Making The Internet Ordinary

A demonstration of low cost videoconferencing

Tom Worthington FACS HML

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University, Canberra and Director of Tomw Communications Pty Ltd

For: the Third National Local Government Online Demonstration Conference, 1:20pm, Thursday 11 September 2003, Melbourne.
Version 0.1, 25 August 2003, URL:


This is a remote presentation, via the Internet for the 1.20pm session “Webcasting: Overcoming the tyranny of distance (cheaply)”:

A demonstration of what is possible using ‘E-GOVERNANCE: TAKING THE NEXT STEP AT THE LOCAL LEVEL’ as the message. Join an interactive panel discussion as they present an opportunity to share and exchange ideas and knowledge on e-governance. This session will invite audience participation using the latest technology. An overview of the panel's project work on e-governance will be web-streamed from the conference. External views will be streamed back in and views from the audience will also be included in the mix.
From: Conference Brochure, On line Demonstration Conference, Municipal Association of Victoria, 2003, URL:

Information technology, like all technology needs to be tried in practice: the bits that are found to be practical and useful can then be used and the useless bits discarded. With the arrival of reliable Internet connections of around 48kbps become common, it becomes feasible to use this for videoconferencing. You don't need a lot of equipment to do this, just a computer, a $100 camera and a $20 microphone. You can even do without the camera and just use sound and computer images (no live video). At a pinch a dial-up Internet connection can be used, or even a mobile telephone. One arrangement which works well is just to use a normal telephone for a voice teleconference and an Internet connection for looking at shared documents.

Video Conferences in Extreme Conditions

In 1997 I sat in on a briefing aboard the USS Blue Ridge, flag ship of the US 7th Fleet. At the we were off the coast of Queensland conducting a mock invasion. Sitting around a large oak table the senior officer was being briefed by someone, somewhere else, via video conference. The equipment the US Navy used would have filled a large truck. But a few weeks later we were able to provide the same functionality for the Australian Defense Force in a couple of briefcases one person could carry.


Electronic Voting In a Cardboard Box

This is slightly off the topic of videoconferencing, but to illustrate the use of advanced computing in a low cost way, the ACT government used existing computers and open source software to build their electronic voting system. The computers were installed inside the standard Australian Electoral Commission cardboard voting booths, with holes cut in the top.


Biographical Notes

Tom Worthington is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. He is an electronic business consultant, author of the book Net Traveller and information technology professional, with 17 years experience.

Tom was an expert witness on the accessibility of the Sydney Olympic Web Site in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in August 2000. He is currently contracted by Macromedia Inc. to adapt their accessibility resources for Australian use and teaches web design and e-commerce.

See also:

Tom Worthington © 2003