Tag Archives: social media

beat the news

Beat the News with digital footprints

Every day we produce an almost unfathomable amount of data. Posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Commenting in chat rooms; blogging; trading stock tips; and decorating hacks in niche forums. We broadcast what we’re eating, feeling and doing from our GPS-equipped smartphones, sharing maps of our runs, photos from shows, and news that gets us cranky or inspired.

The details of our passing moods are all there, creating a vital if virtual public pulse.

Dr Brenton Cooper’s Data to Decisions (D2D) CRC team checks this pulse and, by extracting signals from our collective digital footprint, shows where we’re going next.

Are we gearing up to strike? Or celebrate? Is disease spreading? What effect will an interest rates hike have? Are we about to toss out the government, or move money out of the market?

Whatever the social disruption, D2D CRC’s Beat The News ™ forecasting system can issue a warning – before it happens. In March 2016, it accurately forecasted the impact of an anti-coal port protest in Newcastle, NSW. The following May, no ships could move during the protest blockade, costing an estimated $20 million.


“This warning system tells you what might happen, when it will happen and why.”


Social media monitoring is already a billion-dollar industry, and Cooper, who is D2D CRC’s Chief Technology Officer, knows “there are plenty of tools that help you understand what’s happening right now. But this tells you what might happen, when it will happen and why.”

This sort of heads-up will be invaluable. D2D CRC’s first collaborators are Australia’s defence and national security agencies, whose analysts now have a Beat The News ™ dashboard that sifts through about two billion data points a day.

“These are people paid to understand the political climate, but they can’t read everything,” explains Cooper. “That’s where machine-enablement certainly helps.”

Maybe the agencies are watching Indonesian politics and want to know if there might be some unrest in the capital Jakarta. Beat The News ™ analyses a huge volume of open-source information, combining structured and unstructured data from a wide range of sources. It geo-locates posts, extracts key words, topics, trends and hashtags, and measures sentiment.

“Once we’ve done those types of data enrichments, we then pump it through a variety of models,” says Cooper, “to automatically and accurately predict the answer.”

The potential applications are many, so the CRC recently trademarked Fivecast™ – “as in forecast, only one better,” says Cooper – to take the system to market, whether as a spin-off company, licensing to a partner, or licensing the IP to a third party.

US company Dataminr has raised more than US$130 million from investors for its real-time analytics, but Cooper says Fivecast™ will offer a further capacity – event prediction. It’s the only predictive geopolitical risk analytics platform on the market. Corporate risk consultancies are already interested. Their clients include global mall conglomerates alert to anything that might stop people enjoying their shopping.

Find out more about Beat The News ™ at d2dcrc.com.au

– Lauren Martin

You might also enjoy ‘Disrupting Terrorism and Crime’. Sanjay Mazumdar, CEO of the Data to Decisions CRC (D2D CRC), takes a look at what the national security sector can learn from Big Data disruption.

coastal flooding

Coastal flooding tool aids communities at risk

Coastal Risk Vanuatu is an open access website created to give individuals, residential groups, and local and national governments awareness and knowledge of how coastal communities in Vanuatu will be affected by sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Developed by NGIS Australia and the CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI), the website is meant to empower people living on the coast to take proactive steps to act on sea level rise.

“The Coastal Risk Vanuatu website will build awareness regarding the challenges that Vanuatu faces with climate change, and will ultimately lead to more effective decision making”, says Director General of Climate Change Vanuatu, Jesse Benjamin.

Coastal Risk Vanuatu is a new initiative that builds on the work of the Pacific Island Coastal Inundation Capacity Building project and the Vanuatu Globe – previous research conducted by NGIS Australia and CRCSI in 2014.

This project, funded by the Australian Government, provided hands-on knowledge about mapping the coastline. It delivered coastal mapping and risk assessment capacity building and training to 190 people in four Pacific nations.

Coastal Risk Vanuatu is an open interactive sea level rise platform, based on the Vanuatu digital elevation model. It incorporates social media photos and Pacific Community UAV imagery captured during the first response recovery post Cyclone Pam in 2015; demonstrating the value of imagery during disaster recovery.

“Building on the technical capabilities drawn from Australian research agencies, we now have the ability to accurately map coastlines to understand the impact of changing sea levels”, says Dr Nathan Quadros, Program Manager at CRCSI.

