Australian Computer Society
President 1996/97 - Final Report
30 December 1997
This is my final report as President of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) 1996-97. I last reported in September 1997 for the second Council meeting of the year. In the months since then, I have chaired the usual ACS Management Committee meetings and moderated the ACS Council mailing list.
For 1997 I proposed to concentrate on two priorities: industry development; and on-line working. The ACS has made a significant contribution to public policy issued by federal and state governments in the last few months. The announcement of on-line post graduate IT management education by the ACS will make a long term contribution to developing the Internet as a serious business tool in Australia.
Lastly I want to leave you with some proposals for the 1998 Constitutional Convention, on how IT might be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our Parliament.
The ACS issued 11 media releases, roughly divided into: industry development issues (5), professional (5) and social issues (1).
There was an emphasis on industry development issues, with the ACS's proposals being reflected, at least partly, in Government policy announcements (see the media releases for details). The ACS was particularly successful at the state level, with most states implementing the ACS's recommendation to appoint a Minister for IT and announcing specific development strategies. At the Federal level Senator Alston, recently appointed Minister for the Information Economy, has accepted an invitation to chair a regional e-commerce summit at the ACS hosted SEARCC’98. In 1998
Two significant announcements for ACS members were the selection of a new publisher for our national magazine Information Age and postgraduate IT management courses. These will have an impact far beyond provision of better services to ACS members. The ACS will again be pioneering on-line services for IT professionals, in exploring the opportunity for on-line publishing to complement the paper based edition of Information Age. In post graduate education we will be helping provide high quality on-line education for IT professionals in management and managers in IT. I hope this will set a trend for higher quality and more responsiveness postgraduate education in Australia.
Government IT outsourcing dominated social issues for the period, with the report of the Senate committee released. The Internet issue was relatively quiet, but we are likely to a resurgence in the issues early in 1998, with industry concern over new moves for tighter regulation of on-line content.
There was the important announcement of my successor as ACS President for 1998-99, Prins Ralston. Prins is well known in the ACS as the former chair of the ACS NT Branch, ACS Vice-President and Chair of SEARCC98.
- 08-12-97 ACS Welcomes Industry Policy But Questions Impact for IT&T
- 01-12-97 ACS Welcomes NSW IT Ministry
- 28-11-97 Senator Alston to Chair Regional E-Commerce Summit at SEARCC’98
- 19-11-97 ACS Presents IT Industry Development Strategies to Tasmanian Premier
- 20-10-97 ACS Announces Regional E-Commerce Summit
- 03-12-97 New On-Line IT Management Courses Leverage ACS Certification
- 25-11-97 ACS Signs Information Age Publishing Contract with IDG
- 10-10-97 ACS Honours Two Companies in Inaugural AAESPI Awards
- 13-10-97 IT Innovators Wanted for SEARCC’98
- 22-09-97 ACS Elects New Leadership Team
Visits and Talks
One of my goals was to visit all ACS Branches during my term as President. By September I had achieved it. In November I was delighted to deliver the keynote address of my own Canberra branch's 1997 Conference. The aim of the conference was to address the issues of IT outsourcing for the individual practitioner and it achieved its aims.
With a slightly different angle on the outsourcing issue, I gave a talk to a document and workflow conference in December on using the Internet to outsource processes.
In December the IT Research Strategy Report was released. The ACS is one of the participants in, and helped fund this joint industry-government study. As a member of the report steering committee I found the usual frustrations with joint work between academic, government and industry points of view. However, after all the work put into this study, it is disappointing the report produced has not received the consideration by government or industry it deserves.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is enquiring into the effects on research and development of public policy reform in the past decade. IT professionals and organisations need to tell the committee of the importance of IT R&D to Australia's economic future.
What for 1998?
As ACS Immediate Past President I am looking forward to a more relaxed pace in 1998-99. While the Immediate Past President is a member of the ACS National Council and Management Committees, they have no specific duties. The main job is to provide a corporate memory, even if it is just to say: "It wasn't done like that in my day". ;-)
In 1998 I want to explore some issues which have been of special interest, in more depth. In the last few years the ACS has been one organisation pioneering on-line working. What effect will the use of the Internet have on organisations? What effect will this have on the community? How do we reskill workers, particularly senior management and IT professionals to work this way? Are the efficiencies really proven for on-line working or is the repeat of the promise of the "paper-less office", which actually consumed more paper? Will on-lined education really work and will qualifications acquired this way be accepted?
