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ACS Week in Review: 7 March 2014

Friday, 07 Mar 2014

Meet 6 rising female stars in Aussie tech

Karen Stocks, accountant turned online executive snagged the top job at Twitter Australia when the company announced it was opening for business Down Under last September. Formerly a general manager at Vodafone, she spent the previous six years in senior roles at Google Australia, including a stint in charge of YouTube.

Stocks is this year’s patron of the Victorian Women in IT group’s "Go Girl Go for IT" careers exhibition and one of six female rising stars IT Pro spoke with to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday.

The Australian technology scene continues to be a place where women are still under-represented. They account for just 18 per cent of the approximately 460,000 information and communications technology (ICT) workforce, the Bureau of Statistics says. They also tend to earn less in most jobs, except if in IT training or business development roles. The figures have changed little over the past decade, in spite of initiatives and support groups designed to encourage girls and women down the high-tech road.

Australian government departments want to keep power to censor websites

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC), and one unnamed agency have indicated to the government that they would likely seek to keep using powers in the Telecommunications Act to force ISPs to block websites.

In April 2013, following a bungle by ASIC that resulted in accidentally blocking customer access to 250,000 websites for at least two ISPs — when the agency was just seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud — it was revealed that three Commonwealth government agencies had been using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel ISPs to block customer access to websites on their behalf.

Following public backlash, and amid cries of censorship and criticism over the lack of transparency over the power, the then-Labor government promised to review the power, and improve the oversight and transparency of the process.

The dashboard is due for disruption

Apple’s CarPlay announcement at the Geneva Motor Show this week got me thinking about the state of in-vehicle infotainment systems. In recent years carmakers have invested heavily in systems with features such as connectivity, voice controls, search and apps. But the overall experience still pales in comparison to using a smartphone or tablet. It turns out there are a lot of good reasons for this.

By high-tech standards, the automotive market is relatively small. Last year automakers sold 15.6 million cars in the U.S.--and that was a good year with 8 percent growth. To put that in perspective, Apple sold more iPhones and iPads in a month (an average of about 19 million per month in 2013). Furthermore only a fraction of those new cars come with high-end infotainment systems because they are usually a pricey option.

The automotive semiconductor market has been growing at a healthy rate, but it is still less than 10 percent of the total chip market by sales. And infotainment is only one of several segments, with much of the growth coming from electronics for the drivetrains and powertrains in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as vehicle-safety and driver-assistance features. The average car now has about $350 worth of semiconductors, according to McKinsey. That sounds like a lot, but we’re not talking Apple A7s here. The bulk of this is hundreds of microcontrollers, analog chips, sensors and discrete components.

Victoria rethinks PC purchasing

The Victorian government is re-evaluating how it buys computer hardware and has called on its current vendors and market newcomers to suggest ways it could improve its whole-of-government panel.

Victorian agencies are currently required to source desktop PCs and laptops from one of six suppliers, which successfully bid to join its whole-of-government state purchase contract back in May 2009.

Acer, Dell, Data#3, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba currently provide hardware to the state's agencies via this mechanism.

The five year-old deal is due to expire in April, and the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI) is looking to replace it with a new contract offering greater flexibility and value for money.