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In other government ICT and digital news, 18 October 2022

by Staff Writers •
Free resource

Welcome to Intermedium’s sweep of public sector news.

With one week to go until the Budget refresh, things are looking bleak. Treasurer Jim Chalmers has been doing everything he can to dampen expectations of new spending, and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher is warning we are facing “a pretty rocky next 12 months.” Economic forecasts are widely expected to be downgraded and several trading partners are tipped to fall into recession. This is bad news for those hoping for major new ICT projects.

Government ministers have been on the road ahead of the Budget. Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy were both in the US; Defence Minister Richard Marles has been in Papua New Guinea and Tonga (for a regional defence ministers' summit), Foreign Minister Penny Wong visited the Marshall Islands and Nauru, and Trade Minister Don Farrell was in Japan and South Korea. Cabinet has some big defence spending decisions to make, and we will be watching carefully to see whether this translates into more money for telco and cyber support across the Pacific.

We are now in week five of the fallout from the Optus data breach... the AFR is reporting that cyber risk insurers are being ‘swamped’ with inquires.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the second round of its 2021 Census data, showing the number of people with an IT qualification grew by 36% since 2016.

Fans of the ABC spoof Utopia will be having a chuckle: the government has delivered on its election commitment to undertake an independent review of the Inland Rail project. Esteemed economist and go-to fixer Dr Kerry Schott will lead the review, which has been kicked by successive governments for generations. We don’t expect the backend ICT systems to go to tender anytime soon.


Tasmania: telco infrastructure damaged

Flooding from record breaking rainfall in northeast Tasmania severed three telco cables in the state’s north in 24 hours, disrupting landline, mobile, internet and television services.

NSW: deploys ‘Roadside Weather Stations’ on Alpine Roads

Checking roads for ‘Black ice’ along the alpine routes to NSW ski fields are currently conducted manually, but data from a Transport for NSW pilot program aims to automate the process. Sophisticated solar-powered weather sensors at five alpine locations will be used this ski season to monitor road surface temperatures, air temperature, precipitation and wind speed, with data transmitted through a low-power long range wide area network (LoRaWAN). Data gathered from this year’s pilot will be used to predict when and where black ice will form along the routes next snow season.

WA: dump truck tragedy at autonomous vehicle trial site

There was a tragic accident in the Pilbara last week, when it was reported that the driver of a (very large) mining dump truck had run over a (regular sized) vehicle, crushing the occupant to death at the Karlawinda Gold Project, owned by Capricornia Metals. The mine was the site of proof-of-concept trials for local earthmoving contractor MACA and its technology partners SafeAI and Position Partners (collectively Automation Partners) to test “a proprietary automated haulage (driverless trucks) technology system” earlier this year, and announced to the ASX in March.


This week we’ve decided to cover the preponderance of AI news.

US: an AI Bill of Rights

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released a White Paper on AI policy, titled a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. The document sets out five principles to guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems (rights to safety, non-discrimination, privacy,  opt out, and be notified when AI is being used). Local readers will note similarities to the NSW government’s artificial intelligence assurance framework, released in March.

Microsoft adds AI-generated imagery

Microsoft is introducing AI-generated art to its Office software suite with a new app named Microsoft Designer. The app is similar to the already infamous DALL-E machine learning model developed by OpenAI to generate digital images from natural language descriptions (side note: we assume some Australians are involved in the development, as “Koala Dunking a Basketball” is the first example in this 2-minute explainer video).

UK: using AI to monitor nuclear risks

The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which was established back in 2005 (with a 100-year timeline to do as its name implies), is working on several 'proof of concept' AI projects to analyse large scale data to eliminate site hazards and identify risk on nuclear sites. Speaking at the AI themed Data4Good conference, NDA staff confirmed they are gathering unstructured data from a range of sources and using AI to connect to smart security systems, identity risk patterns, data discrepancies, automate risk dependency mapping, and develop natural language processing applications.

UK: politicians have (actual) conversation with robot

Rounding off our coverage of AI this week... members of the UK House of Lords Communications and Digital select committee (really did) cross-examine a humanoid AI robot and its creator, Aiden Mellor, on the topic of AI-created art. Wearing denim dungarees, a Mia-Wallace-Pulp-Fiction-style black Bob wig, but with metal robotic arms that could belong to a droid from the Star Wars franchise, the robot was addressed by the name Ai-Da, and provided evidence, but did not have the status as a witness. House of Lords member Lynne Featherstone noted “I am actually partly terrified by what you’ve been saying, because from someone who knows very little about this field, this feeds into all the films about AI taking over the world.” You can watch the 40 minute conversation on YouTube.

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