alighted at Well Station Drive stop. Unfortunately the pedestrian crossing at this stop only has the "< LOOK >" sign on the road side of the crossing. It would be very easy for someone to step off the tram, and under the path of a tram coming the opposite way. I suggest "< LOOK >" be added to all crossings.

The Green Shed had posted to Facebook, pointing out there was now a stop near their second had store at the Mitchell Resource Management Centre (aka "The Tip Shop"). The information sign at the tram stop directed me to the center. However, I could not find a footpath from the stop to the center. Worse still, the bicycle path which previously ran beside the road was moved to the roadway, and the previous path plowed up. I watch as someone tried to pull their wheeled shopping bag over this broken path. I suggest the path be repaired.

I continued my journey to the stop at the end of the line: Gungahlin Place. As the doors opened, a flustered transport officer told us to alight from the other side of the tram. This was confusing as an announcement had just told us to use either side. The staff were having difficulty coping with the large number of passengers, and had sensibly decided to have them enter one side, and exit the other. But the onboard system needs to be changed to say this. Surprisingly, the pedestrian crossing here at the terminus was also not well marked. My return journey was uneventful.

The next day I took the tram to Civic. One pleasant surprise was a new coffee shop, "The Coffee Store", at the corner of David Street and MacArthur Avenue, a short walk from the tram.

The Civic terminus was not as busy as Gungahlin had been the day before. I noticed temporary barriers at the end of the platform, and at the crossing, to stop people walking into danger. I suggest these should be replaced with permanent barriers, and extended along the approaches to the platform. There was a passenger sitting on a raised concrete plinth next to the platform, with their legs dangling over the track. A transport officer quick, politely, but firmly told them to move. However, I suggest a barrier needs to be placed at this point, to stop passengers, deliberately, or accidentally going on to the track. Also I suggest fencing should be installed at the approaches to all stops, and crossings, to deter waling across the track. This could be progressively extended, until the entire route, from  Civic to Gungahlin is fenced.

The tram works, and will be an asset to Canberra. However, it does not work as well as that in Newcastle.