Australia Government


Newcrest blazing a trail with big data

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Addressing the South Australian government's recent Copper to the World conference in Adelaide, Newcrest's chief information and digital officer, Gavin Wood, gave a rundown on what had already been achieved at Newcrest with data science, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. He also talked about the benefits delivered by crowd sourcing, although this can also create some unique challenges of its own. "If you can imagine, an experienced operator at a site being told by a university student in Argentina the answer for optimising their part of the plant is quite different to something they believe from their experience of 20 or so years. Those are real challenges for our business," Wood said. He said data science coupled with machine learning had alr...


IBM scores AU$1b for whole-of-government IT

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The Australian government has signed a new five-year agreement with IBM, giving the multinational AU$1 billion to be a whole-of-government "technology partner", effective immediately. According to Big Blue, this will make it easier, more efficient, and cost-effective to access emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing. Although the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) led the agreement, it is currently attempting to spread the AU$6.5 billion spent annually on IT by the Australian government across the smaller players by refreshing the way the government procures IT-related services. That aside, under the arrangement, IBM and the DTA will convene a group made up of government and industry folk to "prioritise the introduction of new technologies to citizen services".


Would you like fries with your visa? CPSU says privatised visa system will upsell

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The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has said the two conglomerates in the running to build Australia's outsourced visa applicant processing system have shown a platform that attempts to upsell applicants. "The platform, as presented to staff, would see products like Qantas flights and Optus SIM cards pushed at visa applicants," the union said in a blog post. "Not only does this raise concerns about the Australian government seemingly endorsing these companies and their products, it also shows this push to privatise will reduce our visa system to nothing more than another way commercial interests can push their products and drive up their profits." The Department of Immigration and Border Protection -- now part of the Department of Home Affairs -- went to tender in September, seeking a provider to design, implement, and operate a new visa business. During the 2016-17 12-month period, 8.78 million visas were applied for, and the government expects this number to reach 13 million by 2026-27.


Automated patent decision-making Bill should be passed: Senate committee

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A Senate committee has recommended that Parliament pass Australia's new intellectual property (IP) laws in a bid to promote and incentivise "investment in creativity, innovation, research, and technology". The Senate Economics Legislation Committee's report said the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 [PDF] will phase out the innovation patent system, as well as allowing for automated decision-making on patents. "Schedule 2 consists of 21 parts which implement a number of measures to streamline and align the administration of the Australian IP system," the report says. "Schedule 2: Part 5 amends the Patents Act, Designs Act, PBR Act, and Trade Marks Act to enable the commissioner and the registrars to arrange for a computer program under their control to make decisions, exercise powers, and comply with obligations under the legislation." Under the Bill, the registrar may "arrange for the use, under the registrar's control, of computer programs for any purposes for which the registrar may, or must, under this Act or the regulations: make a decision; or exercise any power or comply with any obligation; or do anything else related to making a decision".


NSW government commits AU$52.6m to national biometric initiative

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Announced as part of the state's 2018-19 Budget on Tuesday, NSW will be contributing AU$52.6 million over four years to the rollout of the biometric capability across New South Wales, enabling access to new face matching technology for law enforcement. "This technology will increase the capability to identify suspects or victims of terrorist or other criminal activity, including identity crime," the Budget papers say. The Australia-wide initiative will allow state and territory law enforcement agencies to have access to the country's new face matching services to access passport, visa, citizenship, and driver licence images from other jurisdictions. The Face Verification Service (FVS) is a one-to-one image-based verification service that will match a person's photo against an image on one of their government records; while the Face Identification Service (FIS) is a one-to-many, image-based identification service that can match a photo of an unknown person against multiple government records to help establish their identity. The Australian government in February introduced two Bills into the House of Representatives that would allow for the creation of the system to match photos against identities of citizens stored in various federal and state agencies: The Identity-matching Services Bill 2018 (IMS Bill) and the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2018.


