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)

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Australian and International Standards Making

Greetings from the Standards Australia Council Meeting, being held in Sydney, where I am representing the Australian Computer Society. New directors elected were: Peter Burne, Peter Cockbane, Richard Brookes. The Consumer Electronics Suppliers’ Association (CESA) has joined SA.

There were three resolutions from members, for the annual report, quarterly, six monthly reports and a register of councillors. These were supported by the chairman and passed.

The financial report indicates that there has been loss, due to the Global Finance Crisis. The situation is not disastrous, but SA does not appear to have achieved all the savings it would with the move to online standards making. An expensive inner city office is not needed, as clients will never visit. No dedicated standards committee meeting rooms are needed, as most standards making will b online and the few rooms needed can be rented or got free from member organisations.

Dr. Alan Morrison, deputy SA Chair and President of the International Standards Organisation addressed the meeting. He noted that as developing nations expanded their economies, they will take up positions on standards committees. He commented that this was of concern to the USA. I can see how this would concern the USA, but it will be an opportunity for Australia, which has a . He noted a move in the EU for providing standards for free and this creates a dilemma for individual countries and for the USA. He argued that standards are not free, with meeting and coordination costs. He said that ISO is working on a measure of a value of standards to show countries why they should not be free.

There has been considerable controversy with Standards Australia's New Business Model, which was touched on by the CEO in his report. This model is essentially user pays, with those organisations who want a new standard to pay for the cost of its development. It itself user pays is not new or that controversial, those developing standards were already paying most of the cost through providing experts to write the standards at no charge. What has been added to this is a charge from SA to cover their administrative costs. The CEO indicated that some of this would be reconsidered following some concern from members.

Making user pays more controversial is that SA's exclusive publishing agreement with the company SAI Global, precludes the standards developed being available for free online. This was touched on briefly during the meeting.

As an individual IT professional I believe that SA's inability to make standards free and freely available online makes their standards process unworkable. I do not agree with the ISO President's view that a free open source approach will not work and have had doubts about the ISO process since reading Carl Malamud's book more than a decade ago: "Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue" (1992), in which Australians figure prominently. So I will not be participating in any further SA or ISO standards making, instead I will be using open access standards bodies and recommending my colleagues do likewise. I will not be supporting future funding for ISO or SA. However, these views are my own and are not necessarily shared by everyone at ACS and there is no plan for ACS to withdraw its support for SA.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Self contained data center modules

Simon Rohrich from Elliptical Mobile Solutions sent me a message to say they released a self contained data center module in April, which is much as I described in my blog. Their Relocatable Adaptive Suspension Equipment Rack (R.A.S.E.R.) is a ruggedised 42U cabinet which can be moved with equipment in place. Cabinets can be used outdoors and be added side by side as required. From looking at the diagram of the unit, it appears to be a sealed rack mount cabinet with an air conditioner mounted on the side. This could prove useful for the mining industry, as well as military applications.

For more general business and government use, they have smaller cabinets which still allow the equipment to be moved but are not designed to be operated outdoors. Some of these, such as the Campus Self-Propelled Electronic Adaptable Rack (C-S.P.E.A.R.), have there own electric motor for moving the equipment. But a standard electric pallet truck would be more practical.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Australian Standards blocked from open access

Standards Australia and SAI Global have received the results of arbitration over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards. The result is that SAI Global has exclusive publishing rights for standards issued by Standards Australia, even those standards developed by a third party. The effect of this would appear to preclude the provision of any SA endorsed standards in an open access format free online.

To avoid such issues, when asked to help draft a standard, I now first check that the standard will be available open access online. If the standard is not going to be free online, then I decline to take part in the development. Organisations such as W3C, IETF and OASIS make their standards freely available. Versions of these standards may later be made into government endorsed standards, but the text remains available.

The agreement between SA and SAI Global seems to preclude open access to standards, even where those standards were made by an independent body and then put through the SA process. I will therefore be declining to take part in any standards making through Standards Australia. I recommend that my colleagues in the ICT industry also consider withdrawing support for SA processes, due to the detrimental effect this closed process will have on the Australian ICT industry.

