Monday, April 26, 2010

Open Access Education for Open Source Software

Last week Cameron Shorter from Sydney Geospatial open source software company Lisasoft contacted me about how to provide "crowd-sourced" training. The idea was to apply the same open source development techniques to he training materials as the software. My suggestion was to use USQ's ICE system and Moodle.

We discussed open source and education over lunch on Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont, Sydney, where Listsoft is located. The Wharf, adjacent to the Sydney Casino and Google's Sydney office, has been redeveloped as a offices for software and media companies, with million dollar yachts pulled up alongside and a million dollar view of Sydney harbour from the outdoor restaurants.

Normally I am skeptical of open source enthusiasts proposing large projects. However, Lisasoft seem to have managed to sell geospetial products and services particularly to government agencies.

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) has a project to produce a "Live GIS Disc" of open source geospatial software. documentation to adopt standard documentation. This was to include some training material. OSGEO also has an OSGeo Education and Curriculum Project, providing a Search-able Database of Educational Material. Cameron has proposed aligning the documentation guidelines put in place for LiveDVD with the OSGeo education project. The idea being that along with the free software would be free educational materials.

My talk in Adelaide on open source for defence got Cameron's attention, so he asked how to go about providing educational content. I started by cautioning that it is difficult to get software developers to do documentation, let alone training materials (it is far more exciting to write the code than document it). But I did suggest using USQ's ICE and also Moodle. Both ICE and Moodle are available free and incorporate current thinking about how training should be done.

The difficulty with any such educational material design is to match up the high level definition of the training requirements with the low level training materials created. ICE comes with templates for USQ's course development process. These templates are much the same as commonly used for Australian universities and TAFEs and so should be easily adapted for describing OSGeo's courses. Moodle then provides the infrastructure for delivering the material.

At the technical level both ICE and Moodle generate HTML, making it easy and efficient to incorporate into online systems. Rather than produce PowerPoint (or the equivalent) for slide show presentations, I suggests using
HTML Slidy , as Incorporated in ICE.

Slidy allows for PowerPoint type functionality within the web version of the ICE documents. I have used Slidy for years to give presentations, with few of the audience ever noticing that what they are looking at is a web page, not a PowerPoint document.

One advantage of Slidy is that it allows for automated language translation. As the presentation is just a web page, web translators can be used. Someone looking at a web page through a translator, will see not only the normal web version of the notes translated, but the slides as well. obviously machine translation is not as good as a custom one, but it is available with no effort by the creator of the presentation.

More generally, as OSGEO have encouraged the use of creative commons licenses, there would seem to be no reason why the training materials can't be freely available and visible. Currently you can find the brief description of training materials with a web search, but not the content of the courses themselves.

Tools such as ICE and Moodle produce search-able web pages. This greatly
increases the visibility of the training materials, as they can be found with a web search. The person searching does not need to know of the existence of OSGEO, they would just need to search for words somewhere in the course content.

ps: Geoscience is not my field, although I have dabbled with a satellite fire mapping system.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Open Source Tools for e-Learning

Leo Gaggl, from Bright Cooke is upgrading ACS' e-learning system (Leo likes Caffe L'Incontro). ACS already uses Moodle for learning management and Mahara for e-portfolios (leo calls this combination "Mooara"). To this is being added Alfresco content repository and Jasper Business Intelligence package. These are both open source products. Alfresco is intended to allow course content to be managed and shared. Moodle is limited to, for example, having to copy content from one course to another and manually maintain versions. Jasper will also more sophisticated reporting on courses than is possible in Moodle.

Alfresco will provide some of the features of USQ's ICE system, in terms of version control. However, work will be done to allow Alfresco to reformat content. With that done, this could allow, for example, the course content to be maintained outside Moodle, with version for Moodle, eBook (ePub and KIndle)and print formats. As well as being generated in different formats, such as web pages and PDF, different versions could have different content, such as the front-matter for a published book version.

The Jasper report server will be used to create administrative reports and for analysis of courses.

In addition the new version of Moodle will have a theme for use with smart phones.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source

Tom Worthington and other Defence personnel on the USS Blue RidgeOpenSA have invited me to speak on "Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source: Commons for Collins or GPL for Growlers?" in Adelaide, 19 April 2010. Defence programs have traditionally used custom designed computer systems with custom programming tailored to each new defence system. However, there is now more use of commercial off the shelf equipment, which includes scope for more use of open source software. The subtitle of the talk refers to the Collins Class Submarine follow-on project and the acquisition of 12 F/A-18G "Growler"electronic warfare aircraft by Australia. These systems have the potential to use open source software.
Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source
Tom Worthington

5pm 19th April 2010
“The Thinking Space” Science Exchange, 56 Exchange Place, Adelaide SA 5000

Free for member companies, up to 2 reps; $10 for additional reps. $20 for non-members; membership may be applied and paid for at the event.

Free and open source software has obvious benefits, but it can be difficult to explain these to organisations such as the Department of Defence. A brief guide to technology in the defence organisation will be given by a former senior ICT policy advisor. Tips on what to say to who and how to contact defence IT personnel and decision makers will be provided.

Tom Worthington took a temporary six month posting at the Defence Department and stayed for nine years, with time in both the military Headquarters Australian Defence Force and the civilian Defence Material Organisation. During that time he got to fly in military aircraft and occasionally wear a borrowed uniform at wargames, but spent most time advising on restructuring IT projects, including incorporation of Unix into the Defence computing environment.

Tom provided technical leadership and represented Defence at interdepartmental and industry committees. He was prepared the first Defence policy on Internet information services and managed the first Defence web site and and Ministerial site. He advised on technologies and products for the Defence Common Operating Environment.

Since leaving Defence, Tom has been an independent IT consultant and teaches at the Australian National University. He is an honorary life member, fellow and former president of the ACS, as well as a member of ACM and IEEE-CS. He designed the ACS/ANU/OUA Green Technology Strategies course.

RSVP by COB Friday 16th April 2010 to Angela Anderson at Loftus, either by phone 8304 8888, or by email

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Sahana First AGM

The first annual meeting of the the Sahana Software Foundation for members and directors will be in Washington USA, 2 May 2010. This is in conjunction with the 7th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management.

As a member, I will attend the meeting by web conference (unless someone would like to buy my air ticket). The meeting starts at 15:30 GMT, which is 1:30:00 AM Canberra Time (3 May 2010) . This reminds me of the inaugural meeting of the Internet Society of Australia, which I attended remotely from Cambridge (England) where it was about 4am and pitch black.

The agenda will look something like the following:

  08:00 Breakfast
08:30 Members Meeting
Report of Officers to the Members
Review of Nominations of New Members
Election of New Members
Review of Nominations for the Board of Directors
Election of Board of Directors
General Discussion
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Sahana Symposium/Mini-Conference
15:30 Breakout Meetings of Committees and Projects
17:00 Adjourn
18:00 Dinner Meeting of the Board of Directors

From: first annual meeting of the the Sahana Software Foundation, 2010

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Global Humanitarian Software Foundation

The Sahana Software Foundation has announced its initial membership to guide work on software to assist in disaster relief operations around the world. There are two Australian members: Don Cameron and myself.

The Sahana free open source software was written for relief operations in Sri Lanka after the boxing day tsunami. It has been expanded for use around the world, winning some awards along the way.

The 24 members from USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand. will be voting for a Board of Directors in May, to run the organisation. The process has been delayed as many of the volunteers are busy providing software and systems to support the relief effort in Haiti.

