Friday, April 09, 2010

NZ Draft Electronic Recordkeeping Standard

Archives New Zealand is proposing to adopt a suite of standards from International Council of Archives for government Electronic Recordkeeping, with a NZ adapt ion document. There is a 17 page (480 Kbytes PDF) exposure draft available for feedback. The ICA standards should work okay for Australia and NZ as they were originally prepared for the Australasian Digital Recordkeeping Initiative. One problem with the Archives NZ exposure draft is that it is poorly formatted PDF with a large "DRAFT" watermark image which slows down loading of the document. A well formatted web page in HTML would have been preferable.
Chief Archivist’s Overview 4
Issue Statement 4
Adoption Statement 4
1. Introduction 6
1.1 Context: ICA-Req and ERKSS 6
1.2 Purpose 6
1.3 Scope 7
1.4 Advice and Guidance 8
2. Mandate and Responsibilities 8
2.1 Application 8
2.2 Interpretation of Functional Requirements 9
2.3 The Treaty of Waitangi 9
3. Benefits of Using this Standard 10
3.1 Benefits of Good Recordkeeping 10
4 Key Terms 12
Appendix A – Relationship with Archives New Zealand Mandatory Standards

From: Digital Recordkeeping System Standard, Exposure Draft, April 2010

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sydney Metro Website Still Available Online

Media reports indicate concern that the website of the abolished Sydney Metro Authority is no longer publicly available. However, it has been cached by Google (3 Feb 2010 01:06:28 GMT).

I suggest the NSW government adopt the practice of some federal departments and retain such web pages at their original address, but add a header to indicate the material was no longer current. This practice was adopted when there was the first change of government after adoption of the web by government (I recall the interdepartmental meeting where it was discussed). This practice is also followed by some US federal and state agencies.

Also the National Library of Australia might like to put a copy in their Pandora Archive.

Obviously details of a failed project which wasted hundreds of millions of dollars is an embarrassment to the NSW government, but attempting to suppress the information is unlikely to improve the situation.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

IT to Rescue Haiti Heritage

The International Council on Archives has passed on a request to the international community for assistance in preserving the cultural heritage of Haiti. The Statement of Requirements details the immediate need to shore up buildings damaged in the recent earthquake and to remove cultural materials to safety where this is not possible. There is a need for IT staff and equipment to assist in digitising and recording cultural materials. When visiting Samoa to teach information technology for Museum staff, I heard of instances where artefacts were removed to "safety" because of a disaster, but were never seen again. As there were no good records, it was not possible to know what was missing or if it was stolen, or mislaid in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the need for records.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 08, 2010

Standards Australia Needs New Priorities

Standards Australia Limited has issued the Discussion Paper "Project prioritisation process and criteria" (Version: 1.0, 5 February 2010) for comment. As a representative of the Australian Computer Society to standards Australia, I will be consulting the ACS on an official position. However, as an individual ICT professional I believe the SA approach to be fundamentally flawed and not addressing my needs for standards. If SA is unable, or unwilling to meet my needs, then there is no reason for myself, the organisations I belong to, or the government I elect, to continue to fund and support Standards Australia.

Standards Australia is working from a last century business model, where standards committees met around tables and then standards Australia produced printed copies of standards for sale. Standards are now made online by people around the world and distributed for free online. If Standards Australia wants to be part of this process, they need to adjust their business model to be able to support online development and distribution of standards online. I will no longer take part in a standards process if the resulting standards are not available for free online and I will avoid the use of such standards.
Table of contents
Overview... 3
1 Guiding principles.... 4
2 Process .... 4
2.1 Proposal development and submission .... 4
2.2 Assessment.... 5
2.3 PMG review and SDC approval .... 5
2.4 Project scheduling and commencement.... 6
2.5 Non-approved projects.... 6
3 Criteria.... 7
3.1 Quality .... 8
3.2 Capability.... 8
3.3 Net Benefit .... 8
3.4 Proposal profile ..... 8
3.5 Resource requirements.... 8
4 Conclusion.... 8
Appendix A: Process for evaluation of project proposals for Standards development .... 9
Appendix B: Prioritisation Criteria.... 10
Preliminary Assessment Criteria.... 10
Evaluation and Prioritisation Criteria.... 11
Resource Requirements & Costing .... 13
Appendix C: FAQs.... 14

The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of the criteria and process for the submission, assessment, selection and prioritisation of Standards development project proposals to be resourced by Standards Australia.

In November 2009, Standards Australia announced it would continue to direct its resources to the core function of Standards development through support of the following pathways:

  • Standards Australia Driven Standards Australia Driven projects must be approved for Standards Australia resourcing through the prioritisation process. This pathway primarily relies on Standards Australia’s resources, project management expertise and infrastructure. Standards Australia Driven projects require commitment and active contribution from stakeholders over a defined period of time.
  • Committee Driven Committee Driven projects may be eligible for Standards Australia resourcing through the prioritisation process but with the main contribution coming from stakeholders. Under this pathway an appropriately skilled committee, in addition to providing the subject matter expertise, will take project management and secretariat responsibility for the project.
  • Bureau Bureau projects are resourced and managed by stakeholders with minimal Standards Australia resourcing allocated through the prioritisation process. Under this pathway, a single legal entity acts as a ‘bureau’ which takes responsibility for managing the committee, its activities and projects under a formal agreement with Standards Australia.
This framework was developed in conjunction with, and has the support of, the Commonwealth Government and major member groups. In addition, the stakeholder funded Collaborative pathway is also available:
  • Collaborative The Collaborative pathway offers stakeholders choice in resourcing levels and project timeframes. Collaborative projects will be subject to the same project proposal and Net Benefit requirements and will be assessed on the same criteria, but will not be prioritised and resourced as part of the twice yearly assessment and prioritisation process.
In brief, if a proposed Standards development project can demonstrate the delivery of Net Benefit to the Australian community, and to the extent that it is unable to be resourced from any other source, it may be progressed using Standards Australia resources allocated on a priority basis in accordance with the project prioritisation process outlined in this document.

