Effective data outcomes require diverse human inputs – IAPA

Data is increasingly being used to make decisions that impact our everyday lives. But who is actually making the decisions, and are they truly representative of the people whose lives they are affecting?

In my latest post for the IAPA Advancing Analytics conference taking place in Melbourne on October 18 I had the opportunity to ask the speakers about the importance of diversity in data projects. One of the great dangers is that the people construcing the tools and programs fail to understand how they might impact specific groups in the community – especially those unintended consequences that mono-cultures design teams can fail to identify.

Looking beyond the hype: AI’s real potential as a transformative technology

There is nothing new about the tech industry overhyping its latest developments, as eager proponents seek to raise awareness, along with investment dollars and – ultimately – revenue. And in 2017 it has been AI’s turn to experience the hype treatment. But while hyping a new tech can lead to unmet expectations in the short term, it can also serve to overshadow some much-needed debates that might be vital in the long term. Such debates are likely to prove critical for AI, where the possible outcomes truly do lie in the realm of the unforeseeable.

Hype in AI has been the first subject for a series of blog posts I’ve been asked to create for Institute of Analytics Professionals Australia, in support of its upcoming Advancing Analytics conference, taking place in Melbourne on October 18. I’ll do my best to post the rest up online, but you can check them out here as they are posted online.

My speech from the ASCA Smart Communities Summit

2014-concept-1-gif_0Last week I gave the opening ‘catalyst’ address for the Australian Smart Communities Association’s inaugural Smart Communities Summit in Caloundra. A Few people have since asked for the speech and the notes it includes on what defines a smart community, so I am Catalyst speech.

The event itself was both well attended and well constructed, with presentations from leading thinkers and practitioners involved in creating smart communities in Australia and around the world.

We have already begun planning for the follow-up event in 2017 – hope to see you there!

Australian Smart Communities Summit starts next week

2014-concept-1-gif_0On Wednesday next week I’ll be taking the reigns as MC of the inaugural Australian Smart Communities Summit, happening in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.

While it might be too late to get yourself along, if you have an interest in smart communities/smart cities activity then please take a moment to fill out this survey, created by the ASCA and Tech Research Asia.

We are hoping this will be the start of an ongoing research program into the development of smart cities and communities in Australia.

Do we need a new approach to the social sector?

Tania with the With One Voice choirs, ANZ Diversity Week, March 2012I first met social entrepreneur Tania de Jong a few years ago through her work in bringing together the Creative Innovation festival.

Now she has set a goal of reshaping Australia’s social sector by taking a leaf out of the books of Uber and Airbnb.

De Jong is chief executive officer of Creativity Australia and founder of With One Voice, a charitable organisation that brings together disadvantaged people from across a spectrum of circumstances to sing together in weekly choir communities with people from more fortunate backgrounds.

People within the program nominate a wish they hope to see fulfilled, which can range from helping with a resume to purchasing a new appliance, with more than 500 wishes granted through 2014.

“They request from one another what they need in life, and miraculously enough people put up their hand and say they can help,” de Jong says. “Over the past five years, hundreds of people have got new skills and jobs. It is about creating meaningful outcomes so people can be contributing participants to society.”

Speaking ahead of her keynote presentation at the Ci2015 conference happening in Melbourne from March 23, de Jong says the With One Voice program represents a new model for the Australian social sector, which she says isolates problems into siloes and funds them in a very top-down manner.

She says this approach is at odds with the sharing economy now being defined by companies such as Uber and Airbnb, which excel at connecting individuals with needs to those who can service them.

“It is a model that needs to be adopted across the community sector, because there are all of these 20th century top-down institutional models, and the world is no longer in that mode,” de Jong says. “We are now in a mode where it is all about the individual, not about organisations.

“We are moving from a top-down centralised model to distributed connected communities, we are moving from consumption to collaboration, and from assets to access. But how do we achieve this for all communities?”

Executive and former Coles Myer executive Paul Kronborg admits he was sceptical when he turned up to his first choir six years ago, but now attends as many as he can.

“I now have some very deep understandings of actually what it is like to be a refugee, and what it is like to be strapped in a wheelchair, or be unemployed,” Kronborg says. “Spending time with the disabled or people who are gravely ill or bound in their beds brings a different level of understanding to the experience and the connection.”

With One Voice now convenes choirs in 11 locations around Australia, and is actively recruiting more.

De Jong says the group receives support from numerous commercial organisations, including law firms and health providers.

