Wednesday, 7 November 2012

NBN, TLS: Media Report Transcript, 31-Aug-1995. "Gungahlin, ACT, interactive multimedia testing ground"

This transcript seemed to have disappeared from the ABC website in 2004:

This copy comes from Achive.Org:

I find this piece important because a Telstra manager lays out their plans for a $20-$30MM project for broadband to the new Town of Gungahlin. What the residents got instead was more than a decade of misery as Telstra installed RIM's and CMUX's.
Other links: Senator Lundy's History in 2010 and the ACT Broadband site.

Radio National Transcripts:
The Media Report         Thursday, 31st August 1995

Gungahlin, ACT, interactive multimedia testing ground

Agnes Warren: Today we're off to Gungahlin, a new housing development in Canberra. Gungahlin is above the national average in terms of education, income, and home computer ownership, and has become a playground for multimedia groupies.
In the next five years this community is to be a testing ground. For those who are keen to know, it will say just how Australians will use the information superhighway. Gungahlin is the sort of the place where the school, Palmerston Primary, has its own song.

Children singing:

Where the rolling hills meet the limestone plains,

The Ngunnawal people lived,

Then the farmers came to farm the land,

The hills now echo with a different sound...

Agnes Warren: So, have you all got a computer at home?

Children: Yeah, yep, yes, two... We've got three... We've got Sega Megadrive and Nintendo... We've got two laptops... We've got Bluechip I think... I've got Macintosh and IBM...

Child: My brother is sort of my computer because he's smart.

Child: What, Brad?

Child: No, Lionel.

Agnes Warren: Welcome to Gungahlin, fifteen kilometres out of Canberra on the road to Sydney. It's also the road to the future.

Houses are going up here at a rapid rate. But it's what's going on underground - the laying of high-speed high-volume information cables that makes Gungahlin special.

It's the largest trial in Australia of new technologies, and one of the largest in the world. It's the brainchild of Dr Mark Balnaves, from the University of Canberra.

Mark Bulnaves: I'm Director of the Centre for Communication Policy Research at the University of Canberra, and I'm in charge of the longitudinal evaluation of the impact of the new technologies in Gungahlin.

Agnes Warren: So what does longitudinal evaluation mean?

Mark Bulnaves: It means we're going to be studying the people over five years, and how they use the technologies in their home.

Agnes Warren: And so why Gungahlin? What's so exciting about this place for you?

Mark Bulnaves: Well, Gungahlin has a very high diffusion of computers, televisions, modems, faxes, and multimedia equipment, compared with the rest of Australia. It's also a new residential suburb, so it's a good opportunity to model future communication communities - which is what we're doing.

Agnes Warren: What do you know about this place so far?

Mark Bulnaves: We've conducted a survey of all the houses to date. There are about 3,000 households, 9-10,000 people, and we've got a good idea of the kinds of telecommunications and media they're using now. 60% of households have one or more computers, compared with the national average of 20%, and higher than the Canberra average at the same time.

Agnes Warren: It looks a very wealthy, very posh sort of suburb around here.

Mark Bulnaves: We're in Nicholls at the moment, and it is the wealthier of the suburbs. But there are a range of demographics in Gungahlin. While it's the high end with income, education and some of the occupations, it still has a range of occupations, a range of ethnic groups and languages.

Agnes Warren: So, it's really just a bit of a playground for all of you, to have a good look at it and find out what life's going to be like in the future?

Mark Bulnaves: Well, of benefit to the community, of course - both locally and for Australia, as a window to the future.

Male advertising voice, with ethereal singing in the background:

Today, five years is a lifetime. Ten years ago, ancient times. It seems the world is moving fast forward. Who knows where we're going? Who knows what we'll find?

Agnes Warren: Interact, the Interactive Services Consortium of government, business, and social interest groups, wants to know how new technologies will be used, and their impact on people's lives. Telstra is spending between $20-30 million in Gungahlin to find out. Anthony Goonan is General Manager for Strategic Marketing for Telstra in Canberra.

Anthony Goonan: Well where we are actually at present at the top of Telstra tower here at Black Mountain in Canberra. It's some seventy metres above the top of Black Mountain.

Agnes Warren: Absolutely wonderful, beautiful view.

Anthony Goonan: It's a wonderful view today. Yeah, it's about 23 degrees today, and in the distance we can actually see Gungahlin.

Agnes Warren: Now, why is Telstra so keen on Gungahlin?

