Friday, May 01, 2009

Designing an influenza pandemic web site for Australia

Students of "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410/6340) at the ANU have been set the task to design a influenza pandemic web site for the Australian public. In previous years they have been set the task to design a site for bird flu so this seemed a logical and timely topic.
Australian National University

Department of Computer Science

Networked Information Systems


Assignment 2

Website Accessibility


On 29 April 2009 the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5. All countries were advised to immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans to combat Swine influenza.

In this assignment you will examine web sites used for providing advice to the public about influenza and design a prototype web site using the techniques learnt in the course. ...

Deadline: 6pm Friday 22 May 2008.

The Task

The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DHA) has provided a web page with links to detailed information about Swine Influenza Outbreaks. However, that information may be difficult to understand for the average member of the general public. Imagine you work for the Australian Government and your task is to design an easier to read web site based on the DHA page as it was at 30 Apr 2009 07:09:19 GMT.

The web site will need to meet accessibility and mobile device standards. The web site will be read by large numbers of people at once and so will need to use the minimum of bandwidth. It will be read by people under stress and so be easy to read.

In addition to the information in the copy of the DHA web site, you can use text and media files (images, audio and video) from International (.int), Australian Government ( and US Government (.gov) web sites in designing your prototype.

Creating the webpage

You must:

  • Convert the HTML of the content from the existing web page to valid XHTML Basic 1.1 which achieves at least 80/100 on Mobile OK tests and passes Level Double A of the W3C - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) as tested by the TAW (Web Accessibility Test)
  • Convert all presentation elements and in-line styles to appropriate rules in a new valid external style sheet called access.css
  • Remove any tables in the webpages which are not used for displaying tabular data, and replace them with CSS rules
  • Remove or replace excessively large or irrelevant images. You are encouraged to consider the use of Pictograms, as well as links to audio, video and other multimedia content.
  • Make any changes to the XHTML code which you consider to either: enhance the accessibility of the page, or improve the compliance of the page with web standards
  • Discuss your design decisions in a report
  • Estimate the download time of your page (using the access.css stylesheet) using a 28.8 kbit/s Iridium satellite modem (as used by the Australian Department of Defence). Suggest ways in which you might reduce the download time. These question must be answered in the form of an additional section in your report.
Your resulting page need not be identical in appearance to the web pages the source material was prepared from. You need only create the home page, but can create dummy links to other pages (which you need not create). The emphasis should be on a simple and efficient design. The page should be designed to display both on a smart phone and a desktop computer. Design decisions about the way the page looks must be discussed in your report.

Writing the report

You are also required to write a report which presents and justifies your design decisions. The report should be between 600-1000 words long (the word length is not assessable, but a report which falls outside these limits may impact on your ability to complete all assessable tasks). The report should include (but is not restricted to) discussions of the following topics:

• Any design decisions you made which significantly alter the appearance of the webpage. These must be justified by an appeal to accessibility, web standards, or best practice coding guidelines.
• Changes you have made to the code which you consider to have enhanced the accessibility of the webpage.
• Alternative design decisions which you considered implementing, along with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of these.
• Any accessibility issues, or areas of non-compliance with web standards, which are still present in your completed page.

Your report must be valid XHTML-Basic 1.1. The formatting must be clear, and include headers and paragraphs. Citations are not needed. ...


For examples of government swine flu web sites, see Tom Worthington's posting: Lack of useful Swine Influenza Information online from Australian Government, Thursday, April 30, 2009. ...

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lack of useful Swine Influenza Information online from Australian Government

Senator Lundy posted an item to her new web site on 29 April, pointing out that the Department of Health and Ageing (DHA) established a website to provide information on Swine Influenza. That got me thinking about what information was available for the public. I was unable to find any clear and coordinated information for the public from Australian Governments. Instead there are an assortment of web reference to detailed information to officials and cross references which will lead the reader around in circles.

The DHA appears to be for medical practitioners, not the general public. It refers people to DHA's "Health Emergency" web page. This has a paragraph about swine flu and then a link to "Swine Influenza Outbreaks", which contains the equivalent of five pages of text and then links to detailed documents about the number of cases reported so far. All this material appears to be intended for officials, not the public:

National tally of people being tested for Swine Influenza as at 6 am,
30th April 2009


Table 1: Current Australian Cases Under Investigation
0600 AEST 30/04/2009
JurisdictionsSuspect CasesProbableConfirmed

Source: CDNA

From: Swine Influenza Update Bulletin,Department of Health and Ageing, 6am, 30 April 2009
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a Swine influenza - Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) but this is intended for national public health officials. The Australian Capital Territory Department of Health has a Swine Influenza page, but this refers to the DHA and WHO pages.

healthdirect Australia, a joint initiative of the Australian, ACT, NSW, NT, Tasmania, SA and WA governments has a "health alert" on its home page, but this just links to DHA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)has videos on YouTube, showing the correct way to wear a face mask.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dealing with Swine Flu pandemic using smart phones and podcasting

Australian government agencies are advising of Swine Flu Precautions. In 2006 I presented "E-government for emergencies: dealing with a bird flu pandemic using the wireless web and podcasting" at CeBIT Australia (extended technical presentation, ANU, 26 March 2007). This discussed how wireless web technology and podcasting could be used for dealing with a possible influenza pandemic. This included providing advice to the public and to officials on what to do, using the technology to manage health resources. Students in the ANU course "Networked Information Systems" COMP2410 learnt how to design web pages for this and many of them now work in and for government agencies.

One problem at the time was, and remains, that there is no unified web based service in Australia. Each state health authority issues its own information in its own format. While this made sense when the information was issued in the form of brochures the public might pick up at their local library it makes little sense online, where the state governments are just as accessible as each other.

The Internet can also be used to keep services operating, including government, with fewer staff and where gathering of people is not possible.

Labels: , , , , ,