My role in Sahana has been limited to providing some advice on the use interfaces for the system (and teaching this to my ANU web design students). But every little bit helps and I encourage others to join in.
Sahana Software Foundation


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, 10 February 2010: The Sahana Software Foundation announced today its initial membership. Membership invitations were extended in December 2009 to current and past board and project management committee members. Those who accepted this invitation and form the initial membership of the Sahana Software Foundation are:

David Bitner, USA
Fran Boon, UK
Ravith Botejue, Sri Lanka
Don Cameron, Australia
Mifan Careem, Sri Lanka
Trishan de Lanerolle, USA
Chamindra de Silva, Sri Lanka
Ravindra de Silva, Canada
Sudheera Fernando, Sri Lanka
Mahesh Kaluarachchi, Sri Lanka
Dominic König, Sweden
Ishan Liyanage, Sri Lanka
Greg Miernicki, USA
Darmendra Pradeeper, Sri Lanka
Mark Prutsalis, USA
Louiqa Raschid, USA
Eric Rasmussen, USA
Martin Thomsen, Denmark
Gavin Treadgold, New Zealand
Nuwan Waidyanatha, Sri Lanka
Sanjiva Weerawarana, Sri Lanka
Brent Woodworth, USA
Tom Worthington, Australia

Members of the Sahana Software Foundation are eligible to nominate new members and to vote for the composition of the Board of Directors and other issues at the annual meeting of members. The first meeting of the members of the Sahana Software Foundation is scheduled for May 2010 at which the first elected board will be voted on, followed by a board meeting.

The current board is composed of Mifan Careem, Chamindra de Silva, Darmendra Pradeeper, Mark Prutsalis, Louiqa Raschid, Martin Thomsen, Gavin Treadgold, Sanjiva Weerawarana and Brent

The officers of the Sahana Software Foundation are:

Brent Woodworth (Chair), Mark Prutsalis (President & CEO), Chamindra de Silva (Secretary & CTO), and Dale Zuehls (CFO/Accountant).

The governing bylaws of the Sahana Software Foundation can be reviewed at:

About the Sahana Software Foundation:
The Sahana Software Foundation was established in June 2009 as a non-profit membership-based organization, and governs the free and open source software Sahana disaster management system.

For more information, contact:
Mark Prutsalis, President & CEO
Sahana Software Foundation
Tel +1-860-499-0332

Sahana Software Foundation
900 Wilshire Blvd, Ste 1500
Los Angeles, CA 90017

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Software Freedom Day in Canberra

The Computer Fair at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston, Canberra will feature a stand for Software Freedom Day, 10am to 2pm, 19 September 2009. There will be free Linux CDs, demonstrations of open source games and MythTV (for turning your PC into an intelligent Digital TV recorder). There will be a later "Installfest" with CLUG members helping to install Linux and Open Source Software, in room N101 of the CSIT Building, ANU from 10am to 3pm, on 26 September. Volunteers are needed for both events.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

What is Google Wave?

It is an unusual and slightly refreshing feeling to sit in a technical computer presentation have no idea of what the presenter is talking about. The experts from Google Sydney who have developed the technology are giving an introduction for developers on how to use it. While the details of Java and Python APIs and the use of various techniques is familiar and by the end of the day I could probably code a Google Wave application, I am still having difficulty understanding what it is for. There are some glimmerings of understanding happening. One is that Google Wave robots (applications running out in the cloud) can manipulate the Wave data in XHTML format. Also there is an OpenSocial interface coming to allow for interaction with social networking services (or for building social networking services). These are of interest for my intended application in e-learning. This could be used to build web based services for students to interact with each other and the tutors. Even if it does not turn out Google Wave is not the technology for this (or more likely is more technology than needed) it might make a good prototype.

ps: On a less serious note, the first Google Wave presentation was illustrated with images of not very friendly or pretty looking robots. Ruth Ellison, head of WSG Canberra, gave a presentation The Uncanny Valley at BarCamp Canberra with more interesting robots.

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Google Wave in Canberra

Greetings from the Google Wave Hackathon at the the Australian National University in Canberra. This free technical event about Google Wave platform. It started at 9am, but there is still room for more people and it runs until 5pm. There also some people following on Twitter: #cbrwave. I am here to see how it might be used for collaborative education with a learning management system: think social networking for a tutorial group (I talked about teaching Green ICT with a smartphone at Google Sydney on Friday).
Canberra Google Wave Hackathon Day
Saturday 8th August

9:30am Registration
10:00am Talks

A presenter from Google (details available soon) will give an introduction to the Wave API.

If you have already been developing for Wave, please consider giving a short presentation about what you have done (doesn't have to be a formal presentation).

12:00 pm Brainstorming Lunch (BYO or we will take orders & payment for pizza at registration)
1:00 pm Hacking
5:00 pm Demos
7:00 pm Head out for dinner at restaurant (at your own cost).

You must register if you wish to attend so that a Google Wave Developer sandbox account can be created for you. Registrations will close on Tuesday, 4th August so that the accounts can be created.

Numbers are limited, so please register as soon as possible at:

This day is being organised by volunteers who are interested in Google Wave development and thought it would be useful to have a Google Wave developers day in Canberra. Please indicate if you are willing to assist with organising and running the day. Contact for more information.

We will be providing WiFi internet access, but you will need to bring your own computer. Please have a look at the developer information on the Google Wave site ( as an introduction.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Canberra Google Wave Hackathon Day

A Google Wave Hackathon is being held the the Australian National University in Canberra on 8 August all day from 9am (registration essential). This is a free technical event about Google Wave platform. I am going along to see how it might be used for collaborative education with a learning management system: think social networking for a tutorial group (I am talking about teaching Green ICT with a smartphone at Google Sydney on Friday):
Canberra Google Wave Hackathon Day
Saturday 8th August

9:30am Registration
10:00am Talks

A presenter from Google (details available soon) will give an introduction to the Wave API.

If you have already been developing for Wave, please consider giving a short presentation about what you have done (doesn't have to be a formal presentation).

12:00 pm Brainstorming Lunch (BYO or we will take orders & payment for pizza at registration)
1:00 pm Hacking
5:00 pm Demos
7:00 pm Head out for dinner at restaurant (at your own cost).

You must register if you wish to attend so that a Google Wave Developer sandbox account can be created for you. Registrations will close on Tuesday, 4th August so that the accounts can be created.

Numbers are limited, so please register as soon as possible at:

This day is being organised by volunteers who are interested in Google Wave development and thought it would be useful to have a Google Wave developers day in Canberra. Please indicate if you are willing to assist with organising and running the day. Contact for more information.

We will be providing WiFi internet access, but you will need to bring your own computer. Please have a look at the developer information on the Google Wave site ( as an introduction.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disaster Management System Support for Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government's Information and Communication Technology Agency has issued a request for Expressions of Interest for "Deployment of the Sahana Disaster Management System for the National Disaster Relief Services Centre" (due August 10, 2009). Sahana is an open source application developed in response to the December 2004 Tsunami. Provided are a one page Request for Expressions of Interest and a 14 page Scope of Services document. The scope of services document provides an excellent overview of issues with open soruce software for disaster management.
The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) is the implementing Agency for the e-Sri Lanka initiative. The Re-engineering Government is one of the main programme areas of ICTA, which aims to improve the efficiency of delivery and access mechanisms of the government. The objectives of the Re-engineering Government Programme are mainly to be achieved by re-engineering the government business processes and enabling those processes with Information and Communication Technologies.

