The Victorian government has announced a AU$5 million grant program to help small to medium-sized business (SMB) invest specifically in projects aimed at lifting their technology capabilities. Under the Technology Adoption and Innovation program, businesses can apply for grants of up to AU$50,000 under one of two funding streams. The first allows SMBs to partner with a technology provider to implement new technology platforms, including a new e-commerce system, artificial intelligence or machine learning processes, data analytics, robotics, or cybersecurity technology. The second stream is to help companies developing new technology products and services, such as in areas of micro or nanotechnology, software for business-to-business messaging, fintech applications, healthcare equipment, and retail technology. Applicants will also be required to contribute a minimum of AU$20,000 towards the total cost of the projects, the state government said.
Varroa destructor is a deadly stowaway that port authorities are determined to keep away from the bee population in the southeast Australian state of Victoria. Artificially intelligent beehives are being installed at Victorian ports to detect pests as they arrive at ships rapidly. "The Varroa mite is extremely destructive; it kills bees very rapidly," said Mary-Anne Thomas, the Victorian agriculture minister. "I would look forward to a project like the Purple Hive rolling out across the country. Purple Hive was launched on March 29 at the Port of Melbourne -- a solar-powered device that detects Varroa destructor, a mite that feeds on honey bees. Using artificial intelligence and cameras, Purple Hive provides alerts in real-time and has been trialed in New Zealand, where the mite is established. The technology scans each honey bee entering the Purple Hive to determine if Varroa mite is present. The hive is colored purple because it attracts bees. Thomas tweeted a picture of a hive being installed. "At #BegaCheese, we're absolutely buzzing with excitement to announce that B honey's Purple Hive has officially found its first home at the Port of Melbourne, as we join forces with @VicGovAg to help protect honey bee populations from Varroa destructor," read the tweet of Jimmy Coleman, marketing manager of digital and communications, Bega Cheese. "Varroa destructor is the world's most devastating pest of Western honey bees, Apis mellifera Linnaeus," as per the website of the University of Florida. "Accurate estimates of the effect of Varroa on the apiculture industry are hard to find, but it is safe to assume that the mites have killed hundreds of thousands of colonies worldwide, resulting in billions of dollars of economic loss." The adult female mites are reddish-brown to dark brown and oval. Adult males are yellowish with light tan legs and have a spherical body shape. Varroa destructor, the most significant single driver of the global honey bee health decline, was detected on a ship that entered the Port of Melbourne in 2018, but authorities stopped it from becoming an outbreak. "Australia is the only populated country in the world that the Varroa destructor hasn't impacted.
The banning of video game Disco Elysium from sale in Australia has renewed calls for the Australian government to overhaul the classification system to move away from the "moral panic" associated with video games. On Friday afternoon, the Australian classification board announced Disco Elysium – The Final Cut was refused classification on the grounds the game was found to "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena" in a way that offended "against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults". It ruled the game should not be classified. The post-war murder mystery role-playing game has won over a dozen industry awards since its release in 2019. The game has been available in Australia for two years through the Steam online games store, but the game's developers, ZA/UM planned to launch the game on consoles this month, meaning before it could be sold in stores in Australia, it had to go to the classification board for review.
The New South Wales government has named the 11 individuals who will form the NSW Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee and play a role in how AI is used in the state. Appointed as the chair of the committee is NSW chief data scientist Dr Ian Opperman. He will be joined by Microsoft Australia national technology officer Lee Hickin; Services Australia chief data officer Maria Milosavljevic; Australian Human Rights Commission human rights commissioner Edward Santow; Women in Data Science Network Sydney ambassador and School of Illinois data and AI research fellow Theresa Anderson; University of Technology Sydney data science executive director Fang Chen; Innovations Accelerated chief legal and data ethics officer Aurelie Jacquet; Australian Computer Society AI and ethics technical committee chair Peter Leonard; Gradient Institute co-founder William (Bill) Simpson Young; Quantium Health and Government CEO Neil Soderlund; and Public Purpose principal Martin Stewart-Weeks. Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the committee would advise the state government on the use of AI for decision-making and service delivery, and what ethical AI policies should look like. "These experts have a wealth of experience that will help inform policy making and cement NSW's position as an AI leader," he said.
Google's testimony to an Australian Senate committee on Friday threatening to withdraw its search services from Australia is chilling to anyone who cares about democracy. It marks the latest escalation in the globally significant effort to regulate the way the big tech platforms use news content to drive their advertising businesses and the catastrophic impact on the news media across the world. The news bargaining code, which would require Google and Facebook to negotiate a fair price for the use of news content, is the product of an 18-month process driven by the competition regulator. That legislation is currently before the Australian parliament, where a Senate committee is taking final submissions from interested parties. The Google bombshell makes explicit what has been a slowly escalating threat that a binding code would not be tenable.
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Recently, online exam supervision technologies have been thrust into the public spotlight due to the growing demand for online courses [Ginder et al., 2019] and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic [Flaherty, 2020]. While educational institutions can supervise remote exam-takers simply by watching live online video (e.g. via Zoom), an evolving range of online proctoring (OP) software programs offer more sophisticated, scalable, and extensive monitoring functions, including both human-led and automated remote exam supervision. Such technologies have generated confusion and controversy, including vigorous student protests [White, 2020]. Some universities have dug in against criticism, while others have outright rejected the technologies or have retreated from their initial intentions to use them [White, 2020]. At the root of disagreement and debate between concerned students and universities are questions about the ethics of OP technologies.
Australia's artificial intelligence (AI) community has rallied to a call from Defence and the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) for solutions to key Defence and security challenges. The call was part of the'Artificial Intelligence for Decision Making' (AIDM) initiative, aimed at growing Australia's AI capability and fostering a national community focussed on developing innovative AI solutions for Defence and national security. More than 200 proposals were received. Dr Tim McKay of the Department of Defence said the response was overwhelming and demonstrated the depth and breadth of AI expertise across Australia. "The quality of the submissions was excellent; far above what we expected," he said.
Over the last six months, Australia Post has experienced a 20% decline in letters, but a boost in households shopping online. During that period, the postal service had 8.1 million households within its 12 million delivery points that ordered goods online. People were also buying bulkier and heavier items, such as gym gear, office supplies, and in true Australian form, alcohol, so Australia Post also had to change its mode of delivery. Australia Post executive general manager of transformation and enablement John Cox said this meant the organisation had to transition many of its bike delivery posties into van delivery roles. "The challenge with all of that is our most experienced drivers know their route, they work out exactly where to go and they optimise very quickly the pathway. The posties have a different way of delivering, they actually have a very safe route where they always turn left to avoid going into traffic and it's the same path pretty much every day," Cox said.