I will be asking the professional bodies I am a member of to withdraw funding and support from SA and transfer it to other standards making bodies which do not impose restrictions on access to standards. Also I will be asking my professional bodies to ask the Australian Government to withdraw endorsement and funding from Standards Australia for standards making.
Mr Michael McHugh, Arbitrator (and former High Court Justice), has published his decision in SAI Global’s application that Standards Australia only proceed with Australian Standards developed by third party accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) where exclusive publishing rights for SAI Global have been secured.

Revenues derived from accredited SDOs have historically not been material but the arbitration addressed a long-standing point of disagreement between the parties on interpretation of the commercial-in-confidence Publishing Licence Agreement (“PLA”) of 2003.

Standards Australia contended to Mr McHugh that the PLA did not require Standards Australia to secure exclusive publishing rights for SAI Global for Australian Standards to be developed by third party accredited SDOs.

In his written award dated 23 June 2009, Mr McHugh has not accepted Standards Australia’s view and has confirmed that, under the PLA, Standards Australia must not permit or knowingly allow SDOs to develop Australian Standards without securing for SAI Global exclusive rights to publish, distribute, market and sell those Australian Standards.

Standards Australia will consult with relevant stakeholders in relation to Mr McHugh’s decision.


Standards Australia entered into arbitration with its publisher and distributor, SAI Global, in July 2008 following the failure to resolve differences over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards written by autonomously accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs).
This is a long-standing issue with Standards Australia in discussions with SAI Global since late 2005 regarding relevant terms of the commercial-in-confidence Publishing Licence Agreement (PLA) of 2003.

Central to the dispute has been the publication and distribution rights for Australian Standards developed by SDOs that have been accredited by Standard Australia’s autonomous Accreditation Board for Standards Development Organisations (ABSDO) and which have been approved by Standards Australia to be identified as 'Australian Standards'.

The Productivity Commission raised concerns in its 2006 review of Standards Setting in Australia that the publishing agreement could create a disincentive for organisations to become accredited Standards developers.

Under a long-term agreement, SAI Global continues to hold publishing rights to Australian Standards produced by Standards Australia. ...


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dispute Over Publishing Standards in Australia

Standards Australia and SAI Global have entered into arbitration over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards written by autonomously accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs). To avoid such issues, when asked to help draft a standard, I now first check that the standard will be available open access online. If the standard is not going to be free online, then I decline to take part in the development. Organisations such as W3C, IETF and OASIS make their standards freely available. Versions of these standards may later be made into ISO and Standards Australia standards which are not free online, but the original free version is still available.
The relationship between Standards Australia and SAI Global is governed by contractual arrangements including a Publishing Licence Agreement (PLA) dated 11 November 2003.

Standards Australia and SAI Global have entered into an arbitration concerning the PLA following the failure to resolve differences over the publishing and distribution rights for Australian Standards written by autonomously accredited Standards Development Organisations (SDOs).

Further details about the dispute are set out in our public statement dated 22 July 2008. While it was originally anticipated that the hearing of the arbitration would occur in the week starting 2 March 2009, the hearing has recently been rescheduled to take place from 6 to 8 May 2009. Further relevant developments will be advised via our website

From: Communications, Information Technology and e-Commerce Services, Sector Updates, The Standards Australia, February 2009

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Data Centre in a Military Shipping Container

Sun, IBM and HP now offer data centres packaged in an ISO shipping container. This has advantages for large computing requirements, but the same technique could be applied on a smaller scale, using small containers. A container 1.3 m long, could hold a computer system with 8 processors and 192 TB of storage, costing about $1M. This would be enough computer capacity for a reasonable size company or government agency. A very large data centre could be built by stacking such containers in a low cost warehouse building.

As well as being available for smaller applications, smaller containers would also allow for easier transport, particularly by air and in small trucks. One suitable size container is the US military Joint Modular Intermodal Container (JMIC). The standard JMIC has dimensions of about 1.3 x 1.1 x 1 m. This could hold two standard 19 inch racks, each 16 units high, with space around the racks for cooling, power supplies, shock mounting and cables.