The National Disaster Relief Services Centre (NDRSC) which functions under the purview of the Ministry of Resettlement & Disaster Relief Services is responsible for post disaster management and relief in Sri Lanka. The main functions of the NDRSC are Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief and Resettlement & Rehabilitation. The NDRSC functions through the responsible government operatives in district and divisional secretariat levels. It has been identified that the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be further deployed to improve the efficiency of NDRSC significantly.

„Sahana‟ is an internationally award winning web based disaster management system which has been successfully deployed to manage various recent large scale disasters by the Government of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Bangladesh and China. Sahana is a free and open disaster management system and, it has been envisioned that the Sahana would be the perfect solution which could be easily customized and enhanced to cater the requirements of NDRSC.

ICTA now invites Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from eligible Software Service Providers (Firms) to take up this project. Interested consultants must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services (core business and years in business, qualifications in the field of the assignment, technical and managerial organization of the firm, general qualifications and number of key staff, experience in similar conditions etc). The “Scope of Services” and “EOI Information Form” documents are now available at ICTA for further information. Interested parties may download above documents from the website

Interested eligible parties may obtain further information from Mr. Christy Perera - Procurement Advisor, ICTA by contacting via Phone: +94 11 2369099, Fax: +94 11 2369091) and E-mail:; Expressions of Interest including all requested information must be delivered no later than 1500 hrs on 10th August 2009 either: (i) electronically to; or (ii) hand delivered or (iii) by post to the address; Procurement Division, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, 2nd Floor, 160/24, Kirimandala Mawatha, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka.

Please mark clearly on the envelope and subject field of e-mail “Expressions of Interest - Deployment of the Sahana Disaster Management System for the National Disaster Relief Services Centre - ICTA/CON/GOSL/QCBS/38”. ...

From: Request for Expressions of Interest (EOI), Presidential Secretariat, e-SRI LANKA DEVELOPMENT PROJECT, Deployment of the Sahana Disaster Management System for the National Disaster Relief Services Centre - ICTA/CON, GOSL/QCBS/38, 17 July 2009

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Monday, July 06, 2009

New Zealand Sahana Disaster Management System Cluster

Tim McNamara has called a meeting to form a New Zealand non-profit group to work with others around the world on the Sahana free open source disaster management system. The meeting is in Wellington, New Zealand, 30 July 2009:

Sahana Free and Open Source Disaster Management System | New Zealand Cluster

Have a Play

Get Involved

Turn Up

5:30pm, 30 July 2009, Level 6, Willis Street, Wellington, New Zealand

(RSVP via

What is this anyway?

The New Zealand Sahana Cluster is being formed to bring together technology experts, translators, emergency managers, researchers to bring forward widespread adoption of Sahana in New Zealand.

Sahana is Sinhalese for 'Relief' and signifies the history of the project from its development to reconnect families displaced due to the Boxing Day Tsunami. The New Zealand Cluster seeks to have the same positive impact for Kiwi communities.

Some deployments:

  • Asian Tsunami in Sri Lanka (2005)
  • Kashmir Earthquake in Pakistan (2005)
  • Landslide disaster in Philippines (2005)
  • Sarvodaya and Terre des Hommes, Sri Lankan NGOs (2005-)
  • Yogjakarta Earthquake, Indonesia (2006)
  • Earthquake in Peru (2007)
  • Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh (2007)
  • Coastal Storm Plan in New York City (2007-)
  • Ica Earthquake, Peru (2007)
  • Chendu-Sitzuan Earthquake, China (2008)
  • National Disaster Management Center &
  • Ministry of Resettlement & Disaster Relief Services, Sri Lanka (2009)

International Sponsors:

IBM Google NSF

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Open Source Software Course, Canberra, April 2009

Mr Robert (Bob) EdwardsDr.; Andrew TridgellAndrew "Tridge" Tridgell and Bob "The Builder" Edwards are running the course "Free and Open Source Software Development" (COMP8440) at the ANU in Canberra, starting 14 April 2009. Dr. Tridgell is best know as the author of Samba. Mr Edwards is known for the international award winning "Bunyip" supercomputer, designed and built in Canberra. Both are also known for hacking the TiVo. The course is open who just want to do it as a one off, as well as part of postgraduate courses at ANU. This course will not be easy and not your usual Powerpoint corporate training, but you have to climb the mountain to sit at the feet of the Guru. ;-)

ANU College of

Free & Open Source Software (FOSS)

The ANU Department of Computer Science is offering a Masters of Computing (five day intensive) course scheduled for Autumn 2009 (April).

Lecturers: Dr. Andrew Tridgell & Mr. Bob Edwards

Want to learn how FOSS development works? Are you interested in the technical, legal and social aspects of the free software community? If so, then this could be the course for you...

About the course

This course aims to teach students about FOSS in a very practical manner. Students will learn about FOSS by studying and participating in real projects, with practical tutorial sessions making up most of the course time. The course will be run over five intensive days at the ANU in Canberra, and will be led by a lecturer with 20 years
of experience in developing FOSS software. Interspersed with the practical sessions will be a series of lectures explaining important aspects of FOSS development, including topics such as:
  • The history of FOSS
  • How FOSS communities are organised and governed
  • How the development cycle works
  • How FOSS licenses work
  • legal issues faced by FOSS projects
  • Source code control systems
  • Bug tracking and quality control

Program Information

Want more info?

T: 02 6125 0677 E:

ANU CRICOS Provider Number 00120C

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Android Desktop Phone

NIMble Concept Desk PhoneProduct design company Touch Revolution has displayed the "NIMble Concept Desk Phone", a computer with a 7 inch touch screen running Google's Android. Similar to other Internet Appliances, such as the 3Com Ergo Audrey the NIMble is intended to be given away with a monthly phone contract. The unit is shown with no keyboard, relying on its touch screen, which Touch Revolution specialise in. Previous Internet appliances failed in the market, but NIMble might have more of a chance as it uses now well established Linux software and can use the brand recognition of Google's Android. However, the unit has a non-adjustable screen (dictated by the touch interface) and no keyboard and is likely to cost more that the numerous models of netbook computer.

Main Processor Minimum 600MHz StrongARM
Memory 128 MB DDR RAM, 512 MB NAND Flash
Expanded Storage SD Card Slot
OS Included Embedded Linux
Middleware Included Android Application Framework
Screen Type TFT LCD
Screen DIMENSIONS 4.3”, 7”, 10” Diagonal (Other custom sizes supported)
Resolution 480 x 272, 800 x 480 and higher
Touch Sensor Type Multi-Touch Projective Capacitive Glass Surface
Connectivity 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 1.0/2.0, Ethernet
Audio Stereo Speakers, Stereo Headset Jack, Directional Microphone,
Bluetooth™ 2.0/2.1 + EDR stereo (A2DP) range of 10 meters
Camera 2MP CMOS Camera, 15fps full resolution video, 30fps 1MP video

From: Platform Sheet, Touch Revolution, 4 January 2009

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vietnamese Government to use Open Source Software

Agencies of the Vietnamese Government have been directed to use Open Source Software in 2009. It seems that a similar directive was issued some time ago, but the government isn't happy with the pace of implementation and so has made the ruling firmer. One reason is to combat piracy of Microsoft software:
Implementation Decision 235/2004/QD-TTg dated 02 3 2004 by the Prime Minister approved the project on the overall application and development of open source software in Vietnam period 2004-2008, the Ministry of Information Information and Communications has issued the list of products open source software to meet the requirements for the organization to the state (including software: OpenOffice office, e-mail on Mozilla stations Thunderbird, the Mozilla Firefox web browser and type in English Unikey); Ministry of Science and Technology has developed documentation and use training software for many agencies, organizations across the state country.