The Standards Australia resources available for development projects will be determined annually by Standards Australia’s Board, taking into account the necessity to operate on a sustainable basis. The project prioritisation and selection process will be run twice per year, in April and October. Prioritisation and selection of projects will be determined by the Standards Development Committee using the framework and criteria described in this paper.

If Standards Australia receives more proposals than it is able to support then Standards Australia will not be able to resource all proposed projects, even if they satisfy the selection criteria. Standards Australia may also choose not to provide resourcing at the level sought by any particular proposal. ...

From: Project prioritisation process and criteria" (Version: 1.0, 5 February 2010), Discussion Paper , Standards Australia Limited, Version: 1.0, 5 February 2010)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Government reports as ebooks

One response to my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads" at BarCamp Canberra 2010 was from Senator KateLundy. She tweeted: "With so much govt information online, Tom's talk makes me wonder about the merit of publishing public info in ebook formats too". This seems an idea worth investigating.

I have long advocated providing government reports as a set of web pages, rather than as one big PDF file, as is typically done. However, government people are reluctant to do this.

One argument against web pages is that they are more difficult to make, but as I show my web design students, if you take an accessible approach to design, then this is not hard. If the document designer concentrates on making a document people can read online, where most will be read, rather than concentrating on producing a pretty printed report (which hardly anyone will see), then web format is a viable option.

Another argument is that web pages are not legal documents, which I explain to my electronic document students, is not true either. There is a commonly held, but incorrect, assumption that government reports must be in PDF format to stop them being edited. It is more difficult to edit a PDF file than a web page, but not impossible. In any case this is irrelevant to the protection of government reports.

But I suspect the real issue is that a set of web pages do not seem as real as a "book" and does not have the needed look of authority a government report demands. Collecting the web pages up into an ebook format may give them the needed gravitas. This could done with a three step process:
  1. Here is the printed report, see it looks like a proper printed document,
  2. Here is the ebook, see it looks like the printed report,
  3. Here is the web page, see it looks like a chapter from the ebook.
As government agencies are already using content management systems, it should be feasible to support commonly used ebook formats with minimal effort by authors and publishers. The CMS would simply collect up a set of web pages and package them in an ebook format (a simpler system would do the reverse, saving the e-book and unpacking it on request to separate web pages, which might better meet archiving requirements).

As discussed in my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads", the obvious e-book format to use is EPUB. This is based on XHTML and CCS as used by government web sites. It is also being popularised as a format by support on the Apple iPad. EPUB requires some extra XML files, but these supply information which agencies are required to provide anyway and should already have in their systems.

Convincing agencies to use an ebook format should be a lot easier than convincing them to use accessible web pages. Instead of having to explain why a whole lot of decorative junk is not a good idea and that instead information should be clearly and simply, it will be just a matter of saying "yest, that is a wonderful animated app, but unfortunately the ebook format does not support it".

There will be some inefficiencies, as ebooks are designed to be standalone. Therefore the CSS, logos and "about us" text which can be shared between web pages (and automatically inserted as required by a CMS) will have to be duplicated in each ebook. However, this duplication already occurs with PDF versions of reports, where fonts also contribute to the size of the resulting files.

Ebooks should also make archivists happy as they include their own metadata. In fact ebooks are conceptually similar to the archiving techniques used electronic archiving systems, which wrap up all the associated files of an e-document along with an XML encoded set of metadata.

The public could still read an individual chapter of a report as an ordinary web page. The system could also still provide automatically generated PDF, if anyone wants it. But if the web version is offered first in the list of options online, I suspect most people will be happy to download a few dozen kilobytes of the summary of a report, rather than megabytes of the full report in PDF. I might try out the idea with my students this year and see if the practice then diffuses into the Australian government.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

ODF Format for Danish Government Documents

According to Heise Media UK Ltd the Danish Parliament has agreed to use the Open Docuemnt Format (ODF) format for government documents, in preference to Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML format). says that this will not come into effect until April 2011 and that PDF/A (the archival version of PDF) will also be used. There was some detailed and technical discussion in the Danish Parliament as to the compatibility of different versions of document standards. There is also a detailed report available on the problems of converting between the formats: "Document Interoperability: Open Document Format and Office Open XML " (Dr. Klaus-Peter Eckert, Jan Henrik Ziesing and Ucheoma Ishionwu, August 2009). This doesn't really say anything not known from previous comparisons: simple documents convert but there are some problems with more complex ones.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is electronic storage cheaper than paper

Yesterday I mentioned a petition against the closure of National Archives of Australia offices. One reply suggested that instead of closing offices to save money, the Archives should stick to paper storage and not digitise records. I am not sure that would be cheaper, nor give a good service.

Most new government records are "born digital", that is they are first created in a computer, not on paper. So to store them on paper would require an additional step of printing them out. Apart from the cost of the paper and printing, there is the storage of the records and handling.

