Australian Trip Report Oct. 6-20, 2003
Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting
Here’s a summary attempt addressing the key points regarding DCITA and TAPRIC challenges and opportunities. Being politically neutral, I’ve tried to squarely address what I’ve perceived as the key opportunities for clarification. I believe the biggest single issue is the gulf between admirable intensions and the level of planning required to produce an implementation strategy that will produce the desired results. This will be hard work! “The devil is in the details.”
I’d like to address the core issue of developing a process for “Informing Government” on an ongoing basis as to genuine opportunities and potential fatal flaws.
Information Technology is THE E-government leadership issue of the 21st century; creating and managing new forms of interaction. Less is more, and new levels of efficient communication between government and citizens - leading to greater accountability based on greater communication efficiency - are indeed viable.
While I don’t feel fully on top of all the details - and based on comments from those I met during my trip - I feel compelled to warn against Telstra’s promises for a beneficial local presence and their potential dismissal of regional sustainability due to inevitable economics once the privatisation has taken place. It would be my guess that the short term political agenda is to see the privatization go through and in a year or two to announce the economic failure of Countrywide as economic projections already suggest may be inevitable without some prearranged guarantee of support for sustainability.
The Online Council’s recent discussion paper “Maintaining the Viability of Online Access Centres in Regional Rural and remote Australia” stresses widespread partnerships as essential to sustainability, but the specific economics for sustainability have not yet been detailed and will bear heavily on defining what’s sustainable and justified as the “best” application investments.
There seems to be some question of what constitutes truly competitive pricing VS monopolistic pricing slated for inevitable failure. $200/hr video conferencing will prove prohibitive for expanded use, as will a usage quota fee for Internet. I believe flat fee pricing is the trend you’ll find in the U.S. which would allow for expanded use without penalties. Technologies are evolving rapidly, costs are dropping steadily, new satellites are becoming available, and ongoing monitoring of the best cost/service ratio is advised.
Could Telstra be betting that government won’t catch the following presumptions before it is too late?
Core Issue #1: Dedicated Broadband
The promised broadband is based on shared capacity which means as more people use it, the speed of shared access becomes less and less. Already I’ve heard that sometimes 8k speeds are the reality when government has been told 64k will be available. The promised broadband benefits can’t be realized if broadband is not guaranteed via dedicated bandwidth minimums. In the U.S. - major projects have failed because the phrase “up to 64k” really means no minimum is guaranteed and the minimum might well be below the level of usability as already cited by several people at your recent conference. “Broadband” must be defined by numeric minimums.
Core Issue #2: Projected Video-conferencing Usage and Economics?
Touted as the largest 2-way satellite video conferencing system in the world, how much sustainable usage is anticipated if costs are around $200/hour? Usage figures may well fall far below all expectations if pricing is prohibitive for regular use. Is local expertise and funding available for use “on demand?” Will economics dictate that this medium will primarily be a conduit to prisons (family visitations) and funerals (viewing and ceremonies)??
Core Issue #3: Staying Informed. I recognize DCITA faces a huge challenge attempting to stay current with worldwide lessons learned concerning telecentre models and regional/rural internet empowerment strategies. My paper detailed many of the challenges and opportunities which I’m confident will grow in importance. The paper is online at http://lone-eagles.com/wings.htm and I look forward to receiving comments from anyone who has read the full paper.
Core Issue #4: Raising Rural Awareness on the Need for Community Learning and Engagement. I’d like to suggest you consider a regional/rural community Internet empowerment conference for community leaders - “ to address realistically what will it take to realize benefits once access is available.” Perhaps titled “Authenticating Regional Internet Benefits.” Such a conference could be used to emphasize the importance of local community learning programs and also as a means for gathering success stories, gathering innovative approaches and lessons learned, and perhaps particularly emphasizing which failures need not be repeated. Creating an online directory of available expertise and consultants across these communities and beyond is specifically recommended. Cross community collaboration cannot be over emphasized as a good idea!
Sparks of innovations in communities need to be brought together to establish a flame that can grow to generate a greening of the human potential landscape.
