Centrelink: A failure of government

arrows missing target

Centrelink is the latest government IT-dependent scheme to miss the target

Over the last couple of months, #Centrelinkfail has gained momentum as a news story. We knew from reports in 2016 that the Department of Human Services was introducing a data matching system that would check social security payments against tax records. But over Christmas, what began as a trickle of reports of incorrect allegations of debt, debt collectors, and tales of personal crisis turned into a flood.

Meanwhile, the government continues to defend the system, ‘confident’ in its operation.

Today, the former head of the government’s Digital Transformation Office, Paul Shetler, has commented on the government’s succession of IT failures – including #censusfail and Centrelink – describing them as

“cataclysmic” and “not a crisis of IT” but a “crisis of government”.

The Centrelink debacle – in particular when viewed together with the government’s other ill-conceived attempts at implementing digital services – demands an urgent and radical rethink about the nature of process of the exercise of state power in the face of pervasive digital technologies.

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Blockchain: is it the next big thing

Image result for accounting ledger book

Old school ledger

I will start by answering the question in the title: I don’t know.

This post is directed principally at lawyers and legal academics, arguing that whatever the trajectory of Blockchain technology, it is sufficiently significant that we must attempt to understand it at some level at least to think critically about its potential implications.

Some lawyers, principally in Big Law firms with a large banking and finance client base, are deeply engaged in Blockchain including to suggest that it will open new fields of practice. Other lawyers understand but dismiss its potential. In my experience however, the majority is unaware of its existence or cannot really say what it is. This latter position is fair enough, because in my view it’s not easy to find a simple explanation that lacks breathless proclamations of a new world order.

I’m a newcomer, having bitten the bullet after I observed ‘chatter’ about Blockchain had reached a tipping point. In my social media feeds, in recent months it has moved from random mentions (innovators) to dedicated early-adopter status even reaching mainstream media… This must surely mean that it’s time for lawyers to become conversant in the technology and its possibilities (and limitations). This post is a low-tech overview of some of the issues, from a lawyer’s perspective.

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Professionalism online (for new lawyers)

I have been meaning for some time to write a post about what’s described as ‘personal branding’. My interest lies in providing a constructive platform for those entering the profession and who seek to dip their toes into social networks as part of their development of a professional identity.

I was prompted again by the recent cases of academics Roz Ward and Martin Hirst each of whom has had their employment threatened due to a personal Facebook post unrelated to work, and a series of publicly available tweets, respectively. These cases, and many others like them, raise a myriad of issues about privacy, employers’ rights, employees’ responsibility, contemporary standards of discourse, and working out when they apply.

Before I could get my thoughts together to finish a post, Martin Hirst posted on his own blog most eloquently about the issues he and others face. So I have scaled back for now. The topic will likely need a series of posts to canvass the different facets of the complex issue of personal freedoms online and their intersection with our professional lives.

This post is a minimalist start on the topic of online professional personae. It addresses what I see as the professional needs of that most conservative of professions, the law. It is designed to offer a starting point for reflection about one’s digital presence in the context of professionalism in the law. It is not a highly critical piece – critique will come in later posts.

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Social media and research – a librarian’s perspective

On 7 October I presented a webinar for the Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (‘QULOC’) Research Support & Learning and Information Services Working Parties. My brief was to outline the way in which I use social media in my academic practice.

My presentation provided a background of my conception of academic work, followed by an overview of two forms of social media I use – blogging and Twitter. I referred to an idea that Inger Mewburn, @thesiswhisperer, had shared on Twitter a few days before my presentation. Her idea was that Twitter is a tool for cultivating an audience, and amplification of research.

Using this framework, I presented a couple of case studies of how my academic practice, notably my research, has been enhanced through my use of social media. I concluded with a brief reflection on how university librarians might assist academics through social media. Certainly I have been greatly assisted by my own colleagues in the library at JCU.

My presentation has been recorded, and is available on YouTube, or you can watch it here.

Experimenting with i-books

A couple of weeks ago I self-published a free interactive i-book, Land Law & Sustainability. The book is available through itunes – though it can only be viewed by those with Apple devices, I’m sad to say.

Front cover

Front cover

I received a small grant from James Cook University’s Division of Learning Teaching & Student Engagement for the project. I had already been looking into the possibility of publishing an e-book. I was looking for something to support student learning in law that was inexpensive (possibly free), accessible, able to be digitally manipulated by the user, and aligned with my own teaching interests. I therefore couldn’t resist playing with the technology to do this project.

So did I achieve these goals?

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