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					                                   IT Digest
                                Volume 5
                            Summary for June 2006


                   The Australian Thursday 1 June 2006
Nintendo game could ward off Alzheimer’s
Computer games in the hands of the elderly are shaping up as the latest weapons in
the war against Alzheimer’s. Nintendo’s Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training game will
hit the shelves in Australia on June 15 and has already created a stir among experts,
who say cognitive stimulation could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. In Japan, retirees
have flocked to shops to buy the game. Brain Training includes word games,
arithmetic tests and sudoku puzzles. Neurosurgeons who have long recommended
patients knit, do crosswords, play chess or even learn a foreign language – are
enthusiastic about the game.

                    The Australian Tuesday 6 June 2006
Fall-off in maths studies to hit skills
A drop of 20 per cent in the number of Year 12 students studying high-level maths
has sparked warnings from engineers and scientists that the skills shortage will
worsen. The fall, blamed on universities dropping maths as a prerequisite and the
subject no longer being weighted above others, threatens national economic
competitiveness in technologies such as molecular biology and genetics.

Pay, long-term vacancies, rise as skills shortage bites
Some hi-tech jobs are taking up to six months to fill, putting paid to suggestions that
the technology skills crisis is a myth. Employers are taking the task of hiring and
retaining staff seriously but are unwilling to throw money at the problem as they are
stinging from the inflated wages needed to get technology staff at the start of the
millennium. Companies are investing in skilling up existing staff as they find it
harder to acquire and retain quality candidates. The pressure to find skilled IT staff
has produced salary rises between 5 per cent and 10 per cent across the board in the
past year.
The May report of the Oliver Internet Job Index found IT &T jobs were up 2.86 per
cent for the month. May was a bumper month for the technology job market Mr
Oliver said. Mr Oliver expected the steady resurgence in IT jobs would continue for
the rest of the year, making it harder for recruiters to fill jobs.

NICTA graduates heading for startups
Twenty staff will leave Australia’s largest IT research laboratory this year headed for
start-ups, as National ICT Australia kicks off its first round of commercialisation.
Researchers at NICTA have caught the startup bug, and executives say many of them
are excited over the potential. The first four spin-offs were NICTA’s low-hanging
commercialization fruit. “This is the first set of researchers who joined NICTA so
they could do development work leading to a startup,” chief executive David Skellern
Summary produced by Jenny Deura
June 2006                                  1
said. “As a result of these first spin-offs, there will be researchers who will think that
doesn’t look so difficult after all. “More people will move from being traditional
academics, and will see the opportunity. “Lots of people are very interested, because
many want to see their research taken into use.”
Open Kernal Labs, which has been researching security for embedded operating
systems against viruses and hacking, has already generated revenue and is due to spin
off later this year. Terracept, which springs from wireless research by NICTA’s
Melbourne laboratory, will focus on remote monitoring. Its wireless water sensor for
farms has already generated interest in Australia and overseas.

Consumer recycling saves 116 tonnes from landfill
A Victorian recycling scheme has collected 116 tonnes of old computers in its first six
months, so that about 10,000 computers and monitors won’t end up in landfill.
Byteback is a joint project by Eco-Recycle Victoria, the City of Boroondara, Hewlett-
Packard, Sims E Recycling and K and S Environmental. It was started to prevent
computer hardware from ending up as landfill. The scheme is being used to develop a
national model to assist product lifecycle management. Monitors made up 37 per cent
of the waste and desktop boxes accounted for 34 per cent. Laptops only made up 1
per cent of the equipment collected. Most (almost 70 per cent) who used the service
did so because they wanted to “do the right thing”, according to a user survey.
Almost 80 per cent of those surveyed said they would have put their old equipment in
the rubbish if they hadn’t used the recycling service.

