• Health

    Patient data can help prevent overdiagnosis

    Simon Coghlan |  January 25, 2022

    The increasing use of digital technologies in medical screening may lead to a rise in overdiagnosis that could be prevented by a new focus on patient data.

  • International

    Understanding Putin’s threat to Ukraine

    Open Forum |  January 25, 2022

    Vladimir Putin’s military build-up on the Ukraine border threatens to plunge Europe into a wider war, and appeasement or acquiescence will only bolster his dreams of restoring the Soviet empire.

  • Environment

    Soil regeneration lags behind revegetation

    Open Forum |  January 25, 2022

    The restoration of cleared and degraded Australian landscapes takes time and patience, but the extent of residual soil deficiencies surprised researchers studying the results of a six-year native planting project in South Australia.

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  • Uncategorised

    Innovation and climate change

    proberts     |      November 19, 2007

    Australia's innovative capacity can be turned to the problems of climate change.

    The really surprising thing about the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is its optimism. After years of focusing on the negatives such as the terrible drought obvious to all Australians, the focus has moved to what can be done.

    And, it turns out, a lot can be done to delay or avoid the impacts of climate change.

    Australia’s participation in new market signals to encourage the development of a less carbon intensive economy through a successor to Kyoto is vital. It is vital from the purely selfish point of view that we will be excluded from world trade if we fail to take action and to reduce the effects of change on agriculture.

  • Uncategorised

    Economics of renewable energy (not)

    StephenWilson     |      November 16, 2007

    It's not for nothing that they call economics the "dismal science".  It seems to me that the world's attention to macro economics is what stops renewable energy.  I don't know if the following analysis is really new or not, but if it's accurate, then as things stand, no renewable energy scheme stands a chance, regardless of the greenhouse effect.

    When you procure and install a renewable energy source, like a wind turbine or hot rocks plant, the financial transactions are simple, limited and rather local: 

    – build the power plant

    – operate the plant (pay a few staff, buy some occasional maintenance).

    But our globally favorite energy schemes — coal, gas, nuclear — all involve mining and massive ongoing exchanges of finance and resources, both human and physical…

  • Uncategorised

    Carbon neutrality – what a con!

    StephenWilson     |      November 16, 2007

    Households shouldn't waste energy but the carbon neutrality fad is just blame shifting.

    I should probably aver right up front that like any sensible person, I am all for energy efficiency. We shouldn't waste the stuff. But surely the fad for "carbon neutrality" in the home is a huge con. It's blame shifting.

    If we transitioned to renewable energy, then (within reason) we could all run air conditioners and clothes dryers, guilt free. The cynic in me suggests that the carbon neutrality craze is driven by complacent or weak willed governments, and the fossil fuel industry. It's almost a smokescreen. We have reality TV shows (even on the ABC for godsake!) that put the onus on humble householders to save the planet.

    Households don't emit greenhouse gasses — power stations do!

  • Uncategorised

    What to make of the stay-at-home Dad?

    alison gordon     |      November 14, 2007

    Though many of us like to consider ourselves modern individuals of the 21st century, it will always be difficult to remove the traditional idea of "family roles" from the public eye …

  • Uncategorised

    Aussie ingenuity

    proberts     |      November 6, 2007

    Australians are innovative – you hear people say that all the time. But the reality is far less palatable.

    I am often told ‘Australians are innovative’ but in reality we are not, or rather not particularly.


    We are innovative in the sense that people are innovative, and Australians are people. So it follows that Australians are innovative.

    But how could we be particularly innovative – we are not even that well educated. A third of Australians aged 25 to 34 are tertiary educated compared to 53 per cent of Canadians, for example.


    Science isn’t the problem as we perform well in academic research. The problem is turning ideas into profitable businesses. Patents are one of the most important indicators of that process and with two per cent of the global economy, we account for only 0.82 per cent of global patents.


    We don’t need to be particularly innovative as most of our industries are classified as ‘medium-technology’ and almost none are ‘high technology’. And the situation is not getting relatively better – our high technology exports are growing at 4.4 per cent a year compared to the OECD average of 7.2 per cent.


  • Uncategorised

    A standards strategy measures up to global trade challenges

    Open Forum     |      November 2, 2007

    Mark BezzinaWith the recent explosion of ground-breaking standardised ICT protocols we are witnessing the ever increasing development of wealth-producing technologies and business models.  These business models exploit easily accessible and interoperable global networks, information and knowledge.   