To promote the use of free software open source (also known as open source software write-off is PMNM), contributing to limit the violation of software copyright, Minister of Information and Media indicator :

1. The units responsible for information technology (IT) by the Ministry, Ministry of agencies, Governmental agencies (hereinafter called the ministries, departments) and the Department of Information and Communication (Department TT & TT) of the provinces, cities directly under the Central Government (hereinafter referred to as provinces, cities):
a) Implement the installation and training, instructions to use the software above the staff in the units:

Latest to 30/6/2009, ensure 100% workstation unit responsible for IT Department and TT & TT installed, 100% staff is trained, using the instructions in the minimum 50% of staff can use the expertise in the job and can help guide the units under other ministries, departments, provinces and cities.

Latest date to 31/12/2009, ensure 70% workstation in the units under ministries, departments, provinces, cities are installed, 70% of staff are trained, guided to use, in which at least 40% of staff use the software in the above work.
There are plans to gradually increase the population of documents, materials, information exchange within the agencies, units of the ministries, departments, provincial, city editor, handled by the software mentioned above, ensure 31/12/2010 to most staff in the agencies, units of the ministries, departments, provinces, cities using the software in the above work.

b) Advising, proposed to the heads of agencies, departments, Chairman of provinces and cities: the solution, measures to ensure implementation of the tasks mentioned above, incorporating, including contents of this directive to plan the application of IT units, advocacy, mobilization, encourage emulation movement between units and individuals in the ministries, departments, provinces and cities City on the use of PMNM; bringing the IT applications and general use PMNM in particular to review the content to emulate, rewarded annually by the individual units.

c) The (at least 6 times a month) organization assessment and preliminary results, draw experience implementing the tasks, the report Ministries, departments, committees of provinces, cities and the Ministry of Information and Media.

2. 2nd associations and enterprise IT:

a) The IT associations organize practical work, enabling members to exchange information and experience to continuously improve energy exploitation, providing products, services PMNM; coordination, support unit responsible for IT, the Department of TT & TT perform tasks above; support the development of community PMNM Vietnamese; promote international cooperation on PMNM activities and links between community PMNM Vietnamese organizations, community PMNM world.

b) The business provides computer: Install the software above the computer when provided to agencies, state organizations, not to provide the market for computer software with no copyright legal.

c) facilities, business services and training IT: positive, active construction programs, curriculum and organization of training courses on PMNM; take the training to use the product PMNM the training of basic information, information office, information technology advanced.

d) The business software, business services IT: Capacity building services software in general and in particular for PMNM state agencies consider the software as a service (SaaS ); encourage the development of ideas, products and services based on PMNM.

3. The units of the Ministry of Information and Media:

a) The Information Technology:

- Host, in collaboration with IT Office under the Ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant units to update the list of PMNM meet requirements for the organization to the state; complete documents usage instructions; organization, community support the implementation of Vietnamese products PMNM;

- Investigation, survey, aggregate and provide up: the list, address and business services PMNM, facilities, business services training PMNM; versions installed, technical materials, guidelines using PMNM common;

- Guide, check and monitor the implementation of the Directive; received, general coordination with the units involved to resolve the authorities, or report the Minister to resolve the petitions, the Vietnam's ministries, sectors and localities on the application and development PMNM, as well as difficulties arising in implementing Directive; report of the Minister of the results of the implementation.

b) Department of Applied Information Technology: The owner of incorporating, including the content of this directive, as well as content and tasks to promote the application PMNM in general, in the written regulations, instructions of IT applications, documents guiding plan, program, project applications in the IT operations of state agencies.

c) Information Center:

- Implementation of the tasks assigned to the unit responsible for IT in this Directive. To ensure the units of the Ministry in the use of software mentioned above;

- Host, in collaboration with the press, media propaganda, broadcast, raise awareness about the benefits of PMNM; mobilizing applications PMNM in the operation of agencies, organizations, enterprises and people.

500. Institute of Software and Digital Content Vietnam Center rescue emergency computer Vietnam (VNCERT): Preparation of ready to support ministries, sectors and localities implemented using PMNM above; Coordinate with IT Department to review, update the list PMNM meet the requirements for the organization to the state.

4. 4th of implementation:

a) The heads of agencies, units of the Ministry, heads the unit responsible for the Ministry of IT, industry, Director of TT & TT provinces, cities, the association, business IT has the responsibility of thoroughly spirit Directive, customized implementation of the tasks mentioned above, organizations quickly deploy and periodic reports results of the implementation.

b) The unit responsible for IT, the TT & TTT: The responsibility for the unit leaders directly responsible for promoting applications PMNM, is responsible for organizing implementation, management is over, check and evaluate the applications in PMNM units and units in other ministries, departments, provinces, cities themselves.

c) Chairman of the provinces, cities directly under the central government: The Department of TT & TT and other departments, agencies related to the adjustment of this Directive; active layout and taking part in total charge of the application and development of IT for its implementation using PMNM above, the mechanisms, policies, layout resources, create favorable conditions for the implementation. /.

From: Directive on promoting use of open source software in activities of agencies, organisations of the state (translation by Google), Ministry of Information and Communications, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 07 /2008

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Global Open and Green Digital Economy

In "Evolution of Digital Economy & Implications for Government Policy"
By Katsuhiko KAJI (Director, the Information Policy Division, Commerce & Information Policy Bureau, METI) argues for a Global Open and Green Digital Economy policy for Japan.Global: Mobile phones in Japan are an example of where high technology industry is focused on the domestic, rather than global market.
  1. Open: Collaboration, including on open source is needed. An example given is the Japan Automotive Software Platform ARchitecture (JasPar).
  2. Green: Energy use needs to be reduced. Katsuhiko KAJI estimates this at 3% for IT globally, which is twice the estimate for Australia at 1.52%. As well as reducing the energy consumed by IT it is argued IT can be used to reduce waste and energy use in systems such as lighting. As an example the

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Emergency management on a smart phone

Ajay Kumar, a Sahana Summer of Code 2008 Student, is working on a project to get Sahana on a smart phone. Sahana is an open source emergency management system. He is going to try to get it working on an Open Moko open source phone (no Google Android ones will be available in time to try). I am sure he would welcome advice and assistance from the open source community. More on these issues in the Humanitarian ICT Mailing list.
I am also in a process of acquiring the phones for the development
purpose and have contacted FOSS supportive companies in India. Any
support in that area is also appreciable.

But since the project is something new, I will be basing my
development so has to have something that "just works" and then
iterating it over time.

My primary reasons of choosing the Openmoko phone is:
1. FOSS - matches with the Sahana ideology.
2. Larger & active developer community - it has its own benefit in
terms of contributions to maintain the project in future.

For your reference, my academic project duration is:
1. Mid term - End of Research & Analysis Phase: October 27 2008.
2. Final deadline & Presentation: Mid April 2009.

My proposal @ college has been approved last week and I am working
ahead on this project.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Subnotebooks under $350

Last year I predicted a "normal" personal computer would reach a tipping point in early 2008, with $US500 low power computers. We are not quite there yet, but units like the $US350 Eee Box desktop PC should be the norm by the end of 2008.

The popularity of the original ASUS Eee PC subnotebook forced competitors to bring out their own models and now the prices are dropping. The Aspire netbook, is down from $US399 to $US349 for the Windows XP model and from $US379 to $US329 for the Linux model.