Anthony Goonan: From a Telstra point of view, three to four years ago Gungahlin was literally sheep grazing paddocks and mainly farming orientated. But with the way Canberra suburbs are developed, Gungahlin and the suburbs contained within Gungahlin was to be where most of the residential development would occur over the next ten years.

And so we knew that over a period of three to five years there would be something like 2-4,000 houses or premises built in the Gungahlin environs. And as you can see today, there are approximately two and a half thousand houses out there. So that was very attractive from our point of view. There was no pre-existing infrastructure in Gungahlin, and in terms of choosing Gungahlin we were able to try out various infrastructure opportunities.

Agnes Warren: So what do you mean by that? What are you doing out there?

Anthony Goonan: Well, okay. There will be many services provided. But the main thrust of Gungahlin from the Telstra point of view is to trial commercially services. So we expect that some will succeed and some will ultimately fail.

Services like on-line Yellow Pages, travel, tourism, banking - the traditional applications that have been talked about in terms of being available on the superhighway. What we do need though are the willing content providers, and certainly we have a very great deal of interest from Federal government agencies wanting to pilot applications in Gungahlin before rolling them out to other parts of Australia. And also financial institutions, also wanting to do home banking and shopping, those style services.

Agnes Warren: So they're guinea pigs, those people we can see from here out in Gungahlin?

Anthony Goonan: Yes, but they're very willing guinea pigs! And I suppose I don't like using the term 'guinea pigs' - they are very happy to be part of this particular pilot. We would expect a very rapid take-up, especially in the Gungahlin area, to multimedia services that are provided by what we call an 'on-line environment', connecting into the cable and on into the network.

Male advertising voice:

All the interactive services! Straight into people's living rooms! Yes! Movies on demand... games... banking... home shopping... It was all science fiction not that long ago. A lot of people still reckon it is.

Male advertising voice: Yeah? Well it's now a lot closer than they think!

Child: Soon, they say, that they're gonna make, like on the computer they're gonna have this shop market, and you don't need to go to like shopping. I wouldn't do that, because I wanna, I wanna get out, like you don't wanna stay in the house all the time?

Agnes Warren: Now what about Big Brother? Do any of you know what Big Brother means?

Boy: Yeah, a person who punches your head in.

Girl: He's on the computer all the time.

Agnes Warren: So, how much of your life do you think is going to be controlled by computers in the future?

Children: All of it, most of it, most of it, lots, etc. etc.

Agnes Warren: So you'll get up in the morning and you'll read your newspaper on the computer?

Children (in chorus): Yes.

Child: If you don't have to pay for it, that is.

Agnes Warren: And then if you want to go shopping, you dial up what you need on the computer and...

Children (together): No.

Child: No, that's stupid, because they probably wouldn't have Jeans West on there or something.

Child: Yeah, and then you'd get the wrong size pants, and it comes through your computer and you say, 'Oh, no!'.

Agnes Warren: Maybe you wouldn't even have to go to school, you would just dial up the classroom on the computer and...

Child: No, because you couldn't see your friends...

Child: They might have a picture on there, of your friend.

Child: And you wouldn't be able to do your hobbies, like riding motorbikes.

Agnes Warren: And if your Mum and Dad are a bit busy, then they can just write you a letter of the computer.

Child: Yeah, and when we get the computers that come in the pods, I'll be able to e-mail my Dad, and talk to him?

Children: (General hubbub and racket)

Agnes Warren: Palmerston Primary is the newest school in the ACT. It will be on-line 24 hours a day. Communications between home and school will never be the same. Principal, John Griffin:

Agnes Warren: Now, you're smack bang in the middle of this multimedia project. How is the school involved in this?

John Griffin: Well we're very much involved with the Interact project, with the Canberra University and Telstra. And we're aiming to provide a facility here which will enable the school to develop home-school communications in a way that we've never considered possible in the past.

Agnes Warren: So what sort of services are we talking about? How do you connect the school with the home?

John Griffin: Well, technically, it has involved connecting each of our buildings with optical fibre, using a hub and router system to connect the school then into the university's file server and to acnet, and from there students will be able to, from their classrooms, access not only the home scene and other schools but also the World Wide Web and Internet.

Agnes Warren: So what sort of an environment will it make for kids? Can you give me a practical example of how they are going to put this into operation?

John Griffin: Yes. For example, when a child goes home of an afternoon, they'll be able to say to their parents they have no homework...

Agnes Warren: Now there's the school bell. They're all heading back into class.

