Tag Archives: remote

Remote mobile communication

Building telecommunication infrastructure in third world countries and remote locations has been a key issue for a number of years.

About 1.5 billion people in developing nations have no reliable phone service and up to 80% do not have access to internet.

Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have developed a highly secure mobile system to assist emergency service units worldwide.

The Serval Project includes a free app for Android devices and a mesh extender. The extender, which runs on USB power, is a small box that acts as a Wi-Fi hub or radio transmitter.

Project leader Paul Gardner-Stephen says the device was intended as a simple and inexpensive remote communication alternative that could help people in the event of a crisis.

“It has Wi-Fi so your phone can talk to the box, and then the box can talk to other boxes by Wi-Fi but also by long-range VHF radio that can go many kilometres under ideal conditions,” he says.

“The combination of these things creates networks that can cover large areas and people without requiring any infrastructure at all.”

remote mobile
Serval Mesh Extender

The aim of the project is to give the Serval mesh extenders to emergency relief teams in disaster situations so they can establish communication channels in remote areas.

Gardner-Stephen says users who do not have the app in times of crisis could download it with the help of the extender and have it ready for immediate use.

“The combination that we’re doing is really quite unique in giving people the opportunity to build a communications network anywhere,” he says.

“We want this to be something that is easier to use than any one of these other communication apps that you can get on smart phones.

“For this to help as many people as it can in the world it needs to be free. To do it any other way is to put unnecessary and undesirable barriers between people.”

The software is completely open sourced and gives people the freedom to develop their own app to work with the system or build their own Serval mesh box.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer’s (IEEE) Humanitarian Technology Challenge lists data connectivity and communication resources for isolated health offices as one of the top three solutions of reducing poverty and improving health services.

Serval first trialled its technology at the 610 kmArkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the rugged Flinders Ranges, 600 km north of Adelaide.

It was developed in conjunction with the New Zealand Red Cross with further support coming from the Networked Infrastructureless Cooperation for Emergency Response (NICER) project in Germany.

The project was one of five winners in the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge where it received AUD$279,000, which will be used to make technical improvements. It has also received grants from the United States and the Netherlands.

Countries in the Pacific region are highly susceptible to natural disasters including tropical cyclones, floods, and earthquakes.

The mobile phone system will extend testing to pilot the program in the Pacific over the next 18 months ahead of its first large scale rollout in the region.

Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have been shortlisted as potential destinations.

Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary Co-Director Margaret Sprigg said Arkaroola’s rugged mountainous terrain was the perfect location to test the Serval system.

“To have a system that can be field-based and portable for search-and-rescue scenarios is absolutely amazing,” she said.

“To be able to get some sort of antenna or base station up on a hill gives you access to so much more country. Its design is remarkable.”

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead on 11 May 2016. Read the original article here.

Forest decline is slowing

Forests worldwide are declining but the rate of decline is slowing due to improved forest management, according to the most comprehensive long-term forest survey ever completed.

The review of 25 years of forest management in 234 countries was conducted by Dr Sean Sloan and Dr Jeff Sayer of James Cook University, in conjunction with dozens of international researchers and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

The study found that the global deforestation rate since 2010 – 3.3 million hectares per year – is less than half that during the 1990s (7.2 million hectares per year).

This global slowdown is due to better management of tropical forests. Since 2010 the tropics lost 5.5 million hectares of forest per year, compared to 9.5 million hectares per year during the 1990s.

Sub-tropical, temperate, and boreal climatic regions had relatively stable forest areas.

Logging operation in Sumatra.
Logging operation in Sumatra.

Satellite data showed tropical forests degraded (damaged but not cleared) since 2000 are six times as extensive as all tropical deforestation since 1990, far more than in other climatic regions.

“While some of this tropical degradation reflects the temporary impacts of logging, the real fear is that much is the leading edge of gradual forest conversion,” Sloan says.

High rates of tropical deforestation and degradation mean that tropical forests were a net emitter of carbon to the atmosphere, unlike forests of other climatic regions.

“But tropical forests are emitting only slightly more carbon than they are absorbing from the atmosphere due to regrowth, so with slightly better management they could become a net carbon sink and contribute to fighting climate change,” Sloan says.

Despite growing demand for forest products, rates of plantation afforestation have fallen since the 2000s and are less than required to stop natural forest exploitation. Demand for industrial wood and wood fuel increased 35% in the tropics since 1990.

