Aus Community FOSS Government

Australian”innovation”: desires and reality

Last night was the Pearcey Awards, which in itself is always a great way to find out about up and coming leaders in the field and achievements in ICT, however they also created a national roundtable event called INNOVATION & ICT IN AUSTRALIA: A NATIONAL DEBATE. It was closely linked with the Federal Government’s National Innovation Review, released just a couple of days ago which has some excellent recommendations in around open publishing, sustainability, Open Source, open standards and patent reform, just to name a few. In fact chapter 7 of that review has many of the recommendations put forward at Senator Kate Lundy’s ‘Foundations of Open’ Local Summit back in March. There were two panels last night, one with entreprenuers (which I participated in) and one with larger organisations. Then there were speeches from Minister Conroy, NSW MP John Della Bosca and Dr Terry Cutler just to name a few. It was really a great evening and it was fascinating to hear many of the concepts we have taken for granted in the FOSS world be brought up as important to Australia’s future economic properity, ideas such as “open innovation”, “services built around shared content”, “searchable publicly available data sets [particularly publicly funded data]” and more.

On the panel I spoke about how we need to educate entreprenuers and small business how to stand on the shoulders of giants and better leverage tools like FOSS to build both cheap and scalable infrastructure (I mentioned an organisation I’m involved in where the ex-Deloitte employee assumed we would need $100k for a website!) as well as the ability to create new value and services by combining existing FOSS components in new and innovative ways. I spoke about the need for more focus on technical skills (every child should learn basic programming) to help all our citizens to better leverage technology in all circumstances. I also spoke about how we need to be not only recognising and encouraging ICT as an “enabler for all industries”, a term thrown around a lot, but we also need to focus on core ICT and being a world leader in bleeding edge technologies. We need to recognise that if we only see ICT as an enabler, then we are actually parroting the much disliked “Australia is a consumer nation” phrase with new buzzwords. The increased awareness of innovation at an organisational and infrastructure level is wonderful, however it can not be at the cost of innovation at an ICT industry or technologies level lest we be left behind in such a competitive global market.

Other panelists spoke about the need for Government to partner more with smaller innovative Australian companies rather than always going to safest road. Apparently the Australian Government already has a requirement to spend something linke 0.5% on piloting innovative solutions, so it would be great to see more work going into this. Several people mentioned how Government will often get a great idea from a small company (or from the many smart and innovative people in Government), which will go to tender and then inevitably be won by a large multinational who isn’t providing the inspirational and innovative solution initially proposed. A massive loss for those smaller companies with big ideas.

I was in the audience when IP came up and luckily had the microphone ready to ask the next question (one panelist said that the dropping number of patents recently was an enormous issue for Australia, argh!), so I spoke briefly about how Government and industry need to look at new IP models, new business models and realise that IP protectionism (patents, proprietary code) is not the means to open innovation nor an openly competitive market (particularly when we follow in the footsteps of the flawed US patent system), and ultimately we need to keep focusing on how to create world leading exportable services, which is where the industry has been heading for some time. This earned an applause which was interesting.

I was quite surprised throughout the evening the number of people who came up to me and said they were really impressed with my comments and observations. I didn’t think that I had said anything particularly incredible, but it made me realise that is because I’m so involved with the Open Source community which is full of people who are innovative, focused on openness and collaboration, aware of the practical implications of different IP approaches, often on the bleeding edge of new ideas and technologies and often successfully making a living with new business and IP models not yet in the mainstream. Our community has world leading innovators and thinkers who are miles ahead of the curve, so my expected level of comparison is quite high 🙂

Education came up again and again. Education at schools/TAFE/University for students, technology education, entrepreneurial skills, information and training for small businesses, what skills are needed to meet the needs of evolving markets. It was great to have so much attention on this topic because ultimately there is no point having great policies and support around “innovation” if we don’t have any skills in Australia to innovate with.

Many people expressed a desire to enable innovation, but it was said several times that “innovation” is a term that is thrown around a lot without people necessarily being on the same page. I think that is has been overused and abused a lot, and it was Terry Cutlers speech at the end that really brought it together for me. Terry wrote the innovation report that was discussed, and in his speech he pulled no punches when it comes to the laughable reality in Australia at the moment (very, very low OECD rankings when it comes to investment in ICT and education, amongst other things). He spoke about the potential for Australia, about “open innovation” and I think the report has many excellent recommendations that will hopefully pull our public and private policy and practices into sharp evolution. I think in Australia we have the smarts and the desire to be innovative, successful and to be competing in the global ICT market, but achieving this success starts at home. Many Australian businesses and Government agencies want to see success overseas or great success locally before committing to even trialling new solutions and we need to figure out how to better enable local success which will feed into growing local innovation and global competitiveness. The Australian market is extremely risk averse and as such runs the risk of always being behind the ball.

Murali Sagi, who is an extremely clever and successful CIO and a great example of the innovators found in Government, put it most concisely.