A one terabyte disk holds the equivalent of about 10,000 reams of paper. The paper would take up about 100,000 times as much space as the disk (40 cubic metres as compared to a pocket size device). Also digital records can be shorted and sifted electronically and moved about automatically.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Education for Electronic Data Management

The ANU asked me to run a course in Electronic Data Management (COMP7420). This is 3 units (half the length of a normal ANU semester long course) and is the equivalent of 60 hours work for the student (10 hours a week for six weeks). In finalising the content of the course I thought I should look at what guidelines, standards and other courses there are. The first difficulty with this is the narrow specialisation of the course.

The nearest similar course I could find was "Electronic Records and Document Management" ( LIBR 5009 012621) at UniSA School of Communication. AIIM have aElectronic Records Management (ERM) Certificate Program of four days duration (or online equivalent).

The Records Management Association of Australasia have an extensive list of Educational and training courses for records management. However, these are mostly for records management in general, not electronic records in particular. Listed for Monash University, Faculty of Information Technology, School of Information Management and Systems is their Graduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters of Information Management and Systems (Electronic Recordkeeping and Archiving Stream).

RMAA refers to "Records and Archives Competency Standards" available from Innovation and Business Skills Australia, but I was unable to find any mention of such standards on the IBSA web site.

National Archives of Australia have a web page detailing Qualifications for records staff. Knowledge, skills and experience are defined with reference to Australian Standard for Records Management AS ISO 15489 – 2002.There are two parts to this standard (General and Guidelines). NAA refer to the university courses listed by RMAA and also Australian Society of Archivists Inc (ASA). The Business Services Training Package (BSB01) of IBSA is referred to but with a non-functional web link.

NAA also provide the materials for a free short course "What you need to know about managing records when working for the Australian Government". This includes Powerpoint slides (pdf, 470kb), presenter's guide (pdf, 2.6mb) and a 20 minute self paced e-Learning module. The e-learning module is avialable in a tex/print version optimised for accessibility, as well as the HTML (low-bandwidth) and Flash (media-rich) versions. Unfortunately this is not a complete e-learning module as it lacks any form of assessment for the student to assess what they have learnt. However, it could be a very useful start for a course.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Government 2.0 Draft Report

The Government 2.0 Taskforce has released "Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0": draft report for comment (7 December 2009). Confusingly the report is released in two HTML versions (described as "HTML" and "Online") as well as Microsoft Word (1882k) and PDF (1138k, 159 A4 pages). The report is an unfortunate combination of hard to read bureaucratic writing and hard to read web formatting. The task force needs to work out on exactly what it is trying to say and then say it, briefly and clearly. Otherwise many of the good recommendations provided will never be seen by most readers. The ANU has asked me to prepare a course on "Electronic Data Management" (COMP7420 ) for servants in 2010 addressing many of these issues.

The report does not start well, with an esoteric heading "What's in a name?" and discussion of the meaning of the word word “engage”. The authors would have been better of with a clear and direct statement about the purpose of the report and its main recommendations.

The language of the report could be made a little clearer. For example:
"Note: The recommendation summaries appearing in this Executive Summary are arrbreviated from the recommendations appearing in the report. For the precise recommendations of the Taskforce see Section 2"
This seems to be saying that the summary is a summary, which is a tautology and that for details you need to see the document the summary was prepared from (which is another tautology).

Also each recommendation has been summarised. However, each reads as if it was a summary of all the recommendations. I suggest the report have one simple summary of recommendations, not one summary for each recommendation.

In addition I have suggested the taskforce consolidate the HTML versions, offering a web page which has the executive summary and table of contents of the report, with the rest of the report elsewhere. Also I suggested offering that first in the list, before Microsoft Word and PDF versions.

The reader will tend to pick the first option from the list. Most people will not want the whole report and will be happy with the summary. It would be a shame if they get a Mbyte of Microsoft Word they did not really want, before they realise their mistake.

The reports recommendations are groups into 18 categories, which is far too many. The first recommendation is described as "Central recommendation", presumably to indicate that it is most important. That need not have been stated as it is the first recommendation made and therefore the most important. A "Declaration of Open Government by the Australian Government" may have some symbolic value but will not be of practical use. In contrast the second recommendation contains a self contradiction and is worse than useless: it recommends that an existing agency should be appointed lead agency, but does not say which and the proposes coordination amongst a long shopping list of agencies.

The third recommendation "Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online" appears to already be under way with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) having already issued some guidance and preparing more. The report seems to ignore AGIMO, which will cause further confusion within agencies.

Chapter 2: Recommendations

Central recommendation – A Declaration of Open Government by the Australian Government

Accompanying the Government’s announcement of its policy response to this report, the Australian Government should make a Declaration on Open Government, stating that:

  • Public sector information is a national resource and that releasing as much of it on as permissive terms as possible will maximise its economic, social value to Australians and reinforce its contribution to a healthy democracy;
  • Using technology to increase collaboration in making policy and providing service will help achieve a more consultative, participatory and transparent government;
  • Online engagement by public servants involving robust professional discussion, as part of their duties and/or as private citizens, benefits their agencies, their professional development, those with whom they are engaged and the Australian public. This engagement should be enabled and encouraged;
  • The fulfilment of the above at all levels of government is integral to the Government’s objectives including public sector reform, innovation and utilising the national investment in broadband to achieve an informed, connected and democratic community.

