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Tech Talk Radio Show 07 of 2009
Transmission date: February 16, 2009

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Ep 7: TTR Ep 0709: SMS technology and the Victorian Fires, 2 Satellites collide in space, Microsoft bounty on Cornflicker, Internet Filtering, St John Ambulance and the fires,

February 16, 2009

One week ago, the worst fires in Australian history destroy the lives of many Victorians, wiped several towns including Marysville and Flowerdale, off the map, and redefined disbelief in the eyes of many Australians, and people around the world.

On what is now known as Black Saturday, some reports said that Victoria was the hottest place on earth, reaching 46.2 degrees at the official bureau of Meteorology measuring station in the CBD, but reaching temperatures in the low 50’s in outer lying suburbs and rural areas. Add to this the fatal mixture of a strong northerly wind,  plenty of forest fuel and a few arsonists, and the state was set to burn.
What happened next has now been indelibly etched into Australian History. The massive loss of life and property has never been seen on a scale like this before, and, as we go to air today, fires are still burning in some of the most beautiful countryside in the Country.

As Australian’s come to terms with life in the post Black Saturday era, attention will now turn to rebuilding communities and lives which were decimated in few short moments on February 7. Communication – it’s success and failures, is just one topic up for discussion. Telstra, Australia’s incumbent telco, was hit hard. Its infrastructure badly damaged where it was needed most. Telephone exchanges and mobile phone base stations were wiped out, just as fast as houses.

So what can we learn from the experience? In these early days it would be naive to jump to any conclusions, after all, that’s what the royal commission will do, but now is the time to discuss ways that will better prepare us for the next fire which unfortunately in this country is inevitable. It’s clear that people in the path of such fires need clear and concise information to help them make the best decision at the time. This needs to be delivered in a timely mannor with the least amount of impact on the telephony services.
A recent report reveals the Federal and the states Governments baulked at the $20 million cost of a telephone-based alert system that would have given early warning of the deadly Black Saturday bushfires. The confidential review for Victoria's State Emergency Service in December 2007, obtained by The Australian Newspaper, reveals that the technology to bombard mobile and fixed phones with danger messages had been trialled successfully for the agency.

While the test run of Telstra's Community Information and Warning System was for flooding, the Victorian SES found it would work "for all types of hazard", including bushfire. Despite this, the system was not introduced because the Howard government and the states bickered over the expense.Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing. The now $100m plus donations and the cost to government to rebuild these shattered communities, makes the shared bill of $20m pale into insignificance.

This week on TTR
Dr Ron talks to Alan Eade, Chief Professional Officer, and Chief Paramedic, for St John Ambulance Australia about his organizations perspective of the events of last week.

Kit Webster from RMIT is a new media artist based. He’s holding an exhibition this week entitled Dataflux  that’s based around the fusion of art and technology.

We’ll also take a look at the role twitter could have played with the Victorian bushfires, and Adam Turner lets us in on a new approach by one of Australia’s commercial television networks promoting peer to peer file sharing of content of all things. Yes you did hear me right – they’re encouraging it!