Australians are innovative, but Australia isn’t.

Let’s try and fix that 🙂

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Foundations of Open 2020 submissions are up

I was really proud to be involved in Senator Lundy’s Foundations of Open Summit and wanted to follow up with some more resources. There are videos from all talks available, Donna just did a great blog post about it as did Brianna from Wikipedia.

It is important to recognise the initiative and interest of Senator Kate Lundy in openness, and I greatly thank her for her efforts in getting openness on the political agenda.

The submissions from the day (which all participants were open to contribute) are also online which all contribute to the 2020 Summit discussions are awesome. Some tidbits:

The rise of the use of FOSS in the IT industry is without doubt a revolutionary force that will have a huge impact on the way that society interacts with computers into the future. The question that I would like addressed by the Australia 2020 summit is what can be done to ensure that Australia can benefit to the maximum degree possible from this change in the IT world.

Andrew Tridgell – Freedom Fighter 🙂

It is widely acknowledged that open access to Crown copyright material is important not only as an element of open democracy, but is “a key driver of social, cultural and economic development”. With the emergence of digital technologies that enable dissemination of government material at low cost, copyright law is now the last significant barrier to truly open government.

Jessica Coates – Creative Commons

Establish a national mechanism for discoverability of spatial data. Discoverability is necessary to effectively deliver spatial data when and where it is needed, especially in emergencies but increasingly for general use, and would unlock enormous opportunities for innovation and creativity with the use of these data.

David Hocking, CEO ASIBA

Australia’s infrastructure will face even more difficult challenges unless we take advantage of IPv6, particularly for water and energy. For instance, critical energy and resource conservation measures will require large increases in the scope of control systems. There is an urgent need for greater national IP capability to use in reducing our global footprint in this way, but the capacity of our
current IP system is nearly exhausted.

Tony Hill – Internet Society of Australia

Amend the Broadcast Act to clearly define the fair use of broadcast material nationally for all educational institutions. Amend the role of Screen Rights to measure/clear international sources.

Clarify that educational organisations have clearance to use any free- to-air live broadcast services and to share them nationally within the academic realm for purposes of study, archive and analysis. As part of their participation in Australian society, any broadcaster supplying free-to-air (unencrypted) services anywhere within our shores would be bound to allow national open access to their material for educational use.

George Bray

Physical Infra-structure and facilities be made available for the schools sector to improve network speeds and bandwidth traffic loads.

Kevin Karp, StudentNet

Open information and knowledge – allow information produced by the public sector to be easily accessible and freely available to citizens and businesses for reuse, including commercialisation with appropriate exceptions such as law enforcement, security and privacy. Placing government produced IP in the public domain, such as maps and data, can unlock public and private value – U.S. property appraisal data makes a more innovative service for home buyers than

Patrick McCormick, The Nous Group

Open Source is no longer an emerging technology. It is here now. OSIA[2] believes it’s in Australia’s best interest to not only adopt Open Source software, but actively contribute to the Open Source economy of ideas and innovation. Each of the 10 areas of focus for the 2020 Summit depend on the new reality of a global interconnected information economy. Google and Wikipedia were built with Open Source Software because it was the only way it could be done. Open Source Software enables us to compete, connect and communicate.

Donna Benjamin – Director – Open Source Industry Australia

If the potentially major transformative benefits to be derived from “Open” both from the technological and digital knowledge perspectives are to be fully realised then it is essential to establish or identify internationally credible standards and specifications etc. which support the desired outcomes. The real value and potential of PSI is realised only through its extensive re-use. Open will overcome the present major impediments which prevent this full potential from being realised.

Neale Hooper – Principal Lawyer, Whole of Government Licensing Project, Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Queensland Treasury

The availability of high speed broadband across Australia has the potential to reduce many problems of resourcing and access to information faced in Australia due to our dispersed population. Students and researchers in remote areas could be provided with equal access to quality resources and texts that students in metropolitan centres have. If every student has access to a computer and high speed broadband, then all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, can have access to knowledge.

However, the ADA is concerned that overly complex and restrictive provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 continue to impede this potential. […] In short, the ADA sees great potential in the digital education revolution, however, without significant copyright reform the ADA believes that students will have access to high speed broadband, but will not have the access to knowledge that should flow from this.
Laura Simes, Australian Digital Alliance

Laura Simes, Australian Digital Alliance

We have The Internet technology and we have the need. Many more activities need to be open and accessible, so that together we might advance the world instead of letting it slide into catastrophe.

Nick Sharp

Openness as a default position for ICT innovation and development provides many clear opportunities and advantages. Clear leadership and assistance is necessary from the Australian Government so individuals and organisations from all sectors can make informed decisions how openness can benefit them.

Me 🙂

Another news article about the event was in the Canberra Times, which had Jeff and I as the photo. Unexpected and a little odd 🙂

Foundations of Open in Canberra Times

Aus Community FOSS Government

Who’s going to the 2020 Summit?