The National Community Television Broadband Initiative seeks to generate community storytelling using broadband to serve this purpose. Contact: Glenn Stapleton firstname.lastname@example.org
Oct. 6-8 Regional Communications Forum, 300+ persons attending
Promises of broadband: 150 satellite dishes are planned to bring broadband to indigenous communities but there lacks any genuine accountability for a minimum dedicated level of broadband essential for broadband educational and economic uses. Indigenous communities stated their real speed is closer to 8k than the promised 64k. Accountability at all levels is necessary to dispel the current lack of trust regarding Telstra promises by regional communities. The Government needs to be crystal clear regarding the broad difference between general assumptions and specific technical and economic realities. For example; the impression exists that two-way video conferencing will open doors of unlimited communication - but at costs up to $200/hour few can use it and if expanded use occurs the economics may quickly discourage most uses based on costs. Third party validation for Telstra assurances are necessary as is comparison with comparable services and costs in peer countries.
In the U.S. broadband is generally sold on a monthly flat fee. In Australia there is an additional fee per unit gigabyte download which again will discourage and ultimately prohibit the expanded use presumed when broadband benefits are discussed. If you can’t afford these additional fees you don’t really have the benefits of broadband as presumed. PC video conferencing may prove to be a more cost-effective alternative to current pricey systems as an option to explore.
Alternative vendors and satellite systems are likely to provide dramatically better broadband speeds at lower cost. While references to the benefits of competition bringing better service at lower cost are made, the reality is that monopolistic fees are higher than in peer countries and may ultimately doom your connectivity projects to economic failure. Flat fee access, as available in U.S., may well prove necessary for wide spread take-up.
Oct. 9 Indigenous Forum, 100 persons attending.
The need was stated for a clearinghouse of all indigenous projects with emphasis on what’s working, lessons learned, maintaining a listserv and print newsletter to help keep everyone current - to include global indigenous projects, new resources, and International funding sources. Someone needs to be the designated clearinghouse person (single point of contact), responsible for moderating the listserv, producing a monthly print newsletter, and maintaining a companion web site listing all indigenous projects, resources, and resource persons by region and category.
Oct. 10 Met with Karen Flick and TAPRIC Staff for the morning and then with Multimedia Victoria staff in Melbourne for one hour
At MMV there was agreement on importance of effective motivational storytelling for Ecommerce and they’ve produced a glossy brochure with 15 ecommerce success stories and referenced having experimented with a road show. While many of their phrasings resonate well with what’s needed, measures for success in reaching their designated audience may be necessary to determine their effectiveness.
Discussion touched on the huge need for reform of teacher education at university and inservice levels. K12 education needs to prepare citizens for tomorrow, not yesterday. Whose responsibility is community Internet learning? Larry Stillman attended from Monash University representing a newly formed international community networking research group and shared the Monash community networking research site at www.ccnr.net
MMV has installed 10,000 kiosks (public internet access terminals,) 5400 located in skills.net sites including 279 schools, 940 libraries, 79 per cent located in regional Victoria to provide public with free or affordable online access bundled 30 local councils through an E-gaps program to establish 75 additional public access sites, 94 percent of which are in regional areas.
Oct. 11 Flew to Alice Springs
Upon arrival I had lunch with Linda Chellew, manager of the Deadly Mob. I also met with Steve Fisher for one hour, technology group manager Centre for Appropriate Technology, and we visited Telegraph Park and focused on discussing vocational education.
Oct. 12 Spent three hours at Desert Park, drove to Umuwa with Will Rogers, General Manager of PY media and met new trainers Mike and Glenn. Enjoyed ample time for long conversations on all topics.
Oct. 13 Toured PY Media center in Umuwa
Met Mary - the Aboriginal director. Saw a woman using Aboriginal history photo archive mobile unit, heard indigenous music on the radio, and saw women and children viewing a video of a local celebration. I’d be very curious as to what the typical usage figures might be for Umuwa and other communities regarding regular use of such technologies. Visited Fregon, saw trash, graffiti and petrol sniffers upon arrival. I understand violence is a daily occurrence. Met local MSO (Pastor) and two council members who viewed short digital photo demonstration by PY Media trainers. Saw video conferencing unit in the corner for which I understand the costs prohibit use for more than one or two conferences per month. I don’t believe access to prison (family visiting) and funerals (traditional viewings and ceremonies) was the sole intent of these systems. I believe it is timely to ask just what educational programming will flow through these units, particularly programs created by indigenous community members.
