Brisbane #bbfqld : Stream 1 – Smart Infrastructure

The first stream to be considered in the Brisbane forum was Smart Infrastructure.

Associate Professor James Hogan from QUT’s Science & Technology Faculty presented first. He started with a succinct but important quote from Microsoft: “It is not longer possible to do science without a computer”.

James spoke about some projects in his field – namely, how smart infrastructure is being used to measure environmental health. Digital instruments (similar to “smart phones”) record environmental acoustics to “emulate scientific eyes and ears” in measuring environmental health. There are two such projects currently being undertaken – one to measure the sounds (and therefore the movements and health) of koalas at St Bee’s Island, and another to measure the sounds of Lewins Rail (a type of bird) in the Brisbane Airport surrounds. Broadband helps to take this scientific data from the field and share it with others faster and more broadly, to have greater impact.

The second speaker in this stream was Lucy Cradduck, a lecturer in business law at the University of the Sunshine Coast and a SJD candidate in law at QUT.

Lucy made some important points about the challenges facing us in rolling out the national broadband network (NBN). These include:

  • Literacy: Access to information is about people being digitally literate – it is important that all people with capacity to access the NBN are fully digitally literate. If we do not have everyone able to understand, as well as everyone able to access, then we cannot move forward properly.

  • Physical infrastructure: New networks need to be constructed in infill (mainly urban and regional) and greenfield (mainly regional and rural). There are unique issues in greenfield sites, in particular cost and how the cables are going to be treated. Will they be treated the same as other utilities? There must be proper interoperability between old networks and new. Upgrading existing hardware and software needs to be efficient.

So what steps do we need to make in moving forward?

  • We need consistent policies across Australia on what must be provided for all not just Greenfield

  • Specific issues for rural and regional Australia must be addressed

We cannot create an “underclass of the NBN have-nots”

  • We need to consider how to treat the cost of creating the network – who pays and when for access to the network?

[Note: I think (hope) that both James and Lucy’s slides will be made available online in the next few days.]

Group discussion record

Q: What legal issues does the NBN throw up?

A: [Lucy Cradduck] One big issue is net neutrality – making sure that the NBN is open, that the content and system providers do not control what material we can have access to. Currently, Telstra controls most (if not all) of the internet exchanges. But moving forward, the NBN should be completely neutral so anyone can use it; anyone can gain access.

Q: So what are the key net neutrality issues we need to be aware of moving forward?

A: [Brian Fitzgerald] Part of the innovation of the internet means you don’t try to predetermine the uses of the internet. One of the critical issues around network neutrality is how strongly you enforce the requirement of net neutrality. And how far do we let people tinker with the internet to prevent copyright infringement or for censorship or for a range of other reasons.

Anne Fitzgerald: Law is part of the infrastructure and the interaction between law and technology is fundamental for access.

Brian Fitzgerald and others: The law could be more customised for more digital environments.

Extending broadband to rural Queensland #bbfqld #bbfuture

In light of the comments that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has made this morning about extending broadband services across regional Australia, and linking broadband with economic growth and equality, I would like to share a comment made on the Brisbane forum website:

Graham Storrs said:

I live in rural Queensland. When I moved here 2 years ago, I had no phone line. It took a year and a complaint to the ombusman to get a line installed – at a cost to me of thousands of dollars. There is no ADSL of course, I’m too far from an enabled exchange.

I can get wireless ‘broadband’ via Telstra’s NextG service (no other supplier covers my house – so I’m in a monopoly market here) but the signal is weak (even with an external antenna) and the bit-rate is extremely low – so low that I can’t listen to streaming audio or watch streamed video without it stuttering and pausing all the time. And it is expensive, of course, being Telstra. The best package I can afford has a 5Gb upload/download limit – not enough to use every day and still have any spare for listening to music or watching video (even if I could). So, for $80 a month, I get a very basic, very slow service, and no option to change supplier.

Oh, and forget about smartphones like the iPod. They just don’t work at such low signal strengths (although, thankfully, my Kindle does – most of the time.)

Most city-dwellers, certainly no politicians, have a clue how primitive things are out here. Whatever the ‘broadband future’ is for urban Australia, for much of rural Australia, it’s a joke.

I must admit that as a “city-dweller” I had no idea things were this bad in rural Queensland. I do believe that fast internet = better opportunities for education, connecting with others, and much, much more. I have no knowledge about the physical logistics of extending quality broadband to rural Australia, but I do hope we can do something to improve the situation.

Realising our Broadband Future – Introduction #bbfuture #bbqld

Today, I am at the Brisbane node (#bbfqld) of the Realising Our Broadband Future Forum (#bbfuture). I will be attempting to live blog the day, and add substantive points to the forum wiki throughout the day. There will be less need for me to blog this morning while, on the Brisbane program, we are simply watching the live stream from the main event. These events will be captured on video and, I’m sure, by the many attendees in Sydney. However, from 10:30am we will be facilitating our own discussions on the 5 streams (Smart Infrastructure, Digital Education, e-Community, e-Health, and e-Business) here in Brisbane, and I will be doing my best to capture those discussions. Apologies in advance if my notes are rather rough.

My colleague, Elliott Bledsoe, will be twittering the Brisbane event. You can following his Twitter feed directly, or follow the #bbqld stream.