John Griffin: That's right, yes. It's time to get underway again. But when they go home of an afternoon they'll be able to dial up the school and see what the teacher or other students have written with regard to the day's work that's been completed, or what's being expected in the coming days. So that they'll be able to really interface with what's happening in the classroom from the home.

Agnes Warren: Well that's okay for the parents, but what's in it for the kids?

John Griffin: Well, kids will have a much higher level of connectivity, I suppose, with other schools. Not only in Canberra, but throughout Australia and indeed around the world. They'll be able to talk to children their own age in Canada, the United States and Japan, and this of course is happening in some schools now. What is different at Palmerston is that that facility will be available really to every student in their home classroom. We won't have to go to one point in the school, or there won't be just one computer which has those facilities. The school will be networked so that that will be as easy as turning on a light.

Agnes Warren: Sue Amos is Palmerston's teacher/librarian.

Sue Amos: Some schools do some of these aspects, but we're hoping to take it to a multimedia perspective so it's a broad-band type trial.

Agnes Warren: And what do you mean by that? Multimedia and broad-band?

Sue Amos: Well, it simply means using all the senses, using sound as well as the visual, as well as text. So they have it on three different levels, not just text-based information. We also of course have the library software, and we have CD ROM, so we have electronic encyclopedia, as well as problem-solving games for the students to use. And of course the Internet, which we're looking forward to having in the future - which will be a terrific resource.

Agnes Warren: So it's all bells and whistles!

Sue Amos: Yes, absolutely. Right into the future - future communications, we hope to be a model for that.

Agnes Warren: The most willing participants in the trial all seem to be under one metre high.

Agnes Warren: Now, it seems that this is going to be a sort of computer village. Do you know about this?

Child: Intercom.

Agnes Warren: What's that, do you know?

Children: Internet!

Child: That's Internet. Internet you speak to other people from all parts of the world.

Child: Campbell only had about two or three computers! It was boring!

Agnes Warren: And they tell me people of my age, old people, are a bit frightened of computers.

Children: No! No!

Child: Just because if we get into the teacher's things we can just move around, huh.

Child: See what our profile and our reports are going to be.

Child: The teachers have fun, too.

Child: The computers are our life, basically.

Agnes Warren: They're your life??!!

Child: Yeah!

Agnes Warren: What about footy?

Child: I don't like footy.

Agnes Warren: So what do computers mean to you?

Child: A lot.

Child: Games.

Child: They basically help us...

Child: Fun!

Child: They basically help us with homework and they're fun.

Child: Projects.

Children: Yeah, projects.

Child: Printing...

Agnes Warren: What about just going to the library and looking up a book?

Child: That's getting, that's getting...

Child: That's boring.

Children: We're in the future, and... That's too ordinary... It's almost the year 2000 so... ROM is so easy, you just like look at the words and then you print it.

Agnes Warren: What else do you improve?

Child: Your reading skills.

Child: Yeah, reading, and writing.

Child: And computer skills.

Agnes Warren: Would you know how to go into a library and look up a book?

Children (in chorus): Yes!

Child: We do, but that's too boring.

Child: We've got new technology, so...

Child: We go to into Belconnen library and we run around looking for the books, we don't go to the computer.

Agnes Warren: You can't take a computer to bed with you at night and put it...

Child: Yes you can!

Children: Of course you can! A laptop!

Child: My dad always bring a laptop from work and I just play all night.

Mark Bulnaves: Well, we're coming into Ngunnawal now, which is one of the suburbs built after Palmerston, and it has 5-600 households in it. And then past Ngunnawal we have Amaroo, which is still being built up. So as you can see it's becoming quite a large area.

Agnes Warren: Beautiful blue skies, full of gum trees, it looks idyllic in a way.

Mark Bulnaves: Yes, it's idyllic - both from a research perspective to look at model communities, and as a place to live in.

Agnes Warren: And so what sort of a reaction have you had from the people who live around here?

Mark Bulnaves: Well I'm not a fan of conducting questionnaires, and I think most... a lot of people just chuck questionnaires into the bin when they get them. I certainly do, sometimes. It's been extraordinary - we've had people e-mailing to ensure that their questionnaires are being handed in, we've had them brought into the Dean of the Faculty to make sure they're passed on to us. And that sort of enthusiasm is very good. Initially we just wanted to find out who they were - income, education, and normal demographic questions, and what computers, televisions, radio, income, education, usage.

Agnes Warren: And from there? Where do you go?

Mark Bulnaves: Our next step is to select, for research purposes, a smaller number of people, perhaps about 300 households, and see how they deal with the technologies over time, over five years.