The PY Media web site, www.waru.org is under construction and the primary mentor is a volunteer from the U.S. working remotely. Ultimately, the best and easiest “community network” for encouraging online interaction skill development needs to be identified and tested for the best short term results. (More on this below.)
Visited the Kaltjiti art center in Fregon and met David and Beverly Peacock who spent ten years developing this outstanding model for a sustainable art center. David was emphatic that such centers should not be required to provide a dollar per dollar match due to designation as an economic development unit because of the essential social value and self-esteem they generate. There is little else to engage or motivate citizens. The quality of the art and their web site www.kaltjititarts.com.au is outstanding. Their art is sent to Kashmir when third world artisans create tapestries based on the artistic patterns and the resulting products are co-marketed and royalties shared.
This is a fundamentally significant example of the global opportunities for collaboration which are opening doors and for which the Internet can serve as a lifeline. My impression was much more could be done to Emarket globally the opportunity for direct sales of discounted aboriginal art with a percentage publicized as going to support the local training of artists. There exists huge economic and social potential and expanded art sales could provide a source for sustainable telecommunications, as well.
The statement was made that government representatives arrive and offer major sums of funding for infrastructure but won’t consider more thoughtful development uses of the funding such as supporting the art center. I’ve repeatedly heard that government visitors look only at the surface funding needs and rarely listen to the deeper needs of the communities. I suspect the short term funding cycles lead to dumping unspent funds in preparation for the next funding round. Better coordination and long term planning is advised. Longer term funding cycles appear to be necessary for truly sustainable results.
We visited Ernabella but the art center was closed. We saw building where PY Media was founded.
Oct. 14 Return to Alice Springs, via Uluru
I met Clive Scollay, Executive office for Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal College. Had lunch with five teachers who were very excited about the CDROM storytelling camera. I left a collection of my printed resources which were of immediate interest as was the opportunity for online professional development. I left sample digital audio and video files on a local computer. These computers appear to be seriously outdated in contrast to the modern architecture.
Oct. 15 Visited the Deadly Mob Project www.deadlymob.org at the Gap Youth Center 9am-10:30am Met with Linda Chellew, manager of the Deadly Mob project, Ann Tregea, director of the Gap Youth Centre Aboriginal Corporation, Neville King, Infrastructure consultant, and Georgina, a volunteer teacher. I saw an outstanding center with pictures of students’ heads on movie star bodies and other fun photo manipulations on the walls. Their sophistication leaves in question who actually did the work. It was my impression the only real skills taught are browsing basics, playing computer games and some photo manipulation. Creating general computer and Internet awareness is the stated goal. A dozen CAT workers were there playing games and it was explained this access is in return for their hard work building the center.
I understand the center is vacant daily until school is out at 3pm (what about adult programs?) and then is very busy, but closes at six some days and is open until nine on others. I’d be curious to see usage statistics and a report on full accomplishments of the past 18 months. Stated goals are to focus on skill development for next grant round. Volunteer Georgina is interested in creating online courses once funding becomes available.
I see huge potential - but believe the “devil is in the details” and the level of careful planning required to produce the desired outcomes will prove to be a major challenge.
Visited Desart Aboriginal Art Project, www.desart.com.au Neville King accompanied me to meet director Rose Wallis. We listened to Aboriginal artists and community leaders, Valerie and Margaret, on the social problems resulting from government giving too much money and the social consequences of youth not developing a work ethic, self esteem, or understanding of what they can contribute to society and their culture. We discussed the issue of what the government can’t do for the communities. The communities must develop their own goals and local action initiatives to develop a values structure. About 15 minutes of video were taken recording the core of this discussion and has been forwarded to Karen Flick.