As an example one container could hold 2 Sun SPARC Enterprise T5440 Servers, with 8 UltraSPARC T2 Plus processors, plus 4 Sun Fire X4540 Servers with 192 TB of storage on 192 disks and 8 rack units of networking and peripherals. The unit would weigh about 900 kg, which is within the JMIC maximum gross weight. It would cost about $1M and require about 6 Kw of power. One such containerised computer would be sufficient for running a business or government agency.

The Gershon Report on Australian Government ICT identified 10,484 m2 of capacty in large government data centres in Canberra. This represents approximately 100,000 rack units, which would require 3,500 JMIC containers. For high density applications, the containers could be stacked six high using a fork lift truck in the pallet racks of a low cost industrial warehouse. One building 100 x 100 m (15 m high) could hold the computing requirements for all the major government agencies in Canberra. However, for operational reasons the equipment would likely be placed in several smaller buildings.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

International Conference on IT Innovation Shows Lack of Innovation

I was asked to review a paper for the 14th ACM-SIGCSE Annual Conference on
Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
(ITiCSE 2009, Paris, July 3-8, 2009). For a paper about international innovation it was surprising to find that there were two versions of the call for papers provided: one for US Letter paper and one for international A4 paper. A few moments thought would have lead the conference organisers to conclude that if they formatted the document correctly it would print on either size page and only one document would be needed.

This may seem a trival point, but the conference deals with the use of technology in supporting computer science teaching and learning, the practice of teaching computer science and computer science education research. ICT is an international discipline and we need international standards in areas such as computer science edcuation. We can't waste time and resources on trivia such as producing versions for slightly different print paper sizes.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Common Cartridge standard for e-learning

The IMS Global Learning Consortium have come up with the Common Cartridge (CC) standard. They are collected up online education standards for digital content. This would build on their Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) standard for content, still using the same IMS Content Packaging format. It uses pre-existing metadata and XML encoded standards:

LMSs such as Web CT and Moodle claim complaince with SCORM and, in theory, you can transfer content from one to the other. If CC is implemented, then it should provide more compatibility.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Relationship Mobile Web and Web Accessibility

The W3C have issued a very odd document "Relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)", which which brings new meaning to the term "nothing". It is not so much about the relationship between WCAG and MWBP, but the failure of the W3C to produce one. This document is the technical equivalent of Beckett's play: Waiting for Godot.

The working draft of 3 July 2008 tries to explain the relationships, overlaps and differences between the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP). But it seems to be a by-product of rivalry between W3C working groups, which will be largely unintelligible to outsiders.

The WCAG were primarily intended to make web pages accessible to people with disabilities (such as the blind). But they also had mobile devices in mind, taking into account small screens, slow Internet connections, limited keyboards and pointing devices. I have been teaching the use of the accessibility guidelines for mobile devices to students since 2001.

The Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) are the latest of many attempts to get web pages on mobile phones. Previous attempts failed, largely due to the extreme limitations of mobile devices and partly due to the mobile phone industry's different business models. Mobile devices now have bigger screens and more advanced web browsers, so making web pages is easier. But the MWBP's work is still needed to help designers take account of mobile limitations.

This relationship document is very strangely worded. It is not so much a technical report, as a political one. It asks the reader to first read Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web: Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices and Experiences Shared by People with Disabilities and by People Using Mobile Devices. Then it asks the reader to either read MWBP to WCAG 2.0 or MWBP to WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 to MWBP or WCAG 1.0 to MWBP. There is the a table which apparently tries to make this clear:
Done Doing next Then read
None Both WCAG 2.0 and MWBP WCAG 2.0 and MWBP Together
If that is not enough for the reader, it then refers them to the to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and Mobile Web Best Practices. Then referring to yet another document: "Experiences Shared by People with Disabilities and by People Using Mobile Devices [Editors' Draft, January 2008]".

At this point the document finally gets around to telling the reader something useful about the topic:
"The Mobile Web Best Practices (BP) are not assigned levels. MWBP relates to checkpoints of all the WCAG 1.0 priorities (1, 2 and 3) and to all the WCAG 2.0 level A, AA and AAA success criteria."
However, we are now almost at the end of the document. So far there has been only one sentence containing useful information on the topic.