Recommendation 2 – Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support

An existing agency should be appointed lead agency with overall responsibility for Government 2.0 policy and advancing the Government 2.0 agenda providing leadership, guidance and support to agencies and public servants on Government 2.0 issues. Its work program should be developed in consultation with relevant agencies, for example:

  • The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet;
  • The proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner;
  • The Department of Finance and Deregulation;
  • The Australian Public Service Commission;
  • The National Archives of Australia;
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics;
  • The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

This is not to preclude the possibility of one of the listed agencies being or including the lead agency.

Recommendation 3 – Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online

To make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, the lead agency, in consultation with other relevant agencies, should issue and maintain guidance to improve the extent and quality of online engagement by agencies. Within the framework of this guidance, and in conjunction with the lead agency, all major agencies should:

  • Identify barriers within their organisation which inhibit online engagement and develop and explain what they will do to reduce these barriers within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report;
  • Within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report, each agency will identify specific projects to make use of social networking and ‘crowd sourcing’ tools and techniques to enhance agency policymaking, implementation and continuous improvement;
  • Within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report, each agency will identify specific projects to increase the use of online tools and platforms for internal collaboration within their agency and between agencies that they work with across the public sector;
  • The APSC to include in the annual State of the Service Report details of agencies’ progress in implementing the above recommendations, covering successes, disappointments and lessons learned.

Subject to security and privacy requirements, all public inquiries funded by the Australian Government should ensure that all submissions are posted online in a form that makes them searchable, easy to comment on and re-use. The Government 2.0 lead agency should encourage those conducting inquiries to use interactive media such as blogs to publicly discuss emerging lines of thought and issues of relevance.

Recommendation 4 – Encourage public servants to engage online

The Taskforce endorses the revised online engagement guidelines for public servants issued by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) on 18 November 2009, including the declaration that Web 2.0 provides public servants with unprecedented opportunities to open up government decision making and implementation to contributions from the community. The Taskforce agrees that, consistent with APS Values and Code of Conduct, APS employees should be actively encouraged and empowered to engage online.

The APSC in consultation with the lead agency should regularly review online engagement guidelines, using Government 2.0 approaches to ensure the process is open and transparent. Agencies should support employee-initiated innovative Government 2.0-based proposals that create, or support, greater engagement and participation with their customers, citizens and/or communities of interest in different aspects of the agency’s work. They should create a culture that gives their staff an opportunity to experiment and develop new opportunities for engagement from their own initiative, rewarding those especially who create new engagement/participation tools or methods that can quickly be absorbed into the mainstream practice that lifts the performance of the department or agency.

The Government 2.0 lead agency should establish an online forum on which agencies can record their initiatives and lessons learned.

Recommendation 5 – Awards

In consultation with relevant agencies, the lead agency should establish awards for individual public servants and agencies that recognise outstanding practice in the use and impact of Government 2.0 tools to improve agency and program performance.

Recommendation 6 – Make Public Sector Information open, accessible and reusable

By default Public Sector Information (PSI) (The definition of PSI is introduced in Chapter 5 of this report. For ease of reference it is as follows: “information, including information products and services, generated, created, collected, processed, preserved, maintained, disseminated, or funded by or for the Government or public institutions, taking into account [relevant] legal requirements and restrictions”.) should be:

  • free (provided at no cost in the absence of substantial marginal costs);
  • based on open standards;
  • easily discoverable;
  • understandable (supported by metadata that will aid in the understanding the quality and interpretability of the information);
  • machine-readable (able to be easily shared by machines – see semantic web definition at Box 11); and
  • freely reusable (not having limitation on derivative uses).

PSI should be released as early as practicable and regularly updated to ensure its currency is maintained.

Consistent with the need for free and open re-use and adaptation, PSI released should be licensed under the Creative Commons BY standard as the default.

Use of more restrictive licensing arrangements should be reserved for special circumstances only, and such use is to be in accordance with general guidance or specific advice provided by the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner.

Regarding the existing stock of PSI that has been brought into existence before the information management policies recommended in this report have been adopted, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner should, in consultation with relevant agencies, propose policies to government which would maximise the extent to which that stock of PSI was re-licensed Creative Commons BY whilst ensuring that this did not impose undue administrative burden on agencies. The Taskforce envisages that rules could be adopted whereby a large amount of PSI that has already been published – for instance government reports, legislation and records that are already accessible to the public – could be automatically designated Creative Commons BY, with other PSI being re-licensed Creative Commons BY on application with rights of appeal to the proposed new Information Commissioner function.

Where ownership of the data rests with the Commonwealth, data should be released under Creative Commons BY licence. Where ownership does not rest with the Commonwealth, or is shared with another party/ies, agencies are required to negotiate with the other party/s with the aim of ensuring its release under these arrangements and under Creative Commons BY. Where Agencies enter into any new contracts or agreements with a third party they should endeavour to include a clause clearly stating the Commonwealth's obligation to publish relevant data and that this be under a Creative Commons BY licence. (A consistent clause should be developed by Department of Finance and Deregulation and inserted as a standing requirement of all Commonwealth Contracts - similarly to that used to ensure access and reporting by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).) This policy should become mandatory for all contracts signed by the Commonwealth after June 2011.

Copyright policy should be amended so that if published or unpublished works are covered by Crown copyright, the works should automatically be re-licensed under a Creative Commons BY licence at the time at which Commonwealth records become available for public access under the Archives Act 1983.

Any decision to withhold the release of PSI, other than where there is a legal obligation to withhold release, should only be made with the agreement of, or in conformity with policies endorsed by the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner and consistent with the Government’s Freedom of Information policy, noting that:

  • In the case of structured data (any data kept in an electronic record, where each piece of information has an assigned format and meaning), agencies must exhaust options to protect privacy and confidentiality before seeking an exemption; and,
  • Agencies must proactively identify and release, without request, such data that might reasonably be considered as holding value to parties outside the Agency.

