Monthly Archives: March 2007

This Week In Coal

the age has a great article about how australia is losing out in the growing technology market. telstra, i blame you…With various governments and the population waking up to the effects of global warming, there’s been a bit of a focus lately on Australia’s coal exports. They are massive.According to the Australian Coal Association, last fiscal year Australia exported 233 million tonnes of coal, worth $24.5 billion.That’s a lot of coal, and a lot of money.To put it in perspective, coal comprises nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s exports and Australia, the world’s top coal exporter, accounts for 30 per cent of global coal exports.There are calls for Australia’s coal industry to be wound back, or even closed. That can’t happen, the “realists” say – it’s too big and important to Australia’s economy.Well, here’s another way to look at it: last year, the same year Australia exported $24.5 billion worth of coal, we imported $25 billion in IT goods and services. That’s right – we import more computer stuff than we export coal.We export only $5.3 billion worth of IT goods and services, leaving a massive annual deficit of nearly $20 billion.If Australia were self-sufficient in IT – or even if our imports equalled our exports – our coal exports could all but disappear and we would be no worse off. And our IT deficit is higher than our total exports of iron ore, beef and wheat combined.Australia’s IT trade deficit has been tracked for some years by Professor John Houghton of Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Economic Studies. His annual study is commissioned by the Australian Computer Society, which is rightly concerned about the imbalance that gets worse every year.You would think this would be front-page news. But our political masters are not concerned. Their attitude is that we gain more from our use of IT than we lose from paying so much to import it.Indeed, former Minister for Communications Senator Richard Alston once accused the ACS of “peddling 19th century mercantilist dogma” for daring to suggest that we should do something about reversing the direction of the trend – and the deficit was less than half what it is now.Bob Hawke said 20 years ago that Australia should become the “clever country”. His government did little to make it happen, but things have got much worse since. It is a measure of how unclever we have become that the phrase is only ever used in an ironic sense.Six years ago our current Prime Minister quoted me by name in Federal Parliament, referring to an article I had written in these pages in which I pointed out that the World Information Technology and Services Alliance had Australian 10th in IT spending per person, and fifth in IT spending as a proportion of GDP.He also quoted me as mentioning that the Economist Intelligence Unit had Australia second in “e-readiness” – the extent to which a country’s business environment promotes internet commerce – and that IT market researcher IDC ranked Australia third in computer infrastructure (after the USA and Singapore) and also third in internet infrastructure (after Sweden and Singapore). The Prime Minister quoted my article very selectively. Even then, we were way behind on many other measures (mentioned elsewhere in the article).What has happened since then?In the three years after 2001, our e-readiness ranking slipped from second to 12th – the largest fall of any nation – due to what the Economist Intelligence Unit said was our “stagnation and slow development”. We have since moved back to 10th spot, although there have been no new rankings since 2005.From third place, we are no longer even in the top 10 in IDC’s computer infrastructure and internet infrastructure ratings and, globally, we have fallen from 13th to 17th – after hitting a low of 23rd – in broadband penetration over the past six years.You’ve probably heard the term “fraudband”. I recently heard a new one -“Australia’s internet infrastructure is on a low-fibre diet”.I was reminded of some of these rankings, and of Australia’s poor performance, when I saw a new report from analyst group Forrester Research recently. It has released a major study on “national innovation networks”, comparing 26 OECD countries in four areas of IT innovation – invention, transformation, financing and broking.These are just the sorts of areas where a “clever country” should do well.How do we rate?The results are very disappointing, even depressing.In invention, we rate 16th, ahead of giants such as Slovakia and Portugal, but way behind almost all Western European countries.In transformation (the ability to turn inventions into products), we rate 23rd from 26, and in financing (the ability to pay for the process) a rather poor 21st.The only Forrester category where we make the top 10 (at 10th place and way behind the leaders), is in “broking” – our ability to forge the links between the first three groups.Pretty clever, huh?The Forrester research is incredibly detailed. It takes into account hundreds of factors, and correlates them in a complex spreadsheet to arrive at a two-dimensional rating that compares current offerings against strategic direction.A 21-page report accompanies the detailed data analysis. It concentrates on the really clever countries, such as Ireland, Sweden, Singapore and the Netherlands – all of whom have smaller populations than Australia.Our clever country is mentioned in just one sentence: “Australia is a low-tech country with little to show in terms of leading-edge programs.”Why don’t you quote that in parliament, Prime Minister?from the age

Hey Buddy, My Eyes Are Up Here!

From the Lovely Boing Boing, and interesting study showing men like to stare at other mens crotches. Well, thats not fair. Men like any old crotch:”There are lots of interesting findings, but the best is the revelation that men fixate on any     visible genital areas in photos — even animals’ crotches come in for a good eyeballing.”And here i was thinking I was unusual. Yay for important scientific research.

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No Hotlinking!

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Stealing images from the web to illustrate your posts? Use Google Image Search? Well there is an easier way! Check out http://dearcomputer.nl/gir/Its simply google image search, but instead of giving you page after page of thumbs, that you have to click on, the click to get the image, this clever little site just gives you the images in all their easy to steal glory.But seriously, dont hotlink from another site. If you find an image you want to steal, copy it accross to any of the free imagehosting sites like photobucket or imageshack and link to them.

AFL Geeks, Part 2

If you haven’t joined the AFL Geeks Footy Tipping comp yet, well, fair enough…But if you have, and you know a hell of alot about your own team, but bugger all about the rest, check out the footytalk podcast.There are many other AFL related podcasts out there, but Footytalk for me provides just the right amount of talking shit with expert commentary. I just cant stand the regular Triple M style eight mysoginists in a room trying to scream over the top of each other type of program that is normally associated with AFL. These guys hate that crap too, but know there footy.Ok then, now join AFL Geeks. Click the Sherrin!