Visited CAAMA, Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association
Neville King and I met with Priscilla Collins, CEO, and eight board members and discussed the role of media for raising awareness of the potential of I.T. for indigenous empowerment for one hour. Passion for indigenous empowerment issues was discussed as a core component of the reason for their broadcast business. I distributed printed resource handouts.
Arrived Darwin at 7pm and had dinner with Les Hodgson, Exec. Dir. Information and Communications Technology for DCIS.
Oct. 16 Darwin, Had breakfast with Karen Groeneveld. Presented two two-hour presentations for DCIS staff - eight attended the first session, including Doug Cook and about eight attended the second session. Indigenous projects were represented such as the Electronic Outback Project and several faculty from Charles Darwin University were present. I was able to present many important tools and concepts that time prohibited my sharing at the Regional Communications Forum and the Indigenous Forum, as listed below.
Spent one hour with NT Minister Peter Toyne and Les Hodgson at Parliament House. Was pleased to discover great synergies with Peter’s background as he was a teacher and had run a consulting business called Wedge-tailed Eagle. Striking similarities in our histories and educational philosophies. Peter gave me a draft paper on multi-level community-based secondary instruction which suggests many opportunities for co-development of curriculum relating to computer skills for community-based employment. Of key importance was his suggestion of involving the ICT industry in creating remote learning products that could be used by community members to teach remotely as a telework employment strategy.
Flew to Kununurra and then Halls Creek to spend the night, had dinner with Karen Groeneveld and Peter Jebb.
Oct 17 Flew to Ringer Soak with Karen Groeneveld and Peter Jebb
We spent the morning presenting for local CEO Nigel and discussing issues. He stated his calls are not returned by government (ATSIS) in his efforts to find funding for a local youth center. Local people are ready to go to work to build it. Their computer lab is in place awaiting installation of the satellite dish. He relates the community as functional. Current fuel storage tanks are inadequate to assure power during a long wet season and there was frustration that government was not being responsive. Specific curriculum for use by the community technology center appears to be up in the air. I sent Peter a full packet of instructional curriculum materials to share with Nigel. There was a satellite dish on the school, the clinic, and the main office. I wonder if sharing one robust dish using wireless would lower costs? Peter is a representative of the COAG initiative which raises questions about the opportunity for enhanced communications regarding government services.
Flew to Yagga Yagga and presented for Shane Harman and Kathryn Njamme (Aboriginal) Kathryn easily created ten first art pieces using the digital art tablet. No one else was in the community as it was Friday. Vandalism was apparent and dust covered existing equipment. The store owner had just disappeared that week - fraud and missing funds are anticipated. Everything was in a severe state of neglect. The power went off during my one hour presentation and Shane left briefly to start the backup generator. But on the bright side – they were genuinely excited about their first hands-on experiences with the digital storytelling camera and the digital art tablet.
Oct 18 Flew to Kununarra, returning to Darwin
Oct 19 Returned to Sydney
Oct 20 Met with Karen Flick 8:30 am-11am
Debriefed and showed trip slideshow with commentary, gave CD’s with all photos, presented 1 ˝ hours of remaining presentation material not shown due to time constraints at both forums. Shared Peter Toyne’s mixed-mode delivery structure for secondary education in remote communities.
Flew home, arriving 28 hrs later.
Key Two Hour Presentation Elements:
Keynote slideshow with Jamaican school, Alaskan villages, rural U.S. communities, with commentary (20 minutes) Purpose was to highlight common challenges creating inspired and motivated communities to actually use available Internet access.
Keynote powerpoint, (Only shown in two hour presentations to DCIS and to Karen Flick) (20 minutes)
Demo CDROM storytelling camera as easy multimedia publishing for narrated still photos and video. Purpose is to motivate all concerned by showing how easy digital storytelling can be – with the right equipment and training.
(Camera details: Sony MVC CD 550 available at www.sony.com $700 U.S.)
Demo Art Tablet and Fractal Painter software. Purpose was to motivate all concerned by showing how easy and motivating digital art can be as a means of teaching familiarity with technology. (Available at www.wacom.com for $199 U.S. and it comes with Painter software and Adobe Photoshop Elements, a $199 value!)