The Australian Government should engage other members of the Council of Australian Governments, to extend these principles into a National Information Policy agreed between all levels of Government, federal, state, territory and local.

In order to accelerate the adoption of Government 2.0, in addition to any distribution arrangements they wish to pursue, agencies should ensure that the PSI they release should be discoverable and accessible via a central portal ( containing details of the nature, format and release of the PSI.

Within a year of its establishment, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner, in consultation with the lead agency, should develop and agree a common methodology to inform Government on the social and economic value generated from published PSI.

The major agencies under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) should use the common methodology to report their performance in the release of PSI in their annual reports, commencing from the first of the establishment of the proposed OIC.

The proposed new Information Commissioner function should annually publish a report outlining the contribution of each agency to the consolidated value of Commonwealth PSI, commencing in the first of the establishment of the proposed OIC. The report should be published on line and be accessible for comment and discussion.

Following Government acceptance of the initial Value of PSI Report, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner should consider the development of a ‘lite’ version of the common methodology for use by other FMA Act agencies.

The Taskforce notes the proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 to have the Information Commissioner issue guidelines to support the future operations of the Act as described in the Explanatory Memorandum for Schedule 2, Section 8. To ensure a consistent implementation of PSI in relation to the Freedom of Information Act, these guidelines should give due consideration to the concepts outlined above.

Recommendation 7 – Addressing issues in the operation of copyright

Agencies should seek policy guidance or case by case guidance on the licensing of PSI either before its release or in administering licences after publication from the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner.

The functions currently performed by the Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) unit within the Attorney General’s Department (AGD) relating to pre- and post- licensing of copyright material be transferred to the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner. Other administrative functions of the Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) unit should be reviewed to identify which of the functions should remain within AGD and those that should transfer to the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner.

An important category of PSI held by public collecting institutions is information for which the copyright is held by third parties who cannot be identified or located, i.e. ‘orphan works’. It is recommended that the Government, through the proposed new Information Commissioner function, examine the current state of copyright law with regard to orphan works (including s.200AB), with the aim of recommending amendments that would remove the practical restrictions that currently impede the use of such works.

Recommendation 8 – Security and Web 2.0

The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) should provide guidance to agencies on the appropriate mitigation treatments that could be adopted to address concerns or exposures identified in relation to the use of social networking and related tools. This guidance is to take into consideration the different environments that agencies operate in, the varying risk profiles that exist and the range of tools that may be used. DSD should update the Information Security Manual (ISM) accordingly.

The lead agency, in conjunction with DSD, should develop a Better Practice Guide (or “how to guide”) to assist agencies in the effective, efficient and secure use of Web 2.0 tools and how to undertake associated risk assessment.

Sensitive and National Security data requires special consideration in the context of PSI. To ensure consistency between PSI arrangements in the future and the proposed changes to the FOI Act, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner should provide advice to agencies in relation to the treatment of PSI to enable its broadest possible release. Consistent with good practice, and the requirements of the Protective Security Manual (PSM), agencies must avoid the over classification of data so as to limit the need to review or pre-process data to enable its release.

Recommendation 9 – Privacy and Confidentiality

To protect the personal information of individuals included in PSI, the Privacy Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released. (The Privacy Act 1988 provides for the Privacy Commissioner to prepare and publish guidelines on privacy under s 27(1)(e). The Taskforce understands, however, that responsibility for this function would transfer to the Information Commissioner following proposed amendments to the Privacy Act and proposed new legislation to establish an Office of the Information Commissioner. In this event, responsibility for the preparation of guidance on de-identification of PSI as outlined in this recommendation should transfer to the Information Commissioner.)

To protect the commercial-in-confidence information of businesses included in PSI, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released.

Recommendation 10 – Definition of Commonwealth Record

The Taskforce recommends that Government agencies wishing to use third party sites for the purposes of collaboration, service delivery or information dissemination, ensure that copies of records so generated are retained in the possession of the Commonwealth such that they satisfy the definition of Commonwealth Record in the Archives Act 1983.

The Government review the property-based definition of Commonwealth Record in the Archives Act 1983, with a view to replacing it with a definition that defines Commonwealth records as ‘any information created or received by the Commonwealth in the course of performing Commonwealth business’.

To enable and assist the discovery, sharing and reuse of PSI, agencies should deploy endorsed metadata standards such as the AGLS Metadata Standard (AS 5044) together with whole-of-government taxonomies such as the Australian Government’s Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT) as outlined in the Australian Government’s Information Interoperability Framework.

Whenever not being able to meet such standards would appreciably delay the release of PSI, agencies should release non-compliant data until such time as they are able to comply with the standards.

Recommendation 11 – Information Publication Scheme

The Taskforce recommends that, in the development, management and implementation of a government information publication scheme, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner, once established, take regard of the findings and recommendations contained in the Taskforce Project report 7.