What then follows is a paragraph explaining why there is no mapping table detailing differences between WCAG and MWBP, and so attempting to explain why this technical report fails in what it set out to do. Then there is an appendix attempting to redefine common English words to be "Special Terms": everything, nothing, partially, possibly, and something. The document then ends.

This reminds me of many public service ICT documents written by people who did not want to do something and who used a lot of words to obscure the fact that they had not done it. W3C should decide if they genuinely want to relate Mobile Web and Web Accessibility (which would be a good idea), or if it is too hard to do. If it is too hard, then this document should be rewritten to honestly say that, rather than trying to obscure the fact that two of the working groups do not want to cooperate.

As it is,
the document "Relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)", is like Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, where the characters wait for someone named Godot, who never arrives. In the case of the W3C's report we wait for a relationship which never arrives.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tactical containers for strategic miltiary logistics

In "Sustainment from the Deep Sea" (US Navy Institute Magazine, July 2008 Vol. 34/7/1,265 ) Lieutenant Colonel James C. Bates advocates "tactical containers" for military strategic sea lift. Eight of these smaller containers would fit in one ISO standard 20 foot container.

The US military is already developing "Joint Modular Intermodal Containers" (JMIC) which are part of the Joint Modular Intermodal Distribution System (JMIDS):

JMIDS JMIC Features - Container
Outside dimensions – 51.75”L X 43.75”W X 43”H
Stacking Height – 40.75”
Inside dimension – 48.75”L X 40.75”W X 33.18”H Collapsed Height – 15.18”
Collapsed Stacking Height – 13.56”
Tare Weight – 317 - 329 lbs
Cover weight – 36.75 lbs
Two removable side panels (26.5 lb ea)
Assemble w/o tools
Collapsed and secured w/o banding
3000 lb max gross weight ...

But as Bates points out the JMIC is designed to be collapsible and so will be less able to be stacked and less weatherproof. Essentially the JMIC is intended to be transported inside something else, such as an ISO container or an aircraft, not left outside on its own. His solution is to make a sturdier, bigger, weatherproof box about 96 x 60 x 48 inches.

Garrett Container Systems, Inc. offer JMICs:

Part# 7516510
NSN: 8145-01-551-5311
(Aluminum finish)
NSN: 8145-01-564-5795 (Tan color)
NSN: 8145-01-564-5802 (Green color)

Joint Modular Intermodal Container (JMIC) is the near future solution to the standardization of shipping containers functional for all branches of the US Military

JMIC is manufactured in four styles for mission-based shipping requirements.

  • JMIC
  • JMIC Light
  • JMIC Rack
  • JMIC Double ...
While pointing out the benefits of using commercial standards for military transporting of containerised goods, Bates fails to mention that there are civilian standards for small containers. These are designed to fit in ISO containers, trucks and aircraft. In selecting a size for a small military container, it would be a good idea to first look at these standards.

If the JMIC is widely adopted by the military, it might be sensible to take up Bates idea, but in a smaller form: a non collapsible, weatherproof, stack able version of the JMIC. Such a Tactical JMIC (TJMIC) container would have the advantage of being compatible with the handling systems of the JMIDS. The TJMIC could be carried in a truck, ship or aircraft as easily as a JMIC, but would weigh more and could not be collapsed for transport empty.

The TJMIC would be simpler and therefore much cheaper to make than JMIC and could be considered semi-disposable, as is the case for many ISO containers in military use. The cost of shipping back empty containers, even when they can be collapsed, is not worth the effort in may situations. Instead the containers could be used as building blocks for fortifications, when filled with sand, and for storage either indoors or outdoors. In addition very large buildings could be built by stacking TJMICs. This would be useful for the construction of semi-permanent bases, where the containers the supplies and equipment were delivered in would be used to build the base. This would exploit the techniques developed for "shipping container architecture".

There is a detailed thesis on "The joint modular intermodal container : is this the future of naval logistics?" by Mark Johnson, at MIT. He discusses the benefits of various containerisation systems and compatibility with ISO. He concludes such systems do offer benefits, but will require inter-branch compatibility. That is it is not so much achieving compatibility with commercial systems which is the problem, but between the US Army, Navy and Air Force.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Computer Power Efficiency for Servers, Government and Home Users

The US EPA is starting to turn its attention to Enterprise Server and Data Centers, working is way up from desktop computers, but already some manufacturers are making energy efficiency claims for their rack mounted equipment. Supermicro claims to have the first 1U server with 90%+ power efficiency using the 80 Plus power specification, based on Energy Star and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI). But this is a measure of just the efficiency of the power supply of the server, not of the fans, CPU, memory or disk drives.
The 80 Plus power specification is based on established criteria from Energy Star(R) and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI). It requires power supplies in computers and servers to deliver 80% or greater energy efficiency at 20%, 50% and 100% of the rated load with a true power factor of 0.9 or greater. At a step higher, the silver level requires 85% or more energy efficiency at or above 20% loading.

From: Supermicro Ships World's First 1U Server Solutions Achieving New Power Efficiency Standard, Super Micro Computer, Inc., 5 August 2008
The number of such claims is getting very confusing. Ingram Micro Inc. is providing Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) via the nonprofit Green Electronics Council, for evaluating desktop computers, notebooks and monitors.

There is a database of EPEAT-registered products. EPEAT uses environmental performance standardsin IEEE 1680- 2006. US Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management (PDF)," (January 24, 2007) requires agencies to acquire EPEAT-registered electronic products for at least 95 percent of electronic product acquisitions, where there is an EPEAT standard for such products (there are also Implementing Instructions). The Australian Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) has included a requirement for EPEAT silver rating, is a Request for Tender for Desktop and Midrange Services this week.

Companies are also starting to use green claims in marketing consumer desktop computers. Dell released the Dell Studio Hybrid PC, July 29, 2008. This is a small desktop computer (9 inch) named after the hybrid car to suggest energy eficiency.

Verdiem have released a free windows program "Edison" for energy-monitoring and adjusting power settings in PCs.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Draft Australian Standard for Corporate governance of projects involving information technology investments

The Draft Australian Standard for "Corporate governance of projects involving information technology investments"is now available free for comment. The standard references works such as Good governance principles, and software engineering standards. It makes a bit of an understatement saying "The historical record of IT project delivery success has been poor." Much of the cause of the failures of those pojects have been due to management issue and poor governance rather than technical problems. Perhaps this standard can help.

One problem is that the standard will have only limited distribution as it will not be open access. Standards Australia and the publishing company SAI Global (SAI) are having a dispute over the distribution rights for Australian Standards. It would be prudent for anyone wanting to take part in development of a standard to check that rights under a Creative Commons licence, or similar, are agreed before work commences. In this way the full text of the standard can be made available online for free, while the standards body can still commercially exploit the work. A good example of this is the ODF standard, which
ISO sell for 342 Swiss Francs, (about $AU352), while the developers, OASIS, make available for free. This arrangement allows those who need the official document to purchase it and everyone else to use the free text.
The Standard was prepared by Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand Committee IT-030, IT Governance and Management.

The objective of this Standard is to promote a substantial improvement in success in achieving business outcomes from business projects that involve investment in new or changed IT capabilities. To achieve this the Standard proposes a framework of principles to owners and directors, to senior managers, and to project managers charged with responsibility for governance of information technology [IT] projects.

This Standard is intended to contribute to the improvement of the success rate for IT projects. Such projects are important to organizations because they are the means to deliver business change and thus to deliver value in terms of competitive advantage and business benefits within defined timeframes. The need for effective governance of projects is
important to the organization.

This Standard elaborates on the set of principles and framework in AS 8015—2005, Corporate governance of information and communication technology.

The historical record of IT project delivery success has been poor. There is a substantial body of both anecdotal and rigorously developed evidence that organizations investing in information and communication technology in support of their business activities face disproportionate and unacceptable risk that their projects will fail to achieve intended outcomes at an acceptable cost, in an appropriate timeframe.

Many assessments of IT investments that have not produced satisfactory outcomes demonstrate that the seeds of failure were present and evident at a very early stage (sometimes before the project was started and approved), and that inadequate oversight resulted in otherwise clear symptoms of trouble being overlooked.

The governance of projects involving IT investment is a component of Corporate governance of IT since projects are necessary at all levels for business to achieve strategic and operational objectives while also generating clear corporate risks in case of failure.

The Standard does not prescribe or define the management practices required for projects, since they are already well defined in other sources. It is a governance responsibility to ensure that these are in place within the organization. ...


1.1 SCOPE ......... 4
1.4 REFERENCES ... 6

2.1 PRINCIPLES ... 9

3.1 GENERAL ... 14


From: Corporate governance of projects involving information technology investments. DR08145.doc - 26/06/2008 9:54:36

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Friday, May 02, 2008

NZ XML Governance Framework for Interoperability

Standards New Zealand have issued three Draft Standards on electronic interoperability of information using XML for government systems: Commenrs close 09/05/2008:
  1. XML Governance Framework: Principles
  2. XML Governance Framework: Operational guide
  3. XML Governance Framwork: Communities guide
It is not clear to me why NZ needs its own standards for XML interoperability, as this would make them non-interoperable with the rest of the world.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

New Business Model Needed for Australian Standards

Standards Australia, a non-government body which develops standards in Australia, has released "Introducing a New Business Model for Standards Australia" (April 08). Unfortunately I found the jargon in this document almost incomprehensible. It does not appear to address two issues which limit SA's role in ICT standards: open participation and open access. SA needs to adopt online standards development processes and provide copies of standards free online, if it wishes to remain in the ICT standards development business beyond the end of 2008.

I can participate in development of ICT standards online with a number of organisations around the world and obtain the standards produced free online. In contrast I can't participate in SA standards processes unless I attend meetings and I can't get copies of developed standards unless I pay money. As a result I no longer participate in SA standards development, nor do I recommend to my university students or colleagues that they use SA standards.

Some of these problems were brought to public attention with the controversy over standardization of OOXML. SA's processes were shown to be unable to deal with the issue.

The Australian ICT community needs to decide what is a suitable business model for standards development. Standards Australia was developed based on a business model which saw funding come from the sale of paper copies of standards, as well as from member subscriptions and some government support. However, after floating its publishing arm as SAI Global in 2003, only a small proportion of Standards Australia's income now comes from the sale of standards (about 16%).

It would be feasible for SA to pilot a low cost online standards process, which provided the standards for free online. SA could also facilitate the involvement of Australian experts in standards processes of international bodies.

The lower cost of online standards development, along with opportunity for online sponsorship, should more than make up for any loss in revenue from sales of standards. SAI Global could take the opportunity to provide services to complement the free standards, so that it does not suffer financially from the loss of standards sales.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Government ICT research to change government

Last night's ACS Canberra talk started with Funnelback, an Australian web search company formed to commercialize government funded research by CSIRO in 2005. The company provides hosted search services to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), Westpac Bank, and the Australian Government. The technology was developed from text retrieval research at ANU in the 1990s. My own small contribution to this work was to suggest the researchers suggest the researchers use web site content for their text search systems and to make available the web sites of the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Department of Defence for the test data. Up to that point the researchers do not seem to have thought of web sites as something worth searching.

Funnelback have now produced their Fluster Clustering Engine, which automatically finds words and phrases in related documents. This is producing "tags" to group information, but rather than someone having to go through all the data creating the categories manually, the system does it automatically. Funnelback can create "also of interest" links, with the aim of not only helping the reader find information, but keep them on the web site longer (without straying to another web site).

On 12 November, 2007 Funnelback announced it won a tender to provide enterprise search for Geoscience Australia. Unlike the public search engines, this will be used for staff to find information on the internal corporate system. As well as internal web pages, the system will search the staff directory, library catalog and a TRIM electronic document management system (EDMS). The last of these is most significant, with Funnelback having built an interface to Tower Software's EDMS.

As happened with the web, this search technology is likely top spread from scientific agencies, out to more administrative and business organizations. Geoscience Australia is a highly competent technical agency (I was at a meeting on metadata there some months ago). Their lead is likely to be followed by other agencies. This may happen in months rather than years.

A few weeks ago I was teaching a course for public servants on Electronic Document Management at the ANU. One issue discussed was how to provide access for the public to government records.
The Australian Labor Party had announced its policy for the reform of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, creating a new Office of the Information Commissioner. So I discussed that on the course, looking at how web based technology could be used to streamline the process. Then I bumped into one of the staff from Funnelback who mentioned thy had already built an interface between the EDMS and their search system.

In the past the way the Australian Government has worked (or not worked) is that each agency, and each part of each agency, guards "their" information from the public, from other agencies and from other parts of their own agency. This is done in the name of national security and personal privacy, but in most cases the information is not sensitive and it is hidden to protect the public servants.

After the November federal election there will be a change in government agencies (regardless of which political party wins the election). Normally this would involve files having to be moved from agency to agency and arrangement of IT systems. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to change the way the government works. Instead of rearranging the small piles of information, the data could be made accessible online to those who have a need to use it. The system at
Geoscience Australia could be expanded to all agencies. Any public servant could search all records of the government for information they had a need for and were authorized to see. At the same time all public servants would be given access to electronic mail and other common office tools via one standard interface. Voice over IP standard telephony could also be provided to all staff.

In the past such a corporate system would take decades of planning and would be unlikely to ever be implemented. However, the Internet and web based technology makes this very much simpler. An Internet based interface could be provided to a common, public service wide email, search and could management system. Government records in standard EDMS conforming to National Archives of Australia standards could be easily searched. IT staff of agencies who say that their systems can't be interfaced should be asked why they have produced incompatible systems, and told to produce an interface or find another job. Similarly those IT staff who say that their agency can't use email and office document standards should be replaced.

A standards based system with access to corporate records would provide the opportunity for a new Australian Government to greatly increase its efficiency and cut costs.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Accessibility Problems with Microsoft Office Open XML

Stephen A. Hockema and Jutta Treviranus from the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre have written a thoughtful analysis of accessibility issues for the disabled with the Microsoft Office Open XML format. This is timely as OOXML is proposed as an international standard. Essentially Stephen and Jutta argue the world would be better off improving the existing ODF standard, than creating a new one. This is a point of view I agree with.
There are grave issues with respect to the accessibility of Office Open XML as a format and potential standard that should preclude its adoption at present. It may be the case that OOXML can be improved to ameliorate some of the more specific technical concerns, but it is most likely too late for the higher-level issues, especially those inherent in the process by which OOXML was developed. We suggest that energy would be better spent in the ongoing effort to improve the existing ISO ODF standard (with which OOXML would overlap and compete if it is adopted). In any event, decisions with respect to standardized document formats should be made in consultation with members of disability communities, disabilities experts and developers of assistive technologies, with universal accessibility as a core requirement as opposed to an ad hoc afterthought.

From: Accessibility Issues with Office Open XML, Stephen A. Hockema
Jutta Treviranus, Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto, 2007

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Did the shipping container change the world?

Cover of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc LevinsonThe book "The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger" by Marc Levinson says it all in the subtitle. This is a book about how standardization of containers for transporting goods lowered shipping costs. This made it possible for factories in China to compete internationally. The book is worth a read for those interested in the interplay between business and technology. Technologists may want to skip some of the chapters on the economics of shipping.

The book is mostly about Malcolm McLean, "the father of containerization". It is argued that as an outsider, McLean was able to see the value of shipping goods in standardised boxes on ships. The boxes could be loaded from trucks and trains onto ships by crane, without the need to unpack and repack each load.

Levinson argues that standardized containers forced a rationalization in manufacturing as well as shipping. He also makes the point that the early adopters were not the most successful. Those who waited until the container was developed and then invested had the more successful business.

The computerized systems which allow shipping containers to be scheduled and tracked around the world get mentioned in several places in the book, as does Toyota's "Just in Time" manufacturing process. Currently another revolution may, or may not be taking place, as businesses adopt web based standards and learn to tightly integrate their processes.

The book covers the actual process by which the process McLean demonstrated was turned into a formal standard, in only a few pages. Anyone who has been on a standards committee will be familiar with the agony of slow standards processes, competing interests and egos which Levinson discusses. I would have liked some more detail on the details of the shipping container standard and some of the more unusual things people do with them.

empoHousing two bedroom four TEU homeOne of the more unusual spinoffs of shipping containers, are containerized apartment blocks. You can order a six story apartment block of six hundred units from a factory in China. It will arrive on a ship as six hundred containers and be erected in a few days.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

W3C Service Modeling Language Standard

A consortium of IT companies has proposed web standards for describing: "services and systems, including their structure, constraints, policies, and best practices". The proposed standards were released by the World Wide Web Consortium on 21 March 2007: Service Modeling Language (SML) and SML Interchange Format (SML-IF).

After controversy with the ownership of previous standards, the companies, including CA, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, have offered the technology royalty free.

The standards are very abstract and might be used to describe any form of service, such as getting your car washed. But clearly the authors intended them for IT services. It will be interesting to see if the complexities of such services can be reduced to an XML format which is processable by machines and understandable by people.

The Service Modeling Language uses XML based standards, including Schema:
The Service Modeling Language (SML) provides a rich set of constructs for creating models of complex IT services and systems. These models typically include information about configuration, deployment, monitoring, policy, health, capacity planning, target operating range, service level agreements, and so on. Models provide value in several important ways. ...

A model in SML is realized as a set of interrelated XML documents. The XML documents contain information about the parts of an IT service, as well as the constraints that each part must satisfy for the IT service to function properly.
The SML Interchange Format defines how to transmit the models, using simple web hypertext links, Web Services, or similar:
The purpose of SML-IF is to package the set of documents representing an SML model to be interchanged into a single XML document in a standard way. The set of documents to be interchanged is called the SML-IF document ...
Perhaps the Service Modeling Language in IBM's new Australian
Service-Oriented Architecture center:
IBM has selected Australia for the establishment of an Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Centre. ...

Centres will also be established in France, China, India, Japan, Brazil, Beijing, Central Europe and Dubai.

The Australian centre is expected to open in June 2007, however, an IBM spokesperson said exact details such as cost and location were yet to be finalized. ...

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Standards agreement between China and Australia

Standards AustraliaStandards Australia have signed an agreement with their Chinese equivalent, the Standardization Administration of China:
Standards Australia and China's peak standards development organisation have signed a major international covenant ensuring future standards development in each country will not stand in the way of free trade...

Under the agreement, Australia and China
's peak standards development bodies will:
  • Notify each other of the Standards that may cause significant influences on the trade between both countries;
  • Exchange national Standards catalogues, information and experiences on standardisation;
  • Provide advice on technical regulations;
  • Engage in expert visits and academic exchange;
  • Carry out joint Standards research projects; and
  • Collaborate in dealing with international Standards organisations....
From: New agreement to help Australian business trade with China, Standards Australia MEDIA RELEASE March 22, 2007
SA is a non-for-profit Australian company, while SAC is an agency of the Chinese Government. They represent their respective countries at bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC):
Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) is authorized by the State Council and under the control of AQSIQ to exercise the administrative functions and carry out centralized administration for standardization in China. While relevant competent administrative departments of the State Council shall be assigned the responsibility of managing the work of standardization within their respective professional sectors. The competent administrative bureaus of standardization in the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, cities and counties shall execute unified administration of the work of standardization in their respective administrative regions. The provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, cites and counties are also setting standardization departments in their governments. The SAC execute business administration of those province-level bureaus of technical supervision and execute directive administration in the system of under province-level bureau of technical supervision.

From: Standardization Administration of China, Chinese National Committee of the ISO/IEC
ps: I represent the Australian Computer Society on the SA Council.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Make Australian Standards Open Access?

In my talk for the Canberra Society of Editors I suggested the Australian Government make its publications open access using a Creative Commons license.

The Productivity Commission has reported on the Australian Government’s relationship with Standards Australia Limited (SA).

If the Australian Government is willing to consider making its documents freely available on-line, it seems reasonable that Standards Australia should do likewise. There seems no good reason why the resulting documents should not be freely available on-line to Australians, who funded the standards development and wrote the standards for free.

SA could retain control over the content of the standards and continue to licence them commercially. SA floated it publishing arm on the Australian Stock exchange as SAI Global Limited some time ago.

ps: I represent the Australian Computer Society on the Council of Standards Australia, but the view expressed above is not necessarily that of the ACS.

Some related books:

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