Many people know that the 2020 Summit participants list was put online a little while ago. I’ve had a chance to have a skim of the names and see who was accepted. Unfortunately I didn’t get in, but there are some great people involved.

I am quite concerned about the lack of technology and ICT people represented. There are a few great people represented, like Terry Cutler and Lisa Harvey but there is a serious lack of saavy ICT people. It was interesting to see Microsoft represented by Steve Vamos, and I truly hope that there has been some level of balance and foresight in the selection of ICT representatives to ensure multiple perspectives are presented.

I was surprised to see Sheryle Moon wasn’t there, and I don’t believe any of the Open Source community or industry nominations were accepted. I rang the office to express my concern that technology seems rather underrepresented, and that within the technology sector represented there is no clear representation from the Open Source industry or community (that I can see), which is arguably one of Australia’s greatest ICT assets when it comes to future directions and socio-economic opportunities.

Luckily, we have a great chance to have our say through the Foundations of Open local summit being run by the inspiring and well informed Senator Kate Lundy. She recently spoke at the Sdyney Document Freedom Day event, which apparently was brilliant (I was unfortunately out of the state). She also did a great speech at the 2005 Sydney Software Freedom Day event.

Aus Community FOSS Government

Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge

Senator Kate Lundy is hosting a fantastic event called the Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge. It will include Open Source, Open Standards, Creative Commons, geospatial systems and open data, and IPV6 amongst other things.

The idea is to bring some great people together in a room and to have an open event which anyone can participate in over the web. The outcome of this event will be an input to the main 2020 Summit a couple of weeks later. There are a bunch of really great presenters and I know there will be several Open Source people there on the day (including Tridge, Rusty and us).

I’ll be speaking about specific things we could bring up for the 2020 Summit, including input from the Linux Australia report to the new Federal Treasurer, and ideas from other conversations with Government, the community and industry.

The Senator is using Moodle, streaming video on the day, and of course it is published on her Joomla website. Awesome! Great to see such rocking use of technology by a Senator! 🙂 Great work by Tom Worthington on the Moodle and he’ll be dealing with the streaming video on the day.

Aus Community Government

Equal pay for women?

Today I saw a petition for getting equal pay for women in Australia. This is certainly an important goal however the goal of the petition is for the Government to “take action” to make it so:

I call on the Australian Government to take action to achieve equal pay for women.

Bold political leadership is required to change the legislative framework and shift cultural attitudes to close the 16% pay gap that currently exists between men and women.

I think there is certainly a place for Government leadership in this area, however I think a more important goal would be to provide information and resources for all Australians to know what they are worth and ensure they get the pay they deserve. I think there may be many reasons why women overall earn less than men, and some that are probably not malicious. For instance, many women don’t know what their jobs could earn and so don’t push for more money. Also now that collective bargaining is harder it is more difficult to know what your workmates are earning and to ensure you get the same.

There certainly are circumstances where women are prejudiced against in the workforce in terms of pay, and I believe the best way to combat this is to “arm the masses”. If you know what you are worth, then you won’t do with less. In a market where we have major skills shortages across the board (particularly in IT) people can ask for what they are worth and get it 🙂

Aus Community Government Personal


I was really moved by Kevin Rudd’s speech this morning, where the Australian Government finally acknowledged the trauma and loss of Indigenous peoples in Australia through the misguided and destructive actions of the Australian Government for most of the 20th Century. This was done with a strong apology and commitment to making life better for Indigenous Australians through a bipartisan effort to bring about equal access to opportunities, better health, better education and other work to give Indigenous peoples the same opportunities and quality of life as other Australians.

It also made me feel for the first time in a long time that Australian politics can indeed be both inspiring and practical. It gave me a lot of hope for what is to come and to do my part in helping bring about a strong and united Australia. I hope that the lessons that we see from the Open Source community, were people can overcome gender, political, cultural, religious and all other divides to work together productively, can be brought to the broader Australian community.

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Overview of Australian Government FOSS Survey Released

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) released a simple two page synopsis of their investigation into the use of FOSS in Federal Government agencies recently. They also have several interesting papers about FOSS on their Open Source software page. Some snippets include:

86% of agencies have a positive view of OSS and expect its usage to increase over the next 5 years

Agencies understand that by adopting OSS standards and solutions they could protect their investment in ICT systems, data and software

Agencies indicated their desire to be both vendor and format independent, with the high level of flexibility available to them by using OSS leading to an environment of innovation and transparency

And then the kicker:

OSS vendor support is perceived as problematic and was indicated as the biggest challenge facing OSS adoption by respondents.

Hopefully the soon to be released Census will help overcome the biggest challenge facing FOSS adoption in Government, and then 2008 will be a serious power year for FOSS in Australia 🙂 The report is due out in late February, and some teasers will be presented at