The Taskforce supports the model for the publication scheme set out in the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 and notes that the Bill currently provides for the aims below. To reinforce its support, the Taskforce recommends information publication schemes be developed with the following explicit aims:

  • Provide an overall and consistent statutory framework for information publication by all agencies;
  • Encourage the widest disclosure of reliable and useful government information consistent with the public interest, and thereby greater trust in government;
  • Guide agencies in overcoming attitudinal, technological and legal barriers to optimal information disclosure and use, and to improved public engagement;
  • Provide a planning framework to assist agencies in their overall information management;
  • Provide an integrated and simplified guide for agencies to meet their information publication and reporting obligations;
  • Provide clear and understandable guidance to the public on their rights to, and methods of, accessing and using government information, leading to improved service delivery and public engagement in policy development;
  • Enable the proposed new Information Commissioner function to monitor schemes, and encourage agencies towards achieving government pro-disclosure objectives through reference to exemplars, and reporting of unsatisfactory progress.

Recommendation 12 – Encourage info-philanthropy

Because some of the most successful experiments in Government 2.0 have been fuelled by not-for-profits in leading countries such as the UK and the US, Australian policy-makers should minimise obstacles to info-philanthropy being treated as an eligible activity to qualify for deductible gift recipient and other forms of legal status which recognise charitable or philanthropic purposes.

Recommendation 13 – Accessibility

Significant cultural change is needed to enable greater support for the adoption of accessible Web 2.0 tools, collaboration and online community engagement activities, and PSI delivery projects. The Taskforce therefore recommends that:

  • Agency compliance with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the minimum accessibility level for all online community engagement and online PSI provision is required. (This recommendation deliberately avoids specifying which version of WCAG is being referred to as a means of ensuring the recommendation refers to the most current version of the guidelines mandated by the Government.) Data provided on the primary PSI site,, should be provided in full compliance with WCAG;
  • Where an agency is considering a project where strict compliance with WCAG accessibility guidelines would unacceptably delay or prevent a project from proceeding, AGIMO will provide guidance on options to facilitate maximum access for people with disabilities;
    • In this case projects should only proceed with an online statement explaining site accessibility, together with an outline of where and why it does not meet a specific WCAG guideline, and what alternative options for accessible access were considered or are provided and plans for future compliance.
  • A central register of accessibility compliance statements should be maintained on data.;
  • In consultation with relevant agencies, the lead agency should establish awards for agencies that recognise outstanding practice in the accessible use and impact of Government 2.0 tools to improve agency interactions with citizens, business and community groups. ...
From: "Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0", draft report, Government 2.0 Taskforce , 7 December 2009

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 07, 2009

Google Wave Real-time Document Collaboration

According to news reports, Google has acquired AppJet so that its EtherPad real-time document collaboration tool can be incorporated in Google Wave. I was not impressed with Google Wave's interface and offering EtherPad's fmailar wordprocessor like interface on top will be an improvement. The idea is to allow several eople to edit the same document at the same time and see the changes each other are making in real time. I will be incuding some of this in my new ANU course "Electronic Data Management" (COMP7420).

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are a few big messages clogging email

I noticed that I had 51.6mbytes of space used up in hundreds of messages. But 35% of this was from just 28 messages which had large attachments. These were messages I did not really want to keep (and would have preferred not to get in the first place). The rest of the messages were very small. Ways to prevent such messages being received might provide large benefits for the capacity of systems.

As an example, if email attachments attachments were kept on the sender's server and only sent when requested (and in most cases never requested), that would reduce email traffic. Perhaps a useful email utility would check to see if a document a person was attaching to email was already available publicly on the web and offer to insert a link instead.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Designing a course module in Metadata and Electronic Data Management - Part 3

Having the general direction for the course module on Metadata and Electronic Data Management, what should the students be able to do at the end of the IT in e-Commerce course? The numerous seminars on how to design courses I have attended over the last year have emphasised the importance of learning objectives and of assessment as part of the learning process. This is not just about setting a test at the end to see the students can remember things.

In order to prepare some Learning Outcomes, I did a web search for other courses on metadata and document management to see what they had. The first found was the University of Manchester's "COMP30352: Information Retrieval, Hypermedia and the Web", however this seems more of a web course. The second found was "IT in E Commerce COMP6341" at the ANU. It took me some moments to realise this was the course I was teaching. Someone had already written the learning outcomes:
Learning Outcomes:

The focus of this course is on document representation, knowledge discovery, storage and retrieval, and electronic trading. The areas covered include XML, XSL, DTD, metadata, data management and different forms of trading such as deliberative, spontaneous and auctions. Other topics will be included to match recent developments and maturation of the area, such as web application frameworks, web services and the semantic web Rationale Electronic Commerce is an area that is growing in leaps and bounds. The use of information technology is at the heart of electronic commerce. It is important that students doing a degree in Information Systems have a sound understanding of the role that information technology plays in electronic commerce. This course, along with the course on Internet, Intranet and Document Systems, is meant to do just that. It looks at some of the current and potential uses of information technology in electronic commerce. The topics covered include document representation in the form of XML, XSL, DTD's; knowledge discovery using metadata and data mining; data management as in the case of Digital Libraries and Electronic Document Management; trading, including deliberative, spontaneous and auctions; and security (public keys, PKI, digital signatures, etc). Other topics would be included as the area matures. It is anticipated that this course will be of interest to people in the industry as well.

This course is responsible for:

  • current trends in representation of data and documents on the web
  • knowledge discovery in the form of metadata and data mining
  • database management in electronic commerce
  • electronic trading
  • security in electronic commerce.

The following topics will be addressed:

  • knowledge representation - XML, XSL, DTD, CSS
  • knowledge discovery - metadata and data mining.
  • data management - digital libraries and electronic document management
  • trading - deliberative, spontaneous and auctions
  • security - public keys, symmetric keys, PKI, authentication, digital signatures, etc.