The "Eee Box", desktop version of ASUS's Eee PC is now on sale for $US350 and getting good reviews for performance and power saving (see test and video demo). If this has the same effect on desktop computer prices the Eee PC had on subnotebooks, then we can expect usable desktops (minus the screen) for around $US300 by the end of the year. The Box has Microsoft Windows XP Home, an Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz) CPU, 1 GB RAM and a 80 GB Hard Disk and uses 22.3 Watts.

The typical computer bought for home or business in 2007 had a DVD drive, multi-hundred gigabyte hard disk, Microsoft Windows Vista and multi-hundred Watt power supply and cost around $1,000.

By the end of 2008 the idea that you might spend thousands of dollars on a computer will be considered more than just odd. If energy awareness campaigns work, then to buy a computer which consumes hundreds of Watts of power will be considered anti-social (if not actually illegal).

ASUS initially brought out the Eee PC with Linux and only flash memory, with no hard disk. But competitors brought out subnotebooks with small disk drives and Windows XP. It looks like most people will not give up their disk drives by the end of the year, nor Microsoft Windows. HP brought out their subnotebook with Windows Vista, but other vendors have stuck with Windows XP. Microsoft will probably bring out some sort of Vista Lite in response.

The cheap and green low power computer is here, but revolution to Linux and Internet storage will have to wait until 2009.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Open source licensing of Victorian Government information

Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and DataThe Victorian Parliament is having an inquiry to see if open access/open source licensing should be used to make Victorian Government information more readily available. There is a discussion paper and submissions have been invited by 22 August 2008.

The discussion paper is a well written and carefully researched document. Its dissemination as a reasonably efficient and accessible elelctronic document increases the credibility of the work (despite one lapse where the elelctronic version is described a being "... printed on recycled paper").

However, I was invited to give evidence to a previous Victorian parliamentary inquiry into e-voting for the disabled. The committee recommended e-voting, but the Victorian Government implemented it in such a poor way it was used by few people and was a waste of public money. It is to be hoped that the resources the Victorian Parliament is putting into the question of open access is not similarly squandered by the executive arm of government.

Some excepts from the discussion paper:
Terms of Reference

The Legislative Assembly under section 33 of the Parliamentary
Committees Act 2003 refers Terms of Reference requiring:

That the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee inquire into, consider and report to Parliament on the potential application of open
content1 and open source licensing to Victorian Government information,
and in particular, the Committee is asked to:

a) report on the potential economic benefits and costs to Victoria of
maximising access to and use of Government information for commercial and/or non-commercial purposes, including consideration of:

i. public policy developments elsewhere in Australia and internationally; and
ii. the types of information that will provide the greatest potential

b) consider whether the use of open source and open content
licensing models, including Creative Commons, would enhance the
discovery, access and use of Government information;
c) report on the use of information and communication technology to
support discovery, access and use of Government information; and
d) identify likely risks, impediments and restrictions to open content
and open source licensing of Government information, including
impacts on and implications for any existing cost recovery

The Committee is required to report to Parliament by 30 June 2009.

1 The Terms of Reference received by the Committee from the Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of Victoria referred only to ‘open source licensing’. The Committee has determined that the intent of the Reference may be clarified by additional reference to ‘open content licensing’. For comparison, the original Terms of Reference, as received from the
Legislative Assembly, can be found in Appendix One.

Table of Contents

The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee... v
Terms of Reference... vii
Guide to making a submission... ix
Table of Contents... xi
Questions for discussion ... xiii
Abbreviations ... xv

Chapter One: Access to Public Sector Information... 1
1.1 Structure of this paper ... 1
1.2 Emerging interest in access to public sector information ... 1
1.2.1 Potential for economic development... 2
1.2.2 Potential for social engagement... 2
1.2.3 Recent policy and legislative developments ... 3
1.2.4 What approach should government adopt toward access to and re-use of PSI? ... 4
1.3 Purpose of this discussion paper... 5
1.4 Questions ... 6

Chapter Two: Economic and social issues surrounding access to public sector information ... 7
2.1 Returns on investment... 7
2.1.1 Improved returns to government from release of PSI ... 7
2.1.2 Potential costs to government from release of PSI... 9
2.2 Innovation and creativity... 10
2.3 Social aspects of access to PSI ... 11
2.3.1 Anticipated social benefits of access to PSI ... 11
2.3.2 A need for caution?... 16
2.4 Questions: ... 18

Chapter Three: Defining the public sector ... 19
3.1 Definitions from Commonwealth and Victorian legislation... 19
3.1.1 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) ... 19
3.1.2 Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic)... 21
3.1.3 Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)... 21
3.1.4 Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) ... 22
3.1.5 Local councils ... 23
3.1.6 International experience... 24
3.2 Documents and information subject to improved PSI access ... 24
3.2.1 Precedents in Victoria... 24
3.2.2 Precedents from the UK... 26
3.2.3 OECD definition of applicable documents ... 27
3.3 Questions: ... 27

Chapter Four: Issues surrounding pricing for PSI access ... 29
4.1 International experience ... 30
4.2 PSI access in Australia... 32
4.3 Access at no or marginal cost versus commercialisation ... 33
4.4 Questions: ... 34

Chapter Five: Open content licensing ... 35
5.1 Creative Commons... 36
5.1.1 The application of Creative Commons to PSI ... 38
5.1.2 Opportunities for the application of Creative Commons to PSI... 39
5.1.3 Concerns about the application of Creative Commons to PSI... 40
5.1.4 Implementation of open content licensing models... 41
5.2 The alternative to licensing PSI ... 43
5.3 Questions: ... 44

Chapter Six: Open source licensing ... 45
6.1 Government use of OSS ... 46
6.2 Open source software versus proprietary software ... 47
6.3 Questions: ... 49
References... 51
Appendix One: Extract from LA Votes and Proceedings... 57

Questions for discussion

Question 1: What are the advantages and disadvantages of government adopting ‘push’ and ‘pull’ models toward the publication of public sector information (PSI), respectively? ... 6
Question 2: How can improved access to and re-use of PSI drive economic growth, employment opportunities and new commercial ventures? ... 18
Question 3: What can the Victorian Government do to improve access to PSI in a manner that creates new opportunities for information and knowledge flow, and thereby encourage further innovation? ... 18
Question 4: If the Victorian public sector is to provide increased access to information, what kind of information would provide the greatest opportunities to improve or develop:
a) investment and business opportunities?
b) social, medical and scientific research?
c) community and civic engagement?... 18
Question 5: How can social engagement, in particular through the development of spontaneous social networks, be enhanced through the provision of enhanced access to PSI?... 18
Question 6: In what circumstances can open access to PSI empower individual citizens and communities to participate in social and political activities? ... 18
Question 7: What institutions and agencies should be considered part of the public sector for the purposes of this Inquiry? What advantages will be obtained by encompassing some or all of the following agencies and institutions under this definition:
a) executive government: principally government departments, but also incorporating statutory authorities?
b) the legislature: including parliament?
c) the judiciary?
d) local councils?
e) other public institutions, such as universities, TAFEs, public hospitals, etc? 27
Question 8: What kinds of documents, data and/or other materials should be considered for public access? What criteria should be applied when judging whether specific documents, data and materials should be made available to the public?... 28
Question 9: What types of access and pricing policies have been adopted by Victorian Government agencies for the provision of PSI? Is there consistency across individual departments? What have been the costs and benefits associated with these pricing policies in terms of:
a) investment and business opportunities?
b) social, medical and scientific research?
c) community and civic engagement?... 34
Question 10: How should governments ensure transparency and fairness in their pricing policies? ... 34
Question 11: What criteria should government apply when determining whether to provide access to PSI? Under what circumstances would the following pricing options be appropriate:
a) no cost?
b) marginal cost or cash recovery?
c) commercial profit and return? ... 34
Question 12: What other open content licensing models may be of interest to the Committee?... 44
Question 13: Is the absence of conditions regarding geographical restrictions or no endorsement in Creative Commons likely to be an issue for Victorian PSI? ... 44
Question 14: What are the merits of the Victorian Government developing its own whole-of-government licensing framework as an alternative to adopting the Creative Commons licensing system?... 44
Question 15: Is it appropriate for the Victorian Government’s licensing framework to comprise both the Creative Commons licences and other more tailored licences? ... 44
Question 16: What are the benefits of establishing a central agency whose core responsibility would be managing the Victorian Government’s licensing model? ... 44
Question 17: What are the range of licence conditions that the Victorian Government is likely to require when issuing open content licenses?... 44
Question 18: To what extent have other Australian governments adopted the use of OSS in their ICT business solutions? ... 49
Question 19: What risks and benefits do OSS products offer over proprietary software for use in government operations? Are there opportunities for broader adoption of OSS by the Victorian Government? ... 49
Question 20: What is the capacity for both software models to coexist in the same organisation? ... 49
Question 21: What is the role of the Victorian government in procuring and distributing OSS in ICT business solutions? ... 49