“The planting of forests for harvest is not increasing as rapidly as demand, so natural forests have to take the burden,” Sloan says.

Northern, richer countries had steady or increasing forest areas since 1990. Their forests are increasingly characterised by plantations meant for harvest.

While natural forests expanded in some high-income countries, collectively they declined by 13.5 million hectares since 1990, compared to a gain of 40 million hectares for planted forests.

Sloan says that investment in forest management in poorer tropical countries where management and deforestation were worst may herald significant environmental gains.

“But attention must extend beyond the forest sector to agricultural and economic growth, which is rapid in many low-income and tropical countries and which effect forests greatly,” Sayer says.

Background to Study

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA 2015) on September 7 2015. The FAO began publishing FRA reports in 1948 to assess the global state of forest resources, given concerns over shortages of forest products. The FAO has published FRA reports at regular intervals since on the basis of individual reports from countries, numbering 234 for the FRA 2015. FRA reports now survey a wide array of forest ecological functions, designations, and conditions in addition to forest areas for each country.

For the first time, the FRA 2015 report was realised by dozens of international experts who undertook independent analyses of FRA data, resulting in 13 scholarly articles published in a special issue of the journal Forest Ecology and Management (2015 volume 352).

The data and trends highlighted in these articles are a significant advance for the global scientific and conservation communities. This article constitutes one of 13 published in Forest Ecology and Management and integrates their major findings.

This article was first published by James Cook University on 8 September 2015. Read the original article here.

Baby immunisation: One in 10 infants at risk

Almost one in 10 Australian infants are at risk of severe infections because they are not up-to-date with their immunisations.

According to new research at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, conducted in conjunction with University College London, children with socio-economically disadvantaged parents, not just parents who disagree with baby immunisation, were more likely to not be fully immunised.

The study examined barriers to childhood immunisations experienced by parents in Australia. Overall researchers found 91% of infants were up-to-date with immunisations.

Associate Professor Helen Marshall, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, and Director of Vaccinology and Immunology Research Trials Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said this is the first Australia-wide study to show that factors associated with social disadvantage impact on immunisation uptake – more than unwillingness to have children immunised.

“In this study we looked at the most current individual-level data available of more than 5000 Australian children, aged 3–19 months,” she says.

She found that 9.3% of children were found to be partially immunised or not immunised at all, and of these only one in six children had parents who disagreed with immunisations.

“So the majority of infants who were incompletely immunised had parents who do not object to immunisation – something else is getting in the way,” she says.

Marshall says the primary barriers to immunisation included minimal contact with, and access to services, being a single parent and children living in a large household.

“Socio-economic disadvantage was an important reason why parents had children who were either partially immunised or not immunised at all,” she says.

“Children with chronic medical conditions were also more likely not to be up-to-date with immunisations. This is possibly due to parents and health care providers having a lack of knowledge about additional vaccines that are recommended for children with certain medical conditions or concerns vaccines may have adverse effects in these children,” she says.

Marshall says these findings can inform programs to increase the uptake of immunisations.

“Reminders and rescheduling of cancelled appointments, and offering immunisation in different settings may help achieve better protection for children and the community,” says Marshall.

“This research found that the majority of parents with partially immunised children are in favour of vaccinations, so we need to look at how we can remove the barriers experienced by these families.”

The research was published in the journal Vaccine.

This article was first published on 6 August 2015 by The Lead Australia. Read the original article here.

The wider view

THE PLIGHT OF ABORIGINAL, Torres Strait Islander and other people living in remote Australia is a “global shame”, warned Dr Tom Calma in November 2014. Calma is Chair of Ninti One, the not-for-profit organisation that manages the CRC for Remote Economic Participation (CRC-REP).

More than half a million Australians live in remote areas. Occupying a wide range of climate zones across 80% of our landmass, these regions encompass diverse and rich cultures and unique landscapes. This poses big research challenges for the CRCs working there – primarily the CRC-REP and the Lowitja Institute.

Headquartered in Alice Springs, Ninti One has delivered $239 million in social and economic benefits to remote Australia since its inception in 2003. The research is mostly concerned with social good, rather than commercial outcomes, which can make the impact hard to gauge, says Calma. “Research is imperative in order to properly understand and improve the lives of people living in remote Australia,” he says.