    Underlying most technologies and business models is the ubiquitous and somewhat ephemeral world of standards.  Standards support wealth creation by enabling the development of global production networks characterized by outsourcing, the de-verticalization of corporate structure, and new forms of “technological fusion” in which disparate technologies are brought together to achieve new products that exhibit novel performance characteristics and functionality. 

    The nature of this global techno-economic system places a premium on interoperability and creates a new level of demand for acceptable standards.  Standards have also become increasingly important for the international economy and according to the World Trade Organisation underlie 80% of world trade in the exchange of goods and services. They form a fundamental part of bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade agreements.

  • Plurality of Identities, and trouble ahead with biometrics

    StephenWilson     |      November 1, 2007

    The idea of biometric authentication plays straight into the view that each user has one "true" identity underpinning multiple authorisations.  

     I recently noted in the thread on identities and keys that: [We need] identity frameworks (like the Microsoft developed Identity Metasystem aka Cardspace) that permit as many "identities" as there are contexts in which we assert ourselves.

    We are in the midst (I hope!) of a shift to a new paradigm based on a plurality of identities. And I think I'm using the over-wrought "p word" here in its proper context. The current "singular identity" paradigm has had a deep and unhelpful influence over the way we think about all sorts of things, including smartcards, PKI, biometrics, the semantic debate over "authentication" versus "authorisation", and therefore the underlying architecture of many approaches to federation.

  • Uncategorised

    Super innovation

    proberts     |      October 31, 2007

    The superannuation industry is maturing and taking its place in the national innovation system.

    Long, long ago, in the distant past before Australia had a venture capital sector, there were at least three big things to be done. Financiers had to become experienced in handling risk in new ways, investors had to be comfortable investing in new ventures, and above all the country needed a track record of successful investments to show it could be done.

    It all seemed just too difficult.

    One of the things often talked about was the need for the then nascent superannuation sector to earmark a few per cent of their funds for earlier stage venture capital and other new investment classes. The logic went that if the money was there the opportunities would come to the fore.

  • Uncategorised

    Top companies

    proberts     |      October 22, 2007

    Look at the stockmarket to find out whether Australian companies value innovation.

    Australia’s top 20 listed companies reflect something about what might be a maturing Australian attitude to innovation. Wheras mining companies once dominated the list, today fully nine of the S&P top 20 are financial institutions.


    While four big banks are protected by government policy and are not exactly known for their nimbleness, others such as Macquarie Bank carved their position based on relationships and innovative products and practises.


    Then there are three resources companies, all innovative in their own right, but not big spenders on R&D on a global scale. One could argue their local activities remain competitive against low-cost rivals precisely because of innovation.

    And there are three retailers, of which Woolworths is known for its logistics innovation and two industrial companies including the sole manufacturer and consumer product innovator, Foster’s Group.

  • Uncategorised

    They shoot girls, don’t they?*

    tamaraplakalo     |      October 21, 2007

    When survival of the fittest calls for infanticide, it is girls that get culled …

    “I have to marry off four daughters and I am not financially capable of taking care of another girl,” said an Indian man after the local police arrested him for an attempted murder of his two-day old granddaughter. The man buried the baby girl alive in a field near the Indian city of Hyderabad. It was the passers-by who spotted and saved the baby as her little hand was protruding from her intended grave.

    When a baby girl is born in countries such as India and China, friends are often reluctant to congratulate the newborn’s family. Some parents dread the possibility of having a daughter, as girls are seen as an unwelcome drain on family finances. In the patriarchal constellation of the Hindu tradition, male descendents are considered the rightful heirs to all family property, and only they can ignite a funeral pyre at the Holly River Ganges.

  • Uncategorised

    A wasted decade

    proberts     |      October 19, 2007

    In the innovation battle, Australia has lost at least a decade … 


    The federal government has been quick to trumpet a recovery in business spending on R&D – so called Berd. That Berd has risen above one per cent of gross domestic product for the first time is a great achievement, and follows an increasing recognition by business of the importance of innovation and investing for future growth.


    But positive business sentiment to innovation is only part of the story and perhaps not the most important part. There is evidence that business has been responding as much to a 175 per cent tax deduction being offered for certain types of business R&D.


  • Uncategorised

    Shaping Government policy: Online Survey update

    editor     |      October 15, 2007

    We are pleased to report that our 'Shaping Government Policy' Survey received a fantastic response from the Open Forum community, and would like to thank you all for your contribution and ideas, as well as for the wonderful show of support for our open democracy project. The survey results have been presented to the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), and will be used to inform the Australian Government Consultation Blog project.

    A summary of the findings will be reported in the next Open Forum newsletter.