“Given our previous work in the Pacific Islands and the strong ties we have developed in the region, it is fitting that we extend our knowledge and expertise to vulnerable coastal communities, governments and NGO’s,” says Quadros.

“Through this easy-to-use sea level rise visualisation tool Vanuatu will have access to the best information for their coastal adaptation planning”.

Insight into the impact of rising sea level is hoped to aide Government and local agencies and guide stakeholders through better policy decisions. It will also assist NGO’s and emergency services to prepare for worse-case scenarios during coastal storms and flooding.

“With growing interest in the Pacific Region to be “climate ready”, we envisage further localised coastal risk websites to be developed in the coming months”, says Quadros.

“We encourage you to explore the layers and coastal knowledge captured in this website and provide feedback to info@coastalrisk.com.au”.

– Jessica Purbrick-Herbst

This article on the coastal flooding webtool was first shared by the CRCSI on 14 December 2016. Read the original article here.

intellectual capital

Thinking long-term: is innovation all digital?

This piece on is an edited transcript of comments on given by Christine Holgate as part of a discussion panel held by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) titled ‘Thinking long-term: can industry seize the innovation opportunity?’ Read the original text here.

So often when people talk about innovation they think it’s some new product, or new technological advancement. For me, innovation can be very broad ranging. It’s about doing things differently inside your organisation.

Personally, I think the people at the real coal-face of the organisation often have the best ideas. So by talking to your employees, or talking to your customers, you have a much better chance as an industry to really understand what innovation can do.

Intellectual capital doesn’t always pay off

I believe there’s an opportunity to invest more generally in innovation. Investing in intellectual capital is just like investing in anything else – it doesn’t always pay off.

You see, for every great 10 ideas, only one or two are going to get up. You don’t just need a return from that one or two ideas, you have to consider covering the cost of the ones that don’t work. So you need super-returns.

I went to Israel last year and I could have kicked myself that I hadn’t been earlier in my life. What a fabulous country: no natural resources, but abundant intellectual capital. And it’s a really great reminder what brilliant things can happen if intellectual capital is what you invest in.

Growth means looking beyond Australia

Australia has industries like health, food, education, financial services – not even taking into account our resources – where we are known to be the best in the world. We have the highest quality, the highest standards.

I’m extremely passionate about trying to encourage Australian companies to embrace and grow, not just in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but in Asia more broadly.

Thirty-five per cent of global growth is coming from China at the moment. Indonesia is forecast to be the third biggest economy in the world by the year 2030. And yet as a country, we’re investing more money in New Zealand in 2015 than we’re investing in Asia. Why would you do that? Why would you do that when the Australian and New Zealand economy only adds up to about 2% of the world’s economy, and when the other 98% is available to be cultivated?

To get super-returns, can I suggest – as much as I love this country – why would we not go just up the road to Asia? We are so lucky. Now is the time to do it. Because the advances in technology are enabling smaller companies in Australia to really go and take it via social media.

Small can make it big with social media

Blackmores ran a social media campaign on WeChat. If you aren’t familiar with WeChat, it’s how the Chinese communicate; they don’t use Facebook, they use WeChat.

We approached Li Na, the world’s number two women’s tennis player, to support a charity event. We were trying to raise awareness of congenital heart disease in China with children, and we asked Li Na to do it.

I believe we just recorded her in our own office, off the back of someone’s own camera. No big expense. We asked people to log on, hook their mobile phones on to our WeChat account, and to track their steps. And for so many steps we’d give money to the charity.

Within days we had five million hashtags, 800,000 people had logged on, and 25 million steps had been tracked. We just could not believe it.

But you see, that is an example of how small Australian companies can really exploit this wonderful opportunity and get their message out. You no longer have to spend millions to do it, so I think, if you do not go and grab hold of ASEAN: beware. Because the Germans are – and I hate saying that because I love Germany too – 23% of capital investment going into Indonesia is coming from Europe.

Not every milestone is financial

One of the learnings that I’ve experienced is that when change happens, or you’re trying to push for something like moving into China, and regulation evolves, it can be seen as risky.

I think what you have to do is try and educate the shareholders in the market – I don’t mean that in a patronising way. But we need to set milestones other than financial, and try and bring our shareholders on the journey. There are many ways to measure success, and they’re not just financial. I’ll give you an example.

I went to Blackmores’ Chairman of the Board Marcus Blackmore and said, “