                   The Australian Wednesday 7 June 2006
ICT entry becomes easier
A big fall in the number of students enrolling in information and communication
technology degrees has prompted universities to drop their entry scores to allow
marginal candidates a place. Australian Computer Society Foundation president John
Ridge told the HES that universities, faced with a 40 per cent drop in ICT enrolments
in the past five years, had either lowered their entry scores or has artificially inflated
the UAIs of hopefuls. He declined to name the universities. “They (universities)
make it look to the outside world that the UAI is 85 to 90 but they give people five or
ten extra points when they apply,” he said. “That means that the level of people
entering IT is dropping. “I’m not saying that the only measure of a person’s worth is
their UAI, but taken as an overall indicator, if you start accepting people with lower
UAI into the industry, it’s got to be a downward spiral.”
Presently, supply of graduates was low (the dotcom crash of 2002 made ICT a turn-
off for school leavers), but demand for ICT skills was high, Mr Ridge said. “People
say there’s a skills shortage…..we say there are fantastic job opportunities.” He said
the ACS Foundation, in an effort to break the cycle, has made available 150 one-year
scholarships worth a total of $2million to university students.

                      The Australian Friday 9 June 2006
Playmakers chase $40 bn market
The Queensland Government is receiving a big pay-off from its investment in the
States’ booming electronic games industry, half of which now calls the Smart State
home. Starting as a handful of small independent games development studios in the

Summary produced by Jenny Deura
June 2006                                   2
1980s, the industry now boasts a vibrant range of multinational entertainment
companies, national development houses and innovative and creative independent
studios. And with the Australian industry recording annual export sales of roughly
$100 million each year, Queensland’s rapid growth has attracted some of the world’s
leading production companies, all looking to capitalize on our wealth of creative
talent.
The Queensland electronic games industry
employs approximately 550 people and is
home to a number of well-established and
highly respected companies such as Auran,
Krome Studios, Pandemic, THQ, Creative
Assembly and Halfbrick. The industry’s
current growth and success can, in part, be
attributed to a supportive State Government
that is committed to working closely with
the local games industry. As a result,
national export sales for this sector are
anticipated to grow from $100 million to
$500 million by 2010. The Queensland
Government has provided $800,000 to
funding through its Games Development
Package, which to date, has led to the
creation of 140 jobs- all directly involved in
electronic games development.

                   The Australian Tuesday 13 June 2006
Push to encourage study abroad
Australia should ignore fears of an exodus of its best and brightest and encourage
more students to study overseas.
Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop will review measures such as scholarships
and exchange programs to encourage Australian students to undertake “at least part of
their studies overseas”. Ms Bishop described the exchange of students between China
and Australia – with 80,000 Chinese students at university here compare with just
1000 Australians in China – as a “trade imbalance”. And she warned of serious
challenges ahead for the nation’s education sector in attracting overseas students as
India embraced its rising middle class and other developing nations focused on
technology and an expansion of regional universities. International education, which
attracts 340,000 students a year to Australia, is the nation’s fourth biggest export
earner after coal, tourism, and iron ore.

                    The Australian Tuesday 14June 2006
Better business, uni links needed
Universities are being warned to urgently build Silicon Valley –style ecosystems of
innovation with industry to get the products of their research to market as a long-term
income strategy.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said universities and
industry needed to collaborate better so the full value of Australia’s multibillion-

Summary produced by Jenny Deura
June 2006                                 3
dollar public investment in research was realized. “The lack of collaboration remains
an impediment to enhancing the value of the research”. Ms Ridout said. Some
progress has been made but we still need wholesale structural reform, not just a bit of
movement around the edges”. Universities are prominent in the 100-plus exhibitors at
the Commercialization Expo 2006 in Melbourne next week. A similar event in 2003
generated more that $40 million of confirmed investment and commercialization
outcomes, organizers said.
Australian Institute of Commercialisation chief executive Rowan Gilmore said
universities should prioritise getting their intellectual property to market, not for the
sake of a quick revenue fix but for the long-term benefits that flow from industry
collaboration.