Chapter One: Access to Public Sector Information

The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee (EDIC) is a Joint Investigatory Committee of the Parliament of Victoria. The functions of the Committee are to report to the Parliament on any proposal, matter or thing concerned with economic development, industrial affairs or infrastructure.

On 27 February 2008, the EDIC was asked to inquire into, consider and report to Parliament on the potential application of open source licensing to Victorian Government information (the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are printed on page vii of this paper).

1.1 Structure of this paper

This paper begins with a brief overview of some of the issues that have led to an increased interest in governments providing enhanced access to information and data held by the public sector.

The paper then discusses five key areas of interest arising from the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry. These are:

• the economic and social issues surrounding access to public sector information (PSI), including access by means of open content
• how the public sector should be defined, and the types of PSI that should be made available;
• issues surrounding pricing for PSI access;
• issues surrounding open content licensing; and
• issues surrounding open source licensing.

1.2 Emerging interest in access to public sector information

Over the past decade, the development of the internet and related technologies has substantially reduced costs associated with the dissemination of most information. As bandwidth has expanded, and with the development of sophisticated internet searching and indexing techniques, it is now possible to place extensive repositories of primary and secondary data and research online, and to have that data identified and accessed by a diverse range of people and organisations.

Along with this development, there has been increasing interest in the potential for information generated by (or obtained in association with) government activities to be made more widely available. Internationally and in Australia a number of studies and commentaries have been initiated within government and academia to examine issues surrounding more open approaches to the provision of government information.2 A number of commentators now argue that there is significant potential for social and economic benefits to flow from increasing the range of PSI made available to the public at low, or no, cost.3

As discussed in Chapter Five, one of the ways to improve access to and re-use of PSI in the public domain is through the application of ‘open content’ licences to government material. In the literature, the open content licensing model has emerged as a practical alternative to the existing licensing systems adopted by governments as it allows others to obtain access to and re-use copyright material with minimal transactions. This is because the licences are automated and grant permission for others to reuse protected material upon discovery of that material. A number of open content licensing models exist in Australia and internationally, with Creative Commons being the most commonly recognised model.

1.2.1 Potential for economic development

To date, improved access to PSI has most often been considered in the context of opportunities for economic development. This follows observations of the emergence of successful commercial enterprises that create innovative products from repackaged, processed or amalgamated PSI. The basic argument for supporting improved access to PSI on grounds of economic development is that the revenue and economic activity generated through the use of PSI substantially outweighs costs incurred by government in the course of generating and disseminating that information. However, there is still considerable debate about the categories of PSI that are best suited to this purpose, and the circumstances and conditions under which PSI should be released.

1.2.2 Potential for social engagement

While most interest in PSI has surrounded the potential for commercial and/or economic development, a number of commentators have also suggested there is potential for other, less tangible, social benefits to derive from improved access to PSI. For example, improved access to PSI may provide citizens with a heightened sense of social identity and participation.

Some commentators also consider open access to PSI to be an essential prerequisite for functioning modern democracies.4 One key argument in favour of open access to PSI is that as the information is publicly funded, it is consequently held on behalf of the people, and should also be accessible by them. This idea draws upon an emerging international movement that argues citizens should be given access to data they fund
without having to pay for it again.5

It has also been suggested that improved access to PSI will provide a broader range of people and organisations with an opportunity to examine data and information about key areas of government responsibility, and potentially develop innovative recommendations and strategies for improvements to government policy. Similarly, improved access to PSI, such as through open content licensing, may also stimulate new commercial and private enterprise. In this way, society may take advantage of its collective intelligence to develop solutions to common issues and problems, and to generate more wealth throughout society.

A related justification for improved access to PSI is that it will provide a mechanism for improving government accountability and transparency.

The argument for this approach is that by providing the public with the evidence upon which government decisions are made, improved access to PSI will provide the public with an opportunity to critically assess government policies and decisions.

The Committee notes that in 2005 the Victorian Parliament Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) tabled its final report on the Inquiry into Victorian Electronic Democracy. This report considered some issues surrounding the use of government information by citizens and businesses, focusing on the use of electronic technologies to improve parliamentary democracy.6 In part, the current inquiry expands on the work done by
SARC by focusing more particularly on costs and benefits associated with different approaches to the provision of PSI.

1.2.3 Recent policy and legislative developments

Internationally, a range of actions have been undertaken to improve access to PSI. On 18 June 2008, for example, the Organisation and Cooperation Economic Development’s (OECD) Ministerial Meeting on the future of the internet economy endorsed the Seoul Declaration for the

Future of the Internet Economy, which included a recommendation for the development of policies that:

Make public sector information and content, including scientific data, and works of cultural heritage more widely accessible in digital format.7

The background document to the declaration pointed to further recommendations for OECD member countries to consider in the context of improved access to PSI, including:

• Maximising the availability of public sector information for use and re-use based upon the presumption of openness as the default rule.
• Encouraging broad non-discriminatory competitive access and conditions for re-use of public sector information by eliminating exclusive arrangements, and removing unnecessary restrictions on the ways in which it can be accessed, used, re-used, combined or shared.
• Improving access to information and content in electronic form and over the Internet.
• Finding new ways to digitise existing public sector information and content, to develop “born-digital” public sector information products and data, and to implement cultural digitisation projects where market mechanisms do not foster effective digitisation.
• Exercising copyright in ways that facilitate re-use, and where copyright holders are in agreement, developing simple mechanisms to encourage wider access and use, and encouraging institutions and government agencies that fund works from outside sources to find ways to make these works widely accessible to the public. 8

In the United States, President Bush endorsed a bill in December 2007 that requires all research funded by the National Institutes of Health to be made available to the public.9 In 2003, the European Commission introduced the European Union (EU) Directive on the re-use of PSI, which established a minimum set of rules governing the re-use of PSI held and developed by public sector bodies within EU Member States.10 All Member States were required to have implemented the Directive by 1 July 2005.