Demo Webwhacker as a tool for capturing hundreds of web pages easily for convenient offline presentations and training. Purpose is to show how huge collections of Internet content can be easily captured and used in communities without Internet access for training and teaching on any topic. $45 from www.bluesquirrel.com
Demo best Alaskan Native community web community, cultural, and instructional content. (fifteen minutes) As listed at http://lone-eagles.com/alaskan_innovations.htm
Online demos: Community publishing on the web
www.deltadiscovery.com Purpose – Bethel, Alaska has citizens generating
meaningful web content.
Online cultural community site in Nepal, see photogallery
http://everest.oldcolo.com This is a scaleable model community networking system that is inexpensive, customizable, and relatively easy to maintain. The community digital storytelling in the photo gallery is the key example, supported by online conferencing, calendars, newsletters and other interactive features.
Free Photo gallery site with example photo storytelling with text captions and auto-slideshow option. http://frankodasz.fotopic.net Anyone can begin digital storytelling without any expense immediately.
Alaskan village model website created by 4th year students, including spoken language instruction via web http://kyu.yksd.com Purpose – showing how easy it can be.
Demo – Creating a three minute web page. Using Netscape, a free browser available from www.netscape.com a finished web page with text, images, hyperlinks and a background was created as a demonstration of what can easily be created with elementary students in an hour or two.
Electronic student portfolio/resumes from Sitka Native Boarding School (see innovations link above)
Athabascan elders narrated historical photo slideshows (not online)
Free Native American Ecommerce sites www.indianvillage.com
Taos Pueblo Digital Stories (not online)
Dog Sled Construction Plans as web-based shared
(See innovations link above)
Aurora Webquest example of web curriculum
created from a template
(See innovations link above)
Ebay Video sharing $60 million exchange daily and over 150,000 full time entrepreneurs using Ebay. www.ebay.com
Demo Ely CDROM as community multimedia promotional template model
(10 minutes) Karen Flick has a copy.
Demo Band in the Box Intelligent Music accompaniment software (Cakewalk Home Studio can record music to produce music CDs) (five minutes)
LONE EAGLE SUGGESTIONS
Conclusion on Aboriginal Community Visits
I really wasn’t afforded the opportunity to meet or interact with community leaders in any of the visits. In WA it was the weekend and folks had left for the larger community. I did get to shake hands briefly with two council members in Fregon and was in the room during a brief digital photography presentation by PY Media’s new trainers. I did enjoy a wonderful one hour conversation with Rose Wallis from Desart and Aboriginal community leaders and artists Valerie and Margaret.
My sense of just who comprises these communities is confused with scenes of petrol sniffers (as a socially accepted public practice). I’ve seen people sitting in circles and met a few artists but still wonder just what people do all day and how many community leaders actually exist. I can see the need for art centers and computer centers to literally give everyone something productive to do. I did briefly see a couple workshops for developing construction skills but both were vacant due to the weekend.
I can appreciate the perception of being just another whitefella in a long line of government visitors, likely to never be seen or heard from again. Noting my lack of knowledge about accepted cultural appropriateness I intentionally did not push myself on anyone. I repeatedly heard that government doesn’t listen and hence doesn’t understand what’s needed. The COAG initiative is well-timed! The question stands as to how best to move from good intensions to an enhanced communications policy. The place to begin is to better communicate what’s now possible using new communications tools, and to then listen carefully as a part of the ongoing engagement process. The need exists to be convincing that real people within government are truly listening.
***There can be both a well-informed government and a motivated citizenry if incentives are properly presented and scaled. Citizens can’t articulate what they want unless they are first shown what’s possible. Then, appreciation grows and champions can be developed. One limitation appears to be short term planning based on short term funding cycles when thorough long term planning will be required to generate sustainable results.
A comprehensive process need to be developed and demonstrated effective via a proof-of-concept pilot project.
1. Presentation to raise interest in exploring opportunities as the first step
2. Engagement and careful listening to generate a truly shared vision as the second step.
3. Create motivation by producing meaningful content and immediate outcomes such as printed art pictures, personal web pages, music and stories recorded on CD or DVD, etc..
