Green Broadband Jobs

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Designer of the ACS Green ICT Course

Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University
For the Australian Computer Society, Australian Technical College (ATC), Launceston, 11 September 2009, 6:00pm

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington is an independent IT consultant and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. He has been an expert witness in several court cases involving computer issues. After a career in IT policy with the federal government, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy in Australia.

Tom teaches the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics at the ANU. He designed the Australian Computer Society's Green ICT Strategies course and is currently designing a ANU Masters course in sustainable computing strategies.

Tom is a past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Party Proposals

Both 12 mbps ADSL to at least 98% of the population:

ALP won the election, cancelled WiMax contract, but latter funded WiMax.

On a previous visit to Tasmania, just before the last federal election, I discussed the broadband proposals of the two major parties. The ALP and Coalition proposed slightly different technologies for broadband. Both promised 12 mpbs to at least 98% of Australia. The ALP opted for FTTN ADSL and the Coalition for ADSL plus WiMax.

The ALP won the election and cancelled the Opel contract for WiMax. However, they subsequently funded some limited use of WiMax in Adelaide. While the publicity about the NBN emphasises fibre to the home, there is likely to be a mix of other technologies used, with FTTH only installed initially in new suburbs and where access is easiest.

Social Inclusion with ICT

Online education can help with:

But requires "Access to the Internet and information technology"

Indicators from: Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators, Australian Social Inclusion Board, Australian Government, 2009

The Australian Social Inclusion Board of the Australian Government issued a Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators in 2009. "Access to the Internet and information technology" is one of the measures listed under "Exclusion from services". There is a risk that using the Internet and computers for education could decrease social inclusion, by decreasing access to education. However, assuming this access can be provided, then the Internet and ICT, including mobile phones and wireless netbooks, can be used to combat other forms of social exclusion.

In particular, Internet and ICT access can assist with "Young people not in education or training", "Persons (adults) with low educational attainment", "Adult literacy", "Academic progress of Year 3 and Year 7 students in Australia", and "Access to services".

Online courses can be provided where and when required, either on their own, or part of a face-to-face program. This can be in a traditional educational setting at a school, TAFE, or universities. But it can also be in a less traditional setting, such as a library, other community facility, or group. This can help keep young people in education or training by making it more relevant and accessible, assisting academic progress. It can also be provided to adults with limited education.

Online education can be used to address adult literacy directly. Also accessibility features of the web can be used to provide access to services for those with limited literacy, as well as to those with a disability.

The Internet can be used to provide access to services, particularly by allowing a simpler path through complex administrative procedures of government and corporate service providers. The techniques developed for presenting information in an easy to understand way on web pages and to test the effectiveness of the information provision, can greatly aid access.

Wireless access via mobile phones and netbooks can provide new opportunities for access to education and to services. As well as providing a more available way to access the Internet, the limited interface of the small devices forces web designers to prioritize the information provided, removing irrelevant material and concentrating on what the client actually needs.

Use of Computers in Education Needs to be Planned

... the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed Internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps. ...


From: Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement, Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor, Duke University, July 29, 2008

Research by Clotfelter and others suggests that the introduction of home computer technology has a negative impact on student performance. Rather than seeing this as a reason for not providing computers, this indicates that computers and networking must be integrated into the planned education. Just providing a computer will distract the student, rather than help them.

Cooperative Mentored Collaborative Online learning

  • ACS and ANU use Moodle for online learning:
    1. Students use their workplaces for exercises on CO2 reduction
    2. Discuss issues online with other students
  • ACS also uses Mahara:
    1. ePortfolio for students to display their work
    2. Used also for RPL
    3. Mentors provided to help students
  • The ACS and ANU use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System for courses such as: Green ICT Strategies (ACS: GITCS, ANU: COMP7310).

    Students are encouraged to use their workplace for course exercises such as estimating and reducing carbon emissions. The students discuss issues online. Apart from allow students to learn the course content, the online interaction it is a valuable skill for the student to apply in the workplace. The students can learn how to use these techniques in a systematic way, to achieve goals.

    The ACS is introducing the Mahara open source ePortfolio and social networking web application developed by the New Zealand government. It allows students to create a portfolio of their work to demonstrate they have met the learning objectives through the course or by recognition of prior learning.

    The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

    A set of tools and techniques have been developed to make the content of web pages more accessible. The best known of these are the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, with automated testing in the TAW Accessibility Tool. The use of such techniques is required by Australian anti-discrimination legislation, including by schools, TAFEs and universities in delivering education online. What is not well understood is that while these techniques are mandated for access by people with a disability, they can also be used to help with slow Internet connections, for limited devices such as mobile phones and for people with limited literacy.

    There are additional guidelines and tools to help develop content for mobile devices, such as the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices and W3C mobileOK Checker. Previously this required development of a second version of the content, specifically for mobile devices. However, as smart phones become more affordable, with larger screens and better software, it is possible to author the same content for education and service delivery to both desktop and mobile devices.

    Providing accessible content and to mobile devices requires the web designer and the content author to make difficult decisions. Compromises must be made over what can be delivered and in what form. This can help make better content and better learning, by eliminating material which is entertaining, but not educational.

    What Can Tasmania with Broadband?

    The Australian Computer Society already provides online education from Tasmania, with some tutors for the ACS CPEP Program based in Tasmania. This can provide export revenue for Australia, with Tasmanians teaching ICT professionals online around the world. This is scope for applying this model in other professional education and for education from pre-primary to high school and vocational education. There is also a need to train educators on how to teach this way, using these tools.

    The Australian Government is funding a digital eduction revolution which so far is not closely aligned to the National Broadband Network. Tasmania could provide a living laboratory to trial ways to make use of broadband for education at the k-12, vocational and higher education. This can be used to educate Tasmanians in Tasmania, students from elsewhere in Tasmania and students elsewhere online. Education can be combined with vocation, with students working and studying at the same time.

    Tasmania can make more use of Broadband for its tourism industry. One initiative would be to connect smaller accommodation services, particularly YHA Hostels, to provide web based booking. This would then allow tourists around the world to book a custom designed holiday online. Also the wide availability of low cost Internet access would increase the attractiveness of Tasmania to digital nomads. At present access through cyber cafes and WiFi services is sporadic and expensive.

    Tasmania's clean green image can be promoted online, though education services and while also promoting Tasmanian industry. Tasmania already has an architecture school which teaches digital architecture using computer controlled wood fabricating machinery. This is next to the Australian Technical College - Northern Tasmania. However, these facilities have had little impact on industry. The architecture school could be put to use teaching the design of modular prefabricated e-learning classrooms and data centre modules for the education revolution. The Technical College could be put to use teaching advanced wood fabrication techniques for the production of classrooms and data centres. The value of Tasmanian exports could then be increased by conventing Tasmanian timber into these high value items.

    Tasmania is also an exporter of high technology products, such as underground mining machines and high speed ships which can be promoted via the Internet. Promotion and education can be combined, for example with education services for wilderness tourism operators, and online simulator training courses for mining machine and ships crews. A clean green image need not conflict with one of modern manufacturing.

    More Information

    Slides for these notes are also available.

    Copyright © 2009 (Version 1.2, 6 May 2009) Tom Worthington

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