In January 2008, the European Research Council (ERC) also mandated public access to its research projects, requiring that ERC-funded research publications be deposited into a research repository within six months of publication.11 Australia is taking similar steps through the Commonwealth Government’s Accessibility Framework. The overall intent of the Framework is that “outputs of publicly funded research, including research data and research publications, should be managed in ways that maximise public benefit through exposure and use.”12

1.2.4 What approach should government adopt toward access to and re-use of PSI?

The key consideration with regard to PSI is the extent to which the various ways access can be limited (for example, through price, licensing arrangements, or whether information is available on the internet or not) are justified. While a substantial case can be made that limitations on access to information relevant to the exercise of people’s basic human rights should not exist (for example, information about why one’s travel visa was declined), the proposition that people have a right to all information – including information that does not pertain to the exercise of basic human rights – is subject to debate.

One way of conceptualising different government approaches to the dissemination of information is by distinguishing between ‘pull’ and ‘push’ models. This concept was proposed in the independent review of the Queensland Government’s Freedom of Information legislation, which proposed 141 recommendations to achieve a more effective and transparent FoI legislative model.13

The pull model most closely resembles current practice, with an emphasis on the dissemination of information in response to individual requests for access – generally through such mechanisms as FoI requests. This model depends, at least in part, on the person requesting the information knowing that it exists in the first place. Information that is proactively released to the public domain by government under this model generally serves a specific policy objective – such as introducing or making a case for a particular program or government action.

The push model, on the other hand, emphasises proactive publication of information by government. Under this model, government identifies and publishes a wide range of data without first waiting for the information to be requested. This approach may mean that the public becomes aware of information because government has made it available. Commentators in favour of this approach suggest that agencies should anticipate information requests, and use the internet to make broad categories of information available online.

Both of these approaches to the dissemination of PSI have advantages and disadvantages, and in practice a mixture of both are generally exercised by government. For example, if a wider range of data were actively published under the push model, more work may be required of the public service to bring relevant data and information up to a publishable standard. In contrast, however, enhancing the level of government information and data that is available in the public domain could reduce the number of FoI requests government has to process. As a consequence, the amount of government resources allocated to responding to such requests could be reduced considerably.

1.3 Purpose of this discussion paper

The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss issues relevant to the potential application of open content and open source licensing to Victorian Government information. This discussion paper has been prepared to provide information to assist interested people and organisations to make public submissions to the Inquiry. The aim of this paper is to prompt discussion by highlighting key issues and raising questions, rather than by providing answers or solutions. It has also been prepared to encourage a wide range of people to participate in this Inquiry, and for this reason readers’ familiarity with issues surrounding access to PSI has not been
assumed. ...

2 Productivity Commission, Public support for science and innovation, Commonwealth Government, Canberra, 2007.
3 Productivity Commission, Public support for science and innovation, Commonwealth Government, Canberra, 2007.
4 Copyright Law Review Committee, Crown copyright, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2005, p. 39.
5 Dylan Bushell-Embling, 'Private eyes on public data', Sydney-Morning Herald, 25 September 2007; Catherine Bond, 'Reconciling Crown copyright and reuse of government information: an analysis of the CLRC Crown copyright review', Media & Arts Law Review, vol. 12, no. 3, 2007.
6 Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, Inquiry into electronic democracy, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, 2005.
7 OECD, 'The Seoul declaration for the future of the internet economy', viewed 25 June 2008, .
8 OECD, 'Shaping policies for the future of the internet economy', viewed 25 June 2008, .
9 Mark Patterson, 'Public access to research funded by National Institutes of Health - now law', viewed 20 March 2008, .
10 European Commission, 'Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information', Official Journal of the European Union, 2003.
11 Mark Patterson, 'Open access mandates from the National Institutes of Health and the European Research Council', viewed 20 March 2008, .
12 Leanne Harvey, 'Open access collections - The future of the accessibility framework and research assessment', viewed 20 March 2008 .
13 FOI Independent Review Panel, The right to information, The State of Queensland, Brisbane, 2008.

From: Discussion Paper of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee on the Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Parliament of Victoria, 2008

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Open Governance: Running Organizations and Governments like an Open Source Software Project

The National Archives of Australia have asked me to help teach e-archiving to public servants from state governments and the federal government in November. This would use some of the material from the course I ran at ANU last November.

Apart from adding some new material on OOXML, I was thinking of suggesting that Open Source could be a model for government.

One thing I have been musing on is why it is so hard for organizations to do web sites. The technology is cheap and easy, but many organizations find it very difficult to maintain a basic web site and most find blogs, wikis and social networking beyond them. Another thing I have been thinking about is what all the different sorts of web based content management tools have in common.

I suspect this is because the governance structures of organizations do not match that of the web technology. The traditional approach to this is to adapt the web technology to the administrative and decision making processes of the organization. The natural response in a government organizations or a university to "how to we improve the web site" is "lets form a committee". The reaction to Wikis has been to ban them.

My advice in the past has been for organizations to avoid having social networking and online discussion forums. Government agencies can't cope with having a lot of people discussing what they are doing on an official government web site. Instead I suggested they get some non-government organization to host the discussion. This way when something is posted which is controversial, the agency can say: "not our web site, not our problem".

But perhaps it is time organizations learned how to use web based tools effectively. I suspect this will require the organizations to change their governance structures, not just their administrative processes. They could simply replicate current structures online, but they will then miss most of the benefits. A lot of what goes on in organizations looks like time wasting nonsense, to someone used to online working. Instead, some of the techniques of open source development could be used for running organizations and nations.

One thing which content management systems have in common is that they need some way to manage. Management is not just about being able to change the footer on all the web pages with one command, but about deciding who does what. Perhaps governance (management at a higher level) could be something open source software could provide as a separate service. The particular application the governance was applied to, such as publishing a journal, running a course, business or government, could then be a separate add-on function.

In doing a quick search on "Open Governance" I discovered this is something government people are discussing, using government web tools. A search found a discussion of government in the Australia Government's GovDex online collaboration forum. Much of GovDex is restricted to government people working on particular projects, but some is publicly accessible and indexed by web search engines. This is a refreshing change for government agencies.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Web Browser Support for Print and Screen Presentations

Robert O'Callahan, from, gave a brilliant talk in Canberra, 4 August 2007 about the development of the Firefox. This was a mix of the business and politics of web browser competition, the social aspects of how to do open source development with a global community and the very technical details on how to do better code.

Some of the points I found of most interest were about the value of "Fuzz Testing", the way Firefox is very popular in vertical slice of Central Europe, running from Finland, down to the Mediterranean (for no obvious reasons, which must be a good topic for someone's PHD).

I asked Robert about HTML 5 versus XHTML 2. The W3C's approach of revising XHTML has not found favor with web browser developers at Mozilla, Apple or Opera. The issue, as I see it, is that the browser developers want to built features for interactive applications into their browsers, so that so many non-standard plug-ins and extensions are not needed. But I want to be able to do plain, old fashioned web based static documents which scale and print well. This is so I can use web pages in place of Powerpoint and PDF. I can't see that this would be very difficult to implement.

At present web browsers do not do a good job of printing, tending to break images and paragraphs across pages and not supporting new CSS features for formatting pages. Also web browsers do not do a good job of supporting CSS features for screen presentations.

As a result I have to do three versions of each document: HTML for online viewing, Powerpoint (or Slidy web pages) for a presentation and PDF for printing. If browsers supported formatting just a little better, then I could do it all with HTML, perhaps with just the one HTML file.