                    The Australian Monday 19June 2006
Bishop delays university research performance project
The first national attempt to test the quality and impact of university research has been
put back a year, as federal Education Minister Julie Bishop sends another of
predecessor Brendan Nelson’s reforms back to the drawing board. Despite
speculation that she would dump the project, Ms Bishop has pledged to push ahead
with the initiative, but not until 2008, a year after it was scheduled to begin. The
Research Quality Framework, as it is know, is the biggest looming issue for
universities across the nation. Many have spent significant amounts of money in the
past 12 months on trials and extra staff to prepare for its introduction. They will fight
for more than $600 million in funds linked to their research performance as it is
measured under the new system.

                    The Australian Tuesday 20 June 2006
E-health on life support says Labor
The nation’s e-health strategy is an expensive failure, with little to show for more than
$200 million spent on consultancies and small projects, according to opposition health
spokeswoman Julia Gilliard.” We have to face the fact that a national e-health system
is at least a decade off,” Ms Gillard told the Australian College of Health Service
Executives in Canberra last night. The only legacy after four years and $200 million
spent of HealthConnect was a “lesson learned” report in 2005 that identified a lack of
“the underlying infrastructure and connectivity” critical to a successful
implementation, she said.

German genius lifts World Cup
Forget certain football games taking place in
Germany at extremely unfriendly hours of
the Australian night-the real World Cup has
been decided and the Germans have
triumphed. While their human counterparts
have backed in the world spotlight, the
cyber-Cahills and robotic Ronaldinhos have
been battling it out in Bremen for bragging rights in the 2006 RoboCup. The June 14-
18 event, which attracted 440 teams from 36 countries, was open to engineers from
around the world, who developed autonomous machines that move under their own
power and make decisions. Robot teams from Germany won 11 of 33 categories,
including football and rescuing people from disasters.
Summary produced by Jenny Deura
June 2006                                  4
                   The Australian Tuesday 27 June 2006
Divided views on contract bill
Proposed laws to improve protection of 135,000 independent IT contractors under
commercial law could ease skills shortages by improving employment flexibility and
attracting more school-leavers to the profession.         Business groups said the
Independent Contractors Bill improved recognition and legal certainty of employment
of technology contractors. The bill means that IT contractors will be treated as small
businesses-under commercial law, rather than as employees covered by stated
workplace laws. Introduced by Workplace Relations Minster Kevin Andrews to
federal Parliament last week, the bill fulfils a 2004 election promise. It means
technology professionals working as contractors - usually as computer programmers –
can negotiate rates and conditions with clients in the same way as other small
businesses. “The attraction of independent contracting is to operate independently,
not to work as an employee,” Mr Andrews said. “The flexibility that independent
contractors provide the workplace is an important component of a modern and
dynamic economy. The bill will be debated when Parliament resumes in August after
the winter recess.

E-pharmacy software is health hazard, experts say
Hard lessons may need to be learnt about the safe and effective use of clinical
software, a leading e-health expert warns. “It takes 10 years for a new drug to go
from laboratory to clinical trial, and many more before its safety and efficacy are
proved,” University of NSW Health Informatics Centre director Dr Enrico Coiera
said. “Why isn’t clinical software – which might check for interactions between
drugs, and dosage errors, and generate alerts and recommendations to influence
prescriber behaviour - treated as rigorously? “Anybody with programming skills
could create a rudimentary electronic prescribing package and put it on a GP’s
desktop without regulatory approval.”

                               Build your own robot
                               Microsoft has unveiled a robot building software kit
                               designed to help inventors realize their vision.
                               Microsoft pulled the curtain back on its Microsoft
                               Robotics Studio at the RoboBusiness and Exposition
                               2006 in Pennsylvania. “What was brought to the table
                               today was an application development kit that is
                               designed to make it easier for anyone and everyone to
                               write applications for a robot,” Microsoft robotics
                               group manager Tandy Trower says. It can address
                               both high-end robots and very simple robots. It’s
                               about Microsoft building a bootstrap, or platform, to
                               allow the industry to integrate the pieces they are
                               developing.    Anyone wanting to test drive the
                               software can download it without charge at
                               http://msdn.microsoft.com/robotics.




Summary produced by Jenny Deura
June 2006                                 5

				
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