Australian Computer Society
Government in Cyberspace
Moving Australian bureaucracy to the Internet and creating a new support industry
by Tom Worthington, President of the Australian Computer Society
Thursday 15 August 1996
Announcement & Summary
Tom Worthington will talk about his experience in putting the Federal Government on-line. Tom will talk
about his work in on-line policy development and implementation in
the Department of Defence, on interdepartmental committees, for the ACS and internationally . He
will also details the steps Australian private and public organisations need to take to have a
stake in the global information industry. Tom will outline the up-to-minute
developments from Canberra.
About the speaker
Tom Worthington is National President of the Australian Computer Society and Deputy Director,
Information management Planning, Australian Department of Defence. Tom is co-author of the ACS
InfoBahn Policy, the Defence Representative on the
Commonwealth Internet Reference Group,
one of the authors of the new Architecture For Access To Government
Information and has been described by Information Age magazine as one of the 50 most influential IT&T
people in Australia.
For more registration details contact CIRCIT
Draft of 18 July 1996: The content of this talk will be developed here
between 18 July and 17 August. Suggestions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vision for a Networked Nation
In 1994 Roger Clarke and I wrote
"Vision for a Networked Nation",
as an ACS submission to assorted government and parliamentary enquiries.
The vision essentially was that Australians would have easy, low cost access to on-line facilities for routine
business, cultural and government activities. We wanted to make the Internet an ordinary tool
for people to use. Much of that vision has already been achieved, through the work of people in
Australian academia, government, industry and the community. However there is much to do.
War comes to Mallacoota
Exercise KANGAROO 95 took place in an area of over 4 million km
square, across the Top End of Australia from July to the end of August 1995 and involved over
17,000 Australian Defence Force
from the USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, the UK
Reports and photographs were transmitted from the exercise
area using stand-alone
portable satellite communications terminals, capable of full 64k
duplex high speed data.
As manager of the Defence home page, I received the reports at Defence headquarters in Canberra
and up-loaded, them to a publicly accessible Internet server at the
Australian Defence Force
During the exercise the Department of Administrative
Services announced K'95 trucking tenders on its
Government Electronic Marketplace Service (GEMS).
GEMS was linked to the K'95 home page, demonstrating the
synergy possible with the Internet.
"Commercial off the shelf" lap top computers and Internet
software were used for transmitting the photos and reports.
Photos were processed for efficient on-screen display, but also proved useful for
For the first week of the exercise I
was officially on holiday, but maintained the K95 home page
remotely using a pocket modem and lap top PC from
In the next few months the limitation will not be bandwidth or location, but people's ability
to sift information. Already on-line executives can receive much
more information in a day than they could absorb in a year. We are
starting to see software for filtering information, so they get the
high priority material, condensed in an easy to use form. This
is especially a priority for
Command Support Systems (CSS) systems. We will see the same
techniques used to condense information for low bandwidth users.
Some examples of information condensing:
- Researchers are working on ways to present very large amounts of information on screen (such as the organisation chart for a whole corporation). These techniques hide detail in such a way the user doesn't notice it is hidden. There is therefore no need to transmit the information until/unless it is needed.
- It is considered good Web design to provide a low resolution version of photos, which the user then clicks on for a high resolution version. Web designers must do extra work for this, but progressive JPEG will make it possible to build this function into browsers and servers.
- It is now common practice to send out a short e-mail message with a URL embedded in it. This saves sending a large document by e-mail.
We will be launching the Defence Home Page MKIII in September and I hope to incorporate some of these techniques. It is easy to build a Web page with lots of flashy animated graphics which look good in a demonstration environment; it is difficult to build one which looks good and also gets useful information out to the public, but it is possible.
Internet applications from Australian Government organisations
Australian Governments' Entry Point: A
directory of all Australian Government sources of information on the Internet: local, state and federal.
Minister for Defence: A simple home
Marketplace Service: Government tenders on-line. A Spartan layout, but useful up-to date content.
Guide to Australia: Sophisticated and
comprehensive directory, but not run for profit.
Commonwealth Government on-line policy and implementation
Australia's stake in the global information industry
- Mix of showmanship and technology: The Java
programming language is an excellent
example of promotion of a new product. This is an okay programming language, which has a lot of potential.
However its current popularity comes more from the trendy name and the mythology surrounding the
company promoting it, than from real advantages.
- We are number five in the world: Australia is about number five in the world, as
measured by the number of servers connected. This puts us ahead of many industrialised nations. In the
region we are an Internet super-power. However our business and Government leaders don't know it and
don't use this advantage.
- Academia is our R&D lab: Our Universities are generating potential Internet products and
exploitable techniques at a prodigious rate. However most of this output is being wasted. Each week I
attend a free public talk at the ADFA Computer Science
Department. Almost every week there is something of practical commercial value. One example is:
"From Hypertext to Flat Text: A Tool for Document Construction", by Mr Wanli Ma. There is a danger
that this research will soon cease: if no one values or uses it, the government will stop funding it.
- Join the ACS in promoting Australia:
IFIP'96: 14'th World Computer Congress, September, Canberra
- Just do it