Many do not bother with separate versions of documents, and so there are vast numbers of PDF documents clogging up corporate and government web sites. These documents are hard to read on screen, large to download and hard to read by those using accessibility aids and on hand held mobile devices. Most of the documents use no fancy formatting and if the browsers supported web standards just a little better HTML versions would display and print adequately.

Robert argued that doing page breaks and layout well were very difficult problems. But , I don't want it done really well, just a little bit better. How hard it be for the web developer to avoid breaking up and image or a paragraph across a page boundary?

Another quibble I had was the insistence of web developers to include a requirement for quirks and backward compatibility in the HTML 5 standard. As a web author I don't need to know about strange things people did with HTML in the past. Browser developers may well choose to support features and quirks which old versions of HTML had, but I should not need to know of them, as I will not be using them.

If this old baggage has to be in HTML 5 for some reason, then we need "HTML 5 Lite", with them left out (just as there is XHTML Basic). This is not because we want to stop browsers rendering old documents, but have something simple for web designers to use.

I did make an attempt to put some of these points in the relevant W3C forums, but was essentially told: "We browser developers will dictate what the web standards are from now on.".

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Will the future of innovation be built on Open Foundations?

I am co-chairing one of the Local 2020 Summits, being held in Canberra today, on Open Source and Open Access. Presentations and discussion online. Podcasts and Vodcasts will be provided later.


Senator Kate Lundy

Senator for the Australian Capital Territory

Wednesday 2 April 2008

***EMBARGO until 6am Thursday 3 April 2008***

Will the future of innovation be built on Open Foundations?

ACT Senator Kate Lundy and Tom Worthington, Adjunct Senior Lecturer at The Australian National University are co-chairing a Local Summit in Canberra today that will explore the opportunities presented by open technology and digital knowledge.

"Having a Local Summit on the Foundations of Open Technology and Digital Knowledge will shine a spotlight on the important public policy ideas that are built on the principles of open standards and genuine collaboration from a community, education, business, innovation and government perspective" Senator Lundy said.

Speakers include ANU Acting Vice-Chancellor of the ANU Professor Lawrence Cram, delivering the keynote address, Pia Waugh,
President of Software Freedom International and will showcase some of the latest innovations using open technology.

Open access is best known in the software development field with Open Source, where technology is developed publicly and openly and exposed for comment and contribution throughout development. The same techniques can be applied to the distribution of information for research and education, such as open access publishing with the creative commons." Mr. Worthington said.

Mr. Worthington will give the first public demonstration of a new open access research publishing system being developed by ANU in Canberra for worldwide use and show a disaster management system developed for the Boxing Day Tsunami, which has been ungraded with Australian technical assistance for use by developing nations.

Pia Waugh, a long term advocate for technology openness sees the event as a very important milestone for Australian government policy. "A baseline of openness provides many opportunities for socio-economic and business development, sustainable technology/information, international collaboration and global competitiveness. Openness underpins our very ability to maintain equal access to opportunities and to each other in a world that is increasingly dependent on technology for everything from work and socialising to voting."

The 'Foundations of Open' technology and digital knowledge Local 2020 Summit will explore, discuss and develop specific policy initiatives borne out of open access for information, technology, education and governance for the benefit of our society and economy.

Ideas from "Foundations of Open" will be collated and conveyed to the National 2020 Summit". Presentations from the Local Summit will be available online via Tom Wothington's Web site and Kate Lundy's web site

Members of the public can participate in the Summit virtually by registering on the website to participate in online discussions and ideas development. The Summit will also be podcast online.

For more information or details about location if you wish to attend contact Rachel Allen: 6230 0411 or 0418 488 295

Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge Local 2020 Summit

Thursday 3rd April 2008

College of Engineering and Computer Science
The Australian National University

9.00am Welcome and Introductions
9.15am Outline and Objectives: Co-Chairs Senator Kate Lundy and Tom Worthington FACS HLM, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, ANU and Director of Professional Development, The Australian Computer Society.

9.30am Launch and Keynote: Professor Lawrence Cram ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President BSc (Hons), BE (Hons), PhD Sydney

9.45am Jeff Waugh "
Foundations of Open" The Foundations of Open is a model for understanding the different aspects of openness in a digital age including standards, knowledge, governance, source code and the market.

10.30am Darrell Burkey ANU "
CASE" - a case study in community. Computing Assistance Support and Education (CASE) inc. is a non-profit organisation that was formed to assist Australian community organisations in making better use of information technology.

11.15am Ken Taylor CSIRO "
VotaPedia" demonstration. VotApedia is an audience response system developed by CSIRO that doesn't require issuing clickers or need specialist infrastructure.

11.30am Coffee break

11.45am Pia Waugh "Open Source as a public resource" Specific ways we can better explore Open Source opportunities and innovations for business, government, broader social benefit and the Australian economy.

12.30pm Lunch hosted by ANU

1.00pm Demonstrations and networking time. Presentation by Andrew Tridgell
Tom Worthington will demonstrate carbon neutral and open source hardware, software and open access educational systems developed and used in Canberra, including a carbon neutral, energy efficient desktop computer, an open source software laptop and open hardware hand held computer as well as the first public demonstration of a new global open access research e-publishing system being developed in Canberra.

1.30pm Jessica Coates QUT "
Creative Commons" Access to knowledge is often difficult through the use of ambiguous or non-existent licensing. Creative Commons is a mechanism for opening up knowledge for public benefit.

2.15pm Alan Smart ASIBA "
Spatial potential" Geospatial information needs to be open so that Australian businesses can add value, innovate and commercialise in order to be globally competitive.

3pm Coffee break

3.15 Tony Hill ISOC AU "IPV6Now" IPv6 is a more powerful Internet protocol that can deliver a vastly increased scale Internet, with automatic security and autoconfiguration potentially producing substantial benefits for businesses, particularly in international e-commerce.

4pm Ann Steward AGIMO "
Open Source in Government" A summary of the use of, attitudes towards and emerging trends of, Open Source in Australian Government.

4.30pm Concluding remarks; Senator Kate Lundy

Supporters: Australian National University, TomW Communications Pty Ltd

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Firefox developer in Canberra

Robert O'Callahan ( will be talking at ANU in Canberra, 4 August 2007 about the development of the Firefox:


FOXHOLES: News From The Front Line Of The Browser Wars

Robert O'Callahan (

DATE: 2008-04-04
TIME: 14:00:00 - 15:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

Web browsers have become a primary application platform, arguably more important than traditional client operating systems. They are also a key security frontier, a vigorously competitive market, and an crucial front in the battle for free software and open standards. For these and other reasons, browser development is both extremely challenging and extremely important.

As a core Firefox developer, I will discuss challenges facing our project: competition from Internet Explorer and other browsers; changes to fundamental assumptions about code-level security vulnerabilities; sustaining and evolving a complex and fragile codebase; and the successes and failures of our tools and processes.

Looking forward, I will discuss our efforts to keep the Web vital, in concert with like-minded browser vendors and standards organizations, by enhancing the Web platform with vector and 3D graphics, offline Web applications, accessibility, richer typography and layout, enhancements to the Javascript language, efforts to improve cross-browser compatibility, and more. I will talk about why everyone should care and what people can do to help.

Robert O'Callahan obtained a PhD in programming languages and software engineering tools from CMU. After a few years at IBM Research working on dynamic program analysis, he returned to New Zealand to work on Mozilla full-time. Now he manages a team of Gecko developers in Auckland (and constantly looks for more hard-core hackers to hire) while still trying to write lots of code and do research on the side.

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