These issues are more than academic interest: A few days ago the Minister for Finance and Administration announced that the Department of Defence will take the lead role in the development of the Federal Government's secure intranet. As manager of Internet/Intranet policy at the Department of Defence, I expect to draw heavily on my ACS experience in helping build the Federal Government's new on-line infrastructure.
One of the benefits of membership of a professional body is to be able to draw on the experience and expertise of the profession.
Conferences for 1998
My first talk for 1998 will be 28 January 1998 in Melbourne at the Victorian Association for Library Automation conference 1998 Biennial Conference on Robots to Knowbots: The Wider Automation Agenda. In this I will be reporting on recent work on standards for indexing and accessing government documents on-line.
ConclusionIn my "Request for support for election as ACS President or Vice-President", 11 September 1995, I wrote:
ACS members have spent too long in closed rooms telling each other how professional they are. IT is now of interest to the whole community. It is time to go out to the IT profession, other organisations, Government, and the general community to demonstrate how professional we are.
I hope over the last two years I have achieved at least part of that.
Tom Worthington MACS
30 December 1997
- ACS President's Reports to Council: September 1996, February 1997, September 1997
- New Years Day Messages to Members: 1996, 1997
- ACS Home Page
- Home Page
Postscript: Parliament Downsized and On-line?
Proposals for the 1998 Constitutional Convention
"... the public interest argument for access to networked services can be advanced at the political level. Genuine democracy, if it is indeed an aim of Australian society rather than a mere slogan, demands that information infrastructure comprise inherently democratic structures, provide access to information to the population as a whole, and deny large protected spaces within which narrow interests can arrange resource allocation and public policy to suit their own interests." from ACS submission to the Broadband Services Expert Group, "Vision for a Networked Nation - The Public Interest in Network Services", 17 May 1994Australia was born into the electronic communications age. Our constitution must be one of the oldest in the world to specifically mention telecommunications, where it allocates responsibility for "Posts, telegraphs, and telephones" to the Federal Government in section 69.
While the impetus for the Constitutional convention in February was the question of a republic, perhaps a practical issue could be addressed at the same time: how can on-line communications be used for a better democracy?
IT can be used facilitate public involvement in the in Constitutional Convention. The Internet can be used to quickly canvass issues with the public and for the discussion to go beyond the confines of the meeting room in Canberra. The delegates to the Convention might also consider how this technology might be applied to improve Parliamentary decision making.
The Government and Parliament have proposed that the rest of the community should increase efficiency through new work methods, with downsizing and outsourcing. Perhaps it is time the people demanded the same efficiency dividends from our members of Parliament.
As a starting point the Convention might consider:
- Network Members: All MPs and Senators would be provided with secure video conferencing to their electorate and Parliamentary offices (there is currently a networking trial under ways to a number of member's offices). Members and staff would be able to have secure on-line discussions. Constituents would be able to phone and fax their member's office at local call rates, as well as e-mail them or talk via Internet voice and video conference.
- Half as Many Sitting Days: One quarter of the sitting days of Parliament in Canberra would be replaced with video conference sessions from the members electorate offices. Another quarter of the sitting days would be replaced with store and forward text based conferencing from the electorate offices. This would take care of much of the administrative trivia Parliament spends time on and make possible more detailed discussion. Members could spend the time saved in their electorates, with constituents.
- Multimedia Hansard: The face-to-face and electronic sittings of Parliament, plus committee proceedings, would be transmitted live on the Internet to the public. Each electorate office would be equipped with a public video conference room, for constituents to view Hansard live, participate in public hearings of committees and meet with their members remotely.
- Half as Many Members: The number of MPs and Senators would be half the current number. The remaining members would be spending more time in the electorate and be more accessible, improving the level of service to constituents. The savings in salaries, allowances, travel and offices from fewer members would pay for the larger electorate offices, computer equipment and networking for the remaining members.
These initiatives will only require one change to the Constitution.
- Section 24: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators... But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each Original State." This will require a change to "three members at least shall be chosen in each Original State.".
Other sections of the Constitution about the location of Parliament, its method of business and number of members would required no change:
- Section 125 states that "The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be ... within territory ... in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.", that is in Canberra. An on-line Parliament based at Parliament House in Canberra, should still meet this requirement.
- Section 50 states "Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to... The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the House." It is therefore within the constitution for Parliament to make new rules to cover on-line procedures.
- Section 27 allows that "Subject to this Constitution, the Parliament may make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of the members of the House of Representatives". This allows the number of members to be reduced.
President of the Australian Computer Society
30 December 1997