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the XML language, write simple DTD's, write CSS style sheets for documents, and explain where XML can be applied to advantage and why.
  2. Describe the use of metadata, and describe the current trends in data mining.
  3. Describe how digital libraries and electronic document management work.
  4. Describe the different kinds of trading that an individual, or an organisation, can do electronically. Explain the advantages and limitations of electronic trading, and the risks involved.
  5. Explain why security is such a big issue in electronic commerce and how it is being addressed. Describe key concepts like public keys, symmetric keys, PKI, authentication and digital signatures. Given a system specification, come up with a design that allows secure transmission of information.
From: "IT in E Commerce COMP6341", Course Details, ANU, 2009

The last part which is of interest, saying what the student should be able to do on completion of the course:
  1. Describe the XML language, write simple DTD's, write CSS style sheets for documents, and explain where XML can be applied to advantage and why.
  2. Describe the use of metadata, and describe the current trends in data mining.
  3. Describe how digital libraries and electronic document management work.
  4. Describe the different kinds of trading that an individual, or an organisation, can do electronically. Explain the advantages and limitations of electronic trading, and the risks involved.
  5. Explain why security is such a big issue in electronic commerce and how it is being addressed. Describe key concepts like public keys, symmetric keys, PKI, authentication and digital signatures. Given a system specification, come up with a design that allows secure transmission of information.

The wording of this is curiously loose, for example "...why security is such a big issue ...". Also use of the term "describe" seems too passive for a IT course, which should be about being able to do things, not just describe them.
  • Describe the XML language, write simple DTD's, write CSS style sheets for documents, and explain where XML can be applied to advantage and why.
  • Describe the use of metadata, and describe the current trends in data mining.
  • Describe how digital libraries and electronic document management work.
  • Describe the different kinds of trading that an individual, or an organisation, can do electronically. Explain the advantages and limitations of electronic trading, and the risks involved.
  • Explain why security is such a big issue in electronic commerce and how it is being addressed. Describe key concepts like public keys, symmetric keys, PKI, authentication and digital signatures. Given a system specification, come up with a design that allows secure transmission of information.
  • Extracting the items relating to metadata and electronic document management:
  • Describe the use of metadata ...
  • Describe how digital libraries and electronic document management work.
  • A better way to put this may be:
    1. Use the XML language to define document strutures
    2. Use XSLT to transform documents and CSS to present them
    3. Use metadata to describe documents for use in digital libraries and electronic document management
    In the course I previously spent a lot of time describing how e-publishing systems worked in general, and the history of publishing, to provide a context for XML based publishing. This is of little interest to current day students of IT, to whom paper publishing and library card catalogues are not part of their experience, having been born after e-publishing and computer catalogues had become the norm.

    Also I spent a lot of time saying what was wrong with PDF. While there is still much wrong with PDF, there seems little point in spending time on that, when instead alternatives could be presented. Otherwise this is much like presenting what is wrong with private cars and roads to transport engineers.

    Some other parts of the course can be emphasised. As an example the IFIP Digital Library which was speculated about last year has now become a reality, with the ANU providing the system for users around the globe. It is unlikely that students will have much interest or understanding of the idea that the material in the digital library was once available primarily on paper. They may also have difficulty making the connection between the digital library and the buildings on campus which are still called a library. The lower floors of these buildings have been cleared of most paper, to provide space for computer access, with perhaps a few serials and new books on display as historical curiosities.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Designing a course module in Metadata and Electronic Data Management - Part 2

    Having worked out how much material is needed for a course module on Metadata and Electronic Data Management, what exactly is it for? The description of the IT in e-Commerce course refers to: "... document representation (XML, XSL, DTD, CSS), knowledge discovery (meta-data, information retrieval), data management (digital library, electronic document management), trading (spontaneous, deliberative, auctions) and security (encryption, public key, symmetric key, PKI, authentication, etc). ..."). So the course is about how to design e-documents, protect and manage them, so that they can be found and used for transactions in business.

    The ANU is in Canberra, the seat of Australian Government and many students work for the government and so many of the examples in the course are drawn from government business. Also because some of the students go on the be academics and researchers, the example of academic publishing has been used as an example.

    There are some common problems for people in business, government and academia: how do I create an e-document which will be flexible for use by different people at different times? How can it be kept? How can it be found? How can it be authenticated?

    The problem with e-documents is coping with the volume of material. Workers are being overwhelmed with the volume of email and attachments. Just as they get used to e-mail, along comes blogs, wikis, twits and other technologies to cope with.

    The course teaches the use of XML based technology. The idea is that you create the documents in a format which reflects the information content, separate from how the document will look to the reader. This goes beyond the separation of structure from presentation for web pages. With a HTML document, if you strip off the presentation layer, the document still looks like a text document. However, with XML data, with the data definitions removed, you have just a jumble of letters and numbers.

    The key point in terms of knowledge discovery is metadata. The metadata can be used to find the data and also substitute for it in many processes. In the case of XML documents metadata is also used to define the data structure.

    Students have considerable difficulty understanding what metadata is. The popularisation of metadata trough Tags on web resources, such as images, blog postings and instant messages, provides a useful example.

    Previously I introduced metadata from the technical point of view and then illustrated it with popular examples such as Tags. Perhaps it might be to reverse this and introduce tags first.

    In introducing electronic document management I went into considerable detail about the procedures used by the Australian Government. While this was popular with professional records managers and archivists, it was of little interest to IT students. It also seems a loosing battle in the government with such records management systems falling into disuse. While I can't solve the problems of the government by myself, perhaps I can suggest some different techniques to the students.