Calma is a distinguished Aboriginal leader and elder of the Kungarakan people in the Northern Territory. He cites feral camel management as an example of economic good delivered by Ninti One: 500 rangers were trained to control camel populations and map and maintain waterholes, preventing more than $3 million a year in damage to fences, bores and waterholes in pastoral properties and local communities.

Ninti One has invested $1 million in their Pastoral Precision Project, which uses spatial data to match livestock performance to environmental conditions. The product is now ready for market and is expected to benefit many farmers.

To assist researchers working on these kinds of projects in remote Australia, Ninti One has produced guidelines in conjunction with community members with protocols around confidentiality, for example. “Sometimes researchers need to understand that they cannot write down all the stories,” says Calma. These also advise where research information and recordings should be kept.

Ninti One has trained 90 Aboriginal Community Researchers who live in remote communities to undertake research and surveys in the community.

“They have the capacity to understand the language of the community, as well as all the nuances of behaviours within the community,” says Calma. “In working with a client, they can come up with a good survey tool, apply it and then report back on it. This is integral to getting good information.”

Calma is a critic of what he calls “fly-in, fly-out bureaucrats” who spend a day or two in a community, speak to a few select people and then leave thinking they have an understanding of the region’s issues.

“Our research shows that non-Indigenous or even Indigenous bureaucrats without an understanding of a particular community will come in with preconceived ideas,” he says, adding that this can lead them to frame their questions to get a pre-determined outcome. Aboriginal people then tell bureaucrats what they think they want to hear, or the bureaucrats mistake silence for agreement, Calma explains.

The CRC Program is the only Commonwealth initiative providing a link between industry, academia, government and the communities of remote regions, Calma says.

“We know from past, bitter experience the policies imposed from on high and afar seldom work well in remote Australia. Only when you truly engage the people who live there do you get results.

“At the moment there is evidence that the wellbeing of remote Australians is at increasing risk, and urgent action is needed to reverse this trend and to begin building a more optimistic, prosperous and equitable future for them.”

When the CRC analysed employment across remote Australia, they found that a large percentage of jobs were held by non-Indigenous people with a Year 10 or less level of education, despite “more than adequate numbers of Aboriginal people with Year 10 and above qualifications,” says Rod Reeve, Ninti One’s Managing Director.

Another significant project, led by Professor John Guenther from Flinders University, aims to identify how education can improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas. For the Anangu people in Central Australia, Guenther proposed an academy built around a “red dirt” curriculum covering rural economics, local histories, digital literacies and grammar.

The principle behind the academy comes from other projects Ninti One has facilitated, where local and non-local knowledge is shared, and both knowledge systems are treated with equal weight and respect.

“We try to look at an issue from many different directions,” Calma says.

Calma was formerly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, which he points out has some aspects in common with Ninti One.

“A human rights-based approach and a community development approach are very similar. They are both about making people the centre of what you do, and we recognise that all our activities are for the constituency of remote Australians.”





Creating Solutions

THE HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL Lowitja Institute, established in 2010 as the national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, garnered an additional five years of funding in July 2014. The Institute was built on 14 years of CRCs, beginning with the CRC for Aboriginal and Tropical Health in 1997.

This CRC introduced a new roundtable process, which set research priorities involving the community as well as researchers and policy-makers – changing the way research into Indigenous health took place.

Pat Anderson, Chair of the Lowitja Institute, says the process instituted a new way of commissioning projects, with community leaders at the centre of decision-making. The Institute works collaboratively with stakeholders, building up the research skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people along the way.

“Our guiding principle has always been that, in order to improve our health, we need to create our own solutions rather than have them imposed upon us,” Anderson said at the opening of the Institute’s new offices in October 2014.

Preventative health is high on the agenda. The CRC recently evaluated Deadly Choices – a program encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in southern Queensland to make healthy choices around nutrition, physical activity, smoking and use of harmful substances. The seven-week school and community-based chronic disease prevention and education initiative has grown to encompass at least 1000 children from more than 100 schools and community health programs.

While substantial progress has been made in Indigenous people having a greater stake in health service delivery, research and policymaking, Anderson points out there’s a long way to go.

“With life expectancy for Australia’s First Peoples still languishing 11 years behind our fellow countrymen and women, we clearly have our work cut out for us.”