The deputy chief executive officer of Geelong healthcare provider Barwon Health Paul Cohen says a number of his staff attend choirs regularly,

“You see the benefit that they get out of it both from singing and the joyousness that comes from that,” Cohen says. “And there is also a benefit in working with others from different backgrounds and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Organisations that participate in community programs through volunteerism get back a disproportionate value and benefit into their own organisations – all the research says there is absolutely a commercial benefit.”

De Jong says With One Voice has proven popular because it gives individuals a real chance to connect with the people they are helping.

“A lot of corporates donate to charity in quite a tokenistic way,” de Jong says. “If we really want to solve some of our entrenched social problems, then it is about much more than just a charity day – it is about people giving of their time and their business skills to help solve some of these problems in their community.

“So this is about enabling and empowering individuals and building communities and social cohesion. Everything is moving to the individuals and the power of collaborative communities.”


Notes from the Broadband for the Bush Forum 2014 #bushbroadband

Track_to_Bellrock_Range1-980x360A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to speak at the third Broadband for the Bush forum, organised by the Broadband for the Bush Alliance, Desert Knowledge Australia and associated groups, and held in Alice Springs. For me it was an opportunity to immerse myself in topics that are of great personal interest to me – namely digital capability building and social inclusion in the digital age. It’s rare that I get a chance to spend two days with so many smart, passionate and motivated people, all coming together to solve problems for the common good.

I saw my job as being two-fold. In an after-dinner speech on the first night I spoke of the need to widen the discussion beyond telecommunications service providers, governments and the community to also include over-the-top service providers – commercial as well as government services – as they are a vital part of the overall digital service community. Hence I was happy to be able to welcome Freelancer.com’s general manager Nikki Parker to the event – services such as Freelancer are what help drive access to income and productivity growth once the digital pipes are laid.

In my speech the following morning I tried to instil a sense of urgency into the discussion by talking about the dangers of letting the digital divide widen, while highlighting the great strides that other nations are taking in terms of accelerating their uptake of digital tools as a means of raising overall standards of living. I also talked about the need to raise the digital skills of all parts of Australian society in order to raise our overall competitiveness.

I’ve been meaning to write up a summary from the event since returning, but a recent bout of the common cold has battered my productivity. Hence I was happy to see Grant Young from the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence do an excellent job already – you can read his notes by clicking here.

You can also read the official communique from the event by clicking here.

I’d urge anyone who’s interested in the topics of social inclusion and capability building to consider coming to next year’s event.



Live from X Media Lab KR8V Sydney 2013 Session 4 #KR8Vsydney @naimark, Ross Harley, @hoho101


I decided to sit back and enjoy the arts-related presentations that followed on from lunch, so sorry for not posting any thoughts on those four presentations.

The first presentation after the afternoon tea break was from Michael Naimark (@naimark), whose presentation on The Google Glass Controversy took the audience on a rapid ride through the history of interactive technology. He focused specifically on how wearable technology will further accelerate the growth in creation of online data, as the barriers to its creation will fall dramatically.

He also talked about how a failure in communication led to the world believing that Google’s StreetView cars killed a donkey in Botswana. Failure to learn lessons in communication may lead to similar controversies at the company rolls out Google Glass.

The next presentation was from College of Fine Arts dean Prof Ross Harley whose discussion of how the STEM concept needs to be augmented with an ‘A’ and turned into STEAM again raised the question of what can artists do – his answer being ‘anything’.

Ars Electronica Future Lab director Horst Hortner (@hoho101) who told the story of the Future Lab as well as showing  a project which will use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create illuminated images in the sky, including a Starfleet logo in the night skies over London.


Live from X Media Lab KR8V Sydney 2013 Session 2 #KR8Vsydney @Agraylin Wayne Borg @galvinsd & @adamgood

KR8VThe first speaker for the session session at #KR8Vsydney was Alvin Wang Graylin (@Agraylin), the co-founder of China’s Number 1 mobile search and advertising company myinfo. He started by playing a video for his company which actually used the tune from the Dumb Ways to Die campaign, which was interesting to show how that one piece of creative content has worked its way around the world in many different forms. Alvin talked about his career as an entrepreneur, from starting his first computer service business in college with his roommates in 1990 to working at IBM in various roles. Much of his talk focused on the issues that entrepreneurs face in building belief and raising capital, and the struggles they will experience along the way.