South Australia begins trials of Flinders Express autonomous shuttle bus

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A driverless public electric shuttle will this week start operating around the Tonsley Innovation District in South Australia as part of a five-year trial, marking the first use of autonomous vehicle technology on public roads in the state. The Navya Arma Flinders Express (FLEX) electric shuttle will transport passengers -- who can book a free ride from Wednesday -- at speeds of up to 30km, and will be managed by an on-board chaperone who will advise passengers and ensure safety, according to Flinders University, which partnered with industry supporters for the trial. Driven to distraction: Why IBM's Watson is getting onboard with self-driving vehicles and impatient passengers IBM has teamed up with Local Motors for a new autonomous vehicle. Here's how it will handle difficult passengers - and why you won't be able to buy one. FLEX will operate on weekdays between 10am to 2pm, and will initially provide services between Clovelly Park Train Station and Tonsley's Main Assembly Building, and connections to bus stops on the main South Road and businesses in the Tonsley precinct.


Australia launches robotics roadmap for automation adoption

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Australia has on Monday launched its first "robotics roadmap" that aims to support the development of critical robotic and vision technologies. Unveiled at Parliament House in Canberra and developed by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, the roadmap aims to modernise the economy, build national health and sustainability, and "unlock human potential". The centre's chief operating officer Dr Sue Keay said that automation is predicted to deliver Australia $2.2 trillion over the next 15 years if businesses are encouraged to accelerate their uptake of technologies such as robotics, which should be seen as "everyday problem solvers rather than scientific fantasy". "We have an opportunity to take a collaborative, multi-sector approach to education, funding, and legislation to benefit industries and lead the way in the development of robotic technology that can solve real global challenges," said Keay. "With support and collaboration between industries, government, researchers, and developers in coming years we will see robotic technology developed that can help maintain our living standards, protect the environment, provide services to remote communities, reduce healthcare costs, and create more efficient and safer workplaces," she added. Leaders in academia, industry, and government across sectors including resources, manufacturing, agriculture, defence, and healthcare have helped developed the roadmap following submissions and workshops last year, according to the centre.


NSW government turns to Microsoft for procurement monitoring

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The New South Wales government has announced signing Microsoft to help it commercialise its data science capabilities, initially focusing on the state's AU$30 billion procurement spend. Big data is transitioning from one of the most hyped and anticipated tech trends of recent years into one of the biggest challenges that IT is now trying to wrestle and harness. We examine the technologies and best practices for taking advantage of big data and provide a look at organizations that are putting it to good use. The NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC), stood up in August 2015, will work with the local arm of Microsoft to offer data-related products both inside and outside of government, and "turbo-charge" the government's digital and data agenda. Under the arrangement, DAC data scientists are using Microsoft Azure and a range of Azure cognitive services to build a machine learning neural network to categorise how the NSW government's AU$30 billion annual procurement budget is allocated each year.


Australia's intellectual property agency goes all in on user design, DevOps and AI

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Rob Bollard, CIO at IP Australia, the government's intellectual property department, is proud to say that he heads up Australia's first fully digital service delivery agency. In just the space of four years, IP Australia has gone from receiving just 12% of its IP applications online – the rest coming through on paper – to now receiving 99.6% through digital channels. Not only his, but Bollard is overseeing the decommissioning of old systems, a move to the cloud, has implemented agile working, created a DevOps environment that focuses on continuous delivery, ensures systems are designed with the user in mind, and is even deploying AI technologies to improve experiences for employees and citizens. I got the chance to sit down with Bollard at Pega's annual user event in Las Vegas this week, as IP Australia has implemented the Pega platform as its case management system. Our vision is really to become a world-class IP office and to try to support the prosperity of Australians in the system.


Budget 2018: National AI ethics framework on the way

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As artificial intelligence continues to creep into everyday life, the Australian government has pledged $29.9 million over four years to enhance local AI capabilities. Treasurer Scott Morrison announced in Tuesday night's budget that "research in artificial intelligence" was to be included as part of the Government's $2.4 billion investment into Australia's science and technology capacity. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will receive the bulk of the funding ($26 million), alongside the CSIRO ($2.3 million) and the Department of Education and Training ($1.5 million). "This measure will support Cooperative Research Centre projects, PhD scholarships and school-related learning to increase knowledge and develop the skills needed for AI and machine learning," the budget papers state. Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales and ACS AI Ethics Committee Member, Professor Toby Walsh, welcomed the funding, but questioned whether it was enough to poise Australia as a global leader in the field.