Peer to Patent Australia launches today

Today, 9 December 2009, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in collaboration with IP Australia launches the Peer to Patent Australia (P2P Au) project.

This project follows on from the Peer to Patent projects run recently out of the New York Law School (NYLS) and the Japanese Patent Office, and is designed to improve the patent examination process and the quality of issued patents.

P2P Au is led by Professor Brian Fitzgerald at QUT and is using Web 2.0 technology to assist patent examiners in their assessment of whether an invention is new and inventive and thereby deserving of the grant of a patent. With approximately 1 million patents being applied for across the world each year the task of examiners especially in assessing new technologies has become increasingly difficult. By harnessing the power of community experts through Web 2.0 technologies, Peer to Patent Australia aims to make the patent examination process more efficient and accurate.

Peer-to-Patent Australia will initially run as a 6-month pilot that will focus on the rapidly advancing technology areas of business methods and computer software. Up to 40 business method, computer software and related patent applications that have been filed in Australia and which are open for public inspection will each be posted on the Peer-to-Patent Australia website for a 90-day period. During that time, members of community can review those applications, submit prior art references and comment on the relevance of any prior art that has been put forward.

At the end of the review period, P2P Au will forward the top 10 prior art submissions for each application, as selected by the community of reviewers, to IP Australia for consideration in the examination process. The review process in no way abrogates the responsibility of the patent examiner to assess a patent application. Prior art submitted by P2P Au is solely designed to assist a patent examiner, who remains the arbiter of whether a patent is to be granted.

The project uses a consent based model. Patent applicants will be asked to consent to having their applications included in the pilot. There are currently 7 applicants who have consented to participate. These are IBM, Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited, General Electric Company, Hewlett-Packard, Residex Pty Ltd, Yahoo and CSIRO. Those applicants have put forward 18 patent applications for peer review. 15 of those will be made available at the launch.

For anyone who is interested in participating in the prior-art-search, sign up at

Realising our Broadband Future – Brisbane consultative forum at QUT

On Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December 2009, the Australian Government Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) will be holding the Realising Our Broadband Future Forum in Sydney.

For anyone in Brisbane who is interested but unable to attend the main event, we are holding a Brisbane consultative forum on Thursday 10 December 2009 at QUT. This forum will include segements of the official video feed by live webcast, as well as facilitated discussion aligned with the themes of the national summit. The discussion session will be summarised and provided as feedback to the DBCDE summit.

We’re talking about our connected future. This isn’t about technology, it’s about how we can all use it – to connect communities, build businesses, improve our education and health systems, create and innovate, improve our quality of life for all.

Details –

Thursday, December 10, 2009 from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (GMT+1000)

QUT Gardens Point campus – D block, room 101
2 George St
Brisbane, Queensland 4000

Register online

If you’d like more information, please contact Paul O’Keeffe on 0423 358 827 or by email to paul.okeeffe[at]

You can also follow the Queensland Twitter feed through #bbfqld – and the main summit at #bbfuture.


The forum begins at 8:00am (not 8:30 as stated above). I should have also mentioned that registration is free.

Here are the updated details and program:

08.00 – 10.15 Registration and Plenary Session from Sydney (the Prime Minister’s address runs from 8.05 to 8.35am Brisbane time; other speakers include Mike Quigley (NBN Co. CEO, Vint Cerf and Senator Conroy )
10.35 Stream 1 – Smart Infrastructure
11.20 Stream 2 – e-Health
12.05 Stream 3 – Digital Education
12.55 Lunch Break
13.30 Stream 4 – e-Business
14.15 Stream 5 – e-Community
15.30 Conference close

The Brisbane consultation forum will be held at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Gardens Point campus, in D block room 101. (D block is immediately behind A block, nearest to the George Street entrance to the campus).

EFA calls for help on the R18+ games issue

On the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) website, EFA Chair Nic Suzor has made available a six page form-letter from the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, on the topic of the lack of an R18+ rating for games.

Nic writes:

“The letter reiterates that this is not going to be an easy fight to win. For Atkinson, the lack of an R18+ rating is clearly something that helps keep violent media away from children, and he sees no real harm in not making the same material available to adults…”

EFA is planning to put together a response to the discussion paper that analyses and addresses all of the points that Atkinson makes, as well as systematically covering the research in the field. If you are able to help, please contact Nic, join the R18+ games discussion list, or take a look at the EFA R18+ wiki space.

The Future of Data Policy

The Microsoft External Research Division has launched a book entitled, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery (2009) edited by Tony Hey, Stewart Tansley, and Kristin Tolle. The book was launched on the opening day of the Microsoft eScience Workshop that took place in Pittsburgh, USA from 15-17 October 2009. The book includes a chapter, ‘The Future of Data Policy’ (pp 201-208), authored by Professor Anne Fitzgerald, Professor Brian Fitzgerald and myself. The book is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution Share Alike 3.0 United States licence, and can be download in its entirety or by chapter at The Fourth Paradigm.

ANDS guides – copyright and data

To follow on from my copyright and data presentation post

Professor Anne Fitzgerald and I have produced two short guides for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS): one on Copyright and Data and the other on Creative Commons and Data. The Copyright and Data guide is now available (in html and pdf formats) from the ANDS website, the Creative Commons and Data guide should (hopefully) be available next week.