4. Produce visible outcomes, social recognition, a community celebration, expand the circle of participants
5. Repeat the process for the next level of empowering tools and concepts.
Suggestions for the Next Indigenous Forum, Sept. 04, Alice Springs
Create the first real Aboriginal community success story in preparation for major announcements on TAPRIC and the potential for all Aboriginal communities - to be presented at the Alice Springs Indigenous Forum Sept. 04: NT Minister Peter Toyne would likely be an interested partner. His paper “A Mixed-Mode Delivery Structure for Secondary Education in Remote Communities” raises the issue of creating specific curriculum approaches and proving which are most effective.
Preconference Workshop I – Indigenous Community Awareness
Anticipation of broad indigenous participation at this pivotal conference creates the opportunity for a full awareness presentation to community leaders and members on what technology can bring to them in a cultural context.
Preconference Workshop II – Indigenous Project Leaders
A full-day train-the-trainers preconference workshop to share existing curriculum and the full range of tools and motivational strategies available. These trainers would be those associated with the dozens of existing indigenous projects.
Preconference Workshop III – Indigenous Bush Techies
A third workshop opportunity would be for budding bush techies regarding an initial set of presentations and tools they could use to engage community members. This would be a different level of "train-the-trainers" for youth requiring definition of the emerging new social role which really needs to be carefully defined and validated as these youth are caught between cultures and could use an appropriate new "identity." This workshop would ideally be the “kick-off” for a major train-the-trainers program.
Pre-Internet Preparation Training
There is a lot of awareness training that could take place using just CD's and a PC, plus art tablet, digital video/audio camera, and musical recording set-up - costing under $2000 U.S. I can't help but wonder how many communities would be interested and how many bush techies we might potentially empower in these communities with an initial motivating curriculum, one PC and a starter set of multimedia storytelling and digital art equipment. FYI, Powerpoint 2000 allows audio narratives to be recorded with slides and images allowing for an immediate instructional/story-telling option. A CD with presentations ready to go might be a place to start. Perhaps with videotapes of communities telling their stories, too.
If TAPRIC and the NT Ministry were able to create one or more compelling success stories on a successful community learning project embracing an initial set of concepts and tools prior to the conference, that community could tell its story to inspire others.
National TV and Film professionals could potentially create a video integrating the above events to carry forth the global vision for the significance of sharing what’s possible if we can join to share our imaginations. Mary G., CAAMA, and many others could ideally work together to get the word out on what’s possible. The National Community Television Broadband initiative is specifically seeking such storytelling opportunities with the vision to eventually give all communities a medium to tell their stories using multimedia on an ongoing basis via Internet. A video with all the presentations detailed above would be a logical cost-effective means of generating awareness for what’s possible.
Since PY Media and Deadly Mob are drafting their next round of funding requests, the specifics are of immediate interest to them. – Raising the opportunity to define a real plan in the short term.
PY Media, an Aboriginal Non-profit which has brought ISDN to 10 communities, dialup to 40 communities, is now replacing UHF radio with VHF, installing CB radiophones, has established an indigenous radio station, and 2-way video systems are being installed.
Will Rogers, General Manager of PY Media, and I talked about creating a first set curriculum for oral communications only - as the best strategy to raise interest and motivation for what might come next. Deadly Mob was similarly interested from a youth-emphasis standpoint.
Suggestions on the initial community engagement process:
E. Post on web after community readiness is demonstrated.
F. Hold multiple community events to showcase on a big screen or white wall all local innovations and champion’s contributions.
G. The initial use of Internet might be considered as voice-based email in language. See the Demo at www.wimba.com
H. A community-based intranet would allow for very high speed local sharing of multimedia storytelling. The benefits of starting with a local intranet are
1. No waiting for Internet to be installed
2. No worries about sharing private material or being confronted with inappropriate resources
3. Wireless computers in the village can communicate at 10mb speeds at no cost for local sharing and to connect with satellite Internet services from the home or other community centers. This mobility, home access, and local emphasis teaches familiarity with the technologies based on participation with important local expressive and communications applications in preparation for eventual Internet applications.
I. Create a local community network to teach online collaboration with a
local emphasis, perhaps using voice-based email.