Agnes Warren: The ACT government has been telling people how to register their dogs or when to put the rubbish out, through press-button screens in shopping malls.

Public information voice: Touch the button next to the topic you want to view. If you're new to Austouch, choose 'How to Use Austouch Tutorial'.

Agnes Warren: Now it plans to put this information into homes, through the Internet. Ian Hubbard:

Ian Hubbard: What we do is, we basically present information on a whole range of things like where can you license your dog, how do you actually go about getting involved in the recycling system in Canberra, how do you manage your waste, what times are the libraries open - all those sort of basic, almost transactional bits of information where you've got a very simple question and you want a very simple answer. All of our electronic services are presented in that manner.

Agnes Warren: So you can find that out from the Internet, or you can go down to what you call the local 'kiosk'? And press a few buttons there and work that out as well?

Ian Hubbard: That's right. We present it in both of those ways, because we find that there are some people who do have the Net connections at home. You could probably comfortably classify those people as the 'information-rich'. We also have a whole bunch of people who, for whatever reason, won't get access to the necessary computing gear to be able to connect to the Net. So what we do is, we provide access to this information at a touch-screen terminal which we place in places like shopping malls, and places where you get high pedestrian traffic. And we've attempted to make the way that people access the information as easy as possible.

Public information voice: Electricity and water: services that should be used in the most economical and...

Agnes Warren: Now what about the good folk of Gungahlin? How are they helping you out in all of this?

Ian Hubbard: What that Gungahlin experiment is, is delivering all sorts of electronic services into the home.

One thing that we've found is that using the bombardment method of trying to get our information to people's homes, the messages often get mixed up with a vast array of information that's actually delivered on any one day.

Our aim is to actually deliver this information, again at a single point, into the home, because that will enable us to put the right amount of information in front of people when they need it.

Agnes Warren: Are you tired of newspapers piling up around the house? The problems of recycling, distribution, and the skyrocketing costs of newsprint, which have risen 25% in the past year make on-line newspapers an attractive idea. Mike Johnson, from The Canberra Times:

Mike Johnson: The electronic newspaper, where it drops onto your screen, is still in a printable format. The text that sits there and the graphics that come down with it, you can send to your laser printer.

Agnes Warren: But there's no way that you could ever sit there with copies of The New York Times, The Irish Times, The London Times and The Canberra Times, all on your breakfast table in the morning. And yet here you've got it through the computer screen.

Mike Johnson: Here you could have it.

Agnes Warren: Now we've got some classified ads here. How are they going to work, if we're talking about on-line services?

Mike Johnson: The idea with classified ads on-line is, if you could imagine you wanted to find something that you would conventionally find in a hard copy newspaper.

Let's take for example, you want to rent a house or buy a house. Let's keep this to Canberra at the moment, Ainslie, which is a suburb, three bedroom for $180 a week. You could type in Ainslie, 3 bedroom, $180, and send off the on-line search, and back to your screen would come, let's say for example, ten hits.

The potential with the on-line facility is that the actual ads themselves could carry further pointers. So, for the case of a house sale, you could click on the actual ad itself and be taken to a video-clip of the house, or a plan of the house, or additional information.

Agnes Warren: And if it hasn't got a garden you go to the next one!

Mike Johnson: Quite. But it also gives the advertiser then the potential of having a link from the virtual newspaper, if you like, to his or her... the agency itself could have its own home page. The ad could carry a pop-up window which would enable you to instantly e-mail the estate agent: 'Look, I've just seen your ad, can you meet me at five o'clock this afternoon, I'd love to see the place.'

Agnes Warren: Do you know kids without computers? Is there a whole group of kids out there that don't...

Child: Yeah. The Somalians don't have computers. And the Ethiopians.

Agnes Warren: Don't they? What do they do?

Child: They, they use their brains, mostly.

Child: Kids aren't allowed to use their parents' computer, because they won't let them.

Child: Yeah, and some people buy computers and they never use them.

Child: My dad never lets me use his computers.

Child: With our computer, we've played every game...

Child: And they're so expensive!

Child: We borrow them from next door.

Child: But you can never get sick of a Nintendo, though.

Child: Some people might think school is like all work but you have friends, so it's fun. It's not just all work.

Child: Well I reckon roller blading is the best thing to do. Roller blading and trail bike riding.

The Media Report is broadcast every Thursday at 8.30am and 8.00pm on Radio National, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national radio network of ideas.
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