    Deleting most of the material about records management procedures will make room for some new material on new electronic formats for use by business.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    Designing a course module in Metadata and Electronic Data Management

    How do I create a course module on "Metadata and Electronic Data Management"? This year I have again been asked to help teach students in the course Information Technology in Electronic Commerce (COMP3410) at ANU.

    The content will be much the same as last year, but I would like to package the material up more neatly. This is partly prompted by my resolution last year that I had given my last lecture. Also the material currently lacks a coherent theme as is much longer than it should be. In addition I would like to revise some of the material which is based on old EDI standards and old Australian government records management guidelines.

    How much?

    But where to start? The first step is to get some idea of how much material is required. Previously I gave about five or six lectures and a lab covering the material. This equates to about two weeks of a course.

    Last years notes for the course are the equivalent of 36 A4 pages, or about 18 pages per week. At one end of the spectrum my notes for Green ICT Strategies (COMP&310) are about 3 A4 pages per week, whereas the web technology lectures for COMP2410/6340 - Networked Information Systems are 24 pages per week. This range can be accounted for by the Green ICT course being at the masters level and assuming the student does more independent reading. Also the Green ICT notes are mostly English text, whereas the web technologies notes contact examples of code, which take up more space. So at 18 pages per week, the metadata and data management notes seem about right, but perhaps could be trimmed a little.

    Where does it fit in the skill set?

    The Metadata and Electronic Data Management materials was just whatever I thought might be relviant, when first presented in 2000. It was designed to fit with what else was included in the course and related courses, but no thought to how it fitted in the career of the people who were being trained.

    To position the Green ICT Strategies course, the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) was used. A search of SFIA found only one Skill definition which mentioned metadata, which was Information management (IRMG) :
    The overall management of information, as a fundamental business resource, to ensure that the information needs of the business are met. Encompasses development and promotion of the strategy and policies covering the design of information structures and taxonomies, the setting of policies for the sourcing and maintenance of the data content, the management and storage of electronic content and the analysis of information structure (including logical analysis of data and metadata). Includes overall responsibility for compliance with regulations, standards and codes of good practice relating to information and documentation records management, information assurance and data protection. ...

    From: Information management (IRMG) , Strategy & planning, Information strategy, SFIA, Version 3, 2005
    For the undergraduate version of the course this would be at SFIA level 4 and Level 5 for the postgraduate version. The higher SFIA level has more management and less technical responsibility.

    A search of SFIA for "data management" turned up reference in Business analysis (ANAL), System software SYSP and Enterprise architecture STPL. None of these seem to fit with the intended content, the closes is business analysis, but that has too much business and not enough technology.

    A search of SFIA for "records management" turned up the
    Information management (IRMG) skill again.

    A search for "publishing" found Information content publishing ICPM, but this seems to relate more to web design.

    So of all these
    Information management (IRMG) seems most relevant.

    Metadata and data management for governance

    Looking at the higher level, IM is in the SFIA Subcategory of Information strategy. This also includes the Corporate governance of IT (GOVN). At first glance governance does not seem relevant to metadata and data management, being more for a course on IT project management.

    However, many of the examples I use to explain the uses of metadata and data management from government and involve the keeping of records for demonstrating that an organisation is being properly run. It occurred to me that it might be useful to turn around the emphasis on record keeping in case you are taken to court, to instead start by looking at what is needed in terms of electron communications and documents for running an organisation well at the highest level, that is governance. With this I could start off with the principles of governance and then show how to make effective use of tools like instant messaging and blogs in a corporate environment.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    The Obama effect: how to win a political campaign with the web

    This year I have again been asked to help teach students about Metadata and Electronic Data Management in the course Information Technology in Electronic Commerce (COMP3410) at ANU. The content will be much the same as last year, but I would like to introduce some central themes to what otherwise looks like a random collection of technologies and techniques.

    Recently a policy adviser for an MP pointed out that there is an election coming up in Australia relatively soon and that political parties are interested in how President Obama used the web to help win. They suggested if I was to offer a course in how to do web based campaigning that would be very popular. How to do political campaigning is not something I have experience, nor much interest, in. What I find more interesting is how to use the technology to run the country, after you win the election.

    What I have found disappointing in the Australian case is that while a political party might use the Internet to help win the election, once in office, this is forgotten and the political process reverts to a manual one, which disenfranchises most of the citizens. Similarly the public service might use the Internet to put out public information campaigns, but seems unable to use the technology to communicate effectively with the public.

    Perhaps the solution to this is to bring the political and administrative processes to together and use a uniform set of technologies and techniques for both. That way the politicians could run the campaign and then be ready to work the same way to run the country. At the same time the public service would not see this way of working as alien.

    To put all that in a more concrete way, I thought I might give one of my seminars for COMP3410, to which the political advisers would be invited, on:
    The Obama effect: how to win a political campaign with the web

    Using blogs, twitter, Google Wave, email, podcasts, the web and the Internet to run a campaign and a country.

    Abstract: Much has been written about how President Obama used the web to campaign. The next Australian federal election must be held by April 2011. By then there will be a new generation of Internet and mobile phone technology. How will it be used for campaigning? Can the technology extend beyond the election campaign to give Australian citizens more of a voice in policy development and running the country? Are there some general principles which can be applied to existing and emergence technologies? Tom Worthington explains how the Metadata and Electronic Data Management techniques underlying web technologies can provide a road map to the future.


    Labels: , ,