Alvin was followed by the chief operating officer of Abu Dhabi-based twofour54, Wayne Borg, who talked about the creative revolution that is sweeping the Arab world as a result of digital technology. He talked about how Saudi Arabia is now the number one market for mobile YouTube downloads, as young people use it as a means to create and express themselves, and how citizen journalism is now a phenomenon in Egypt. 360 million people now live in the Middle East and North Africa, and 55 percent are under the age of 25, while smartphone and mobile penetration is now at 230 percent across the region, creating huge opportunities to develop content.  Borg spoke of how creative and media industries are now one of the key investment areas for the Abu Dhabi government, and his own organisations has been put in place to help develop a talent pool in that sector.

The third speaker was Protein One founder, Galvin Scott Davis (@galvinsd), creator of the Number 1 lifestyle app, business app and kids game on the iPhone in Australia, who talked about the value of asking the question ‘why not?’. His latest app is Dandelion, which grew out of a children’s story that he created and evolved into a digital app.

The final speaker for the session was Adam Good, director of digital media and content at Telstra Media, who talked about creative leadership. He talked about how many companies are simply not planning for changes to come, and hence may not exist by the time 2020 rolls around. He encouraged the audience to listen more to find new opportunities that will work.

Live from X Media Lab KR8V Sydney 2013 #KR8Vsydney @kthread @doktorZ @dirtgirlworld @domknight

KR8VI’m currently sitting in the audience of X Media Lab’s KR8V Creative Leadership Edition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Sydney, and will be taking notes throughout the day, some of which I hope to post here.

The first speaker for the day was former BBC and Al Jazeera digital producer Kristen Taylor (@kthread). Her presentation on storytelling and community management talked about the nature of knowledge, and posited that the Internet runs on kindness, which is what gives the network the ability to heal itself.

The second presentation was delivered by Professor Martin Zimper (@doktorZ) , director of Cast/Audiovisual Media at the Zurich University of Art, who demonstrated that the rules of storytelling set out by Aristotle thousands of years ago still hold true today.

“We need old craft for new media,” he said. “Writing is a technique, writing is a craft … and even if we look to Hollywood it is old European knowledge that they use.”

His thesis – that a lot of successful online videos show people exceeding thresholds.

The third presentation of the first session was from dirtgirlworld creator and Interactive Emmy Award winner Cate McQuillen (@dirtgirlworld). McQuillen talked about the creation of relevant and creative children’s entertainment, and her mission to influence a generation to understand the need to love and look after the world.

“We believe that little things and little people can make a big difference,” she said, adding her team has had great success in encouraging kids to learn about recycling and composting. Dirtgirl often makes live appearances now, and a dirtgirl album was nominated for an ARIA Award.

The final speaker for the session was Dom Knight, radio broadcaster and writer for The Chaser, who talked about storytelling models, and specifically the Hero’s Journey and its various elements. While ideas are constantly rehashed due to their tendency to work, and the elements can be modified through changing settings and situations, creating interesting characters and dialogue, and through observation. And of course the newest variation is media. He also talked about how truly great storytellers can break the rules entirely, as George RR Martin has done with Game of Thrones, or Quentin Tarantino with Pulp Fiction.


A big week – SEGRA, The Australian and a front page spot in the SMH

It has been a very long time since I updated this blog, and a lot of happened in the last six months – which is probably the main reason why I’ve not been putting time into updating this blog.

I’ll add more details later, but recent highlights have included being invited as one of the 40 or so attendees of the Prime Minister’s Forum on the Digital Economy, delivering  keynote addresses for Symantec and Hewlett-Packard and a host of others, and writing a string of articles for publications including The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, CIO Australia and many more.

In the past six months I’ve also been traveling extensively, hitting locations including Longreach, Bundaberg, Mandurah, Mt Gambier, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, and even Maffra in Eastern Victoria, as well as most of the capital cities, to deliver presentation on digital transformation.

This week was a particularly big week however. On Tuesday I delivered a keynote address at the Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) 2012 conference in Terrigal, where I stressed the importance for regional communities to move more quickly in developing their digital strategies. That same day the latest special report on Cloud Computing appeared in The Australian, which included close to two broadsheet pages of content from me. Then on Wednesday the SMH IT Pro site carried my story on the emerging technology of adaptive web content.

That caught the interest of the editors at the SMH newspaper, and led to me writing this story which appeared on the front page of the weekend edition – the first time I can recall cracking the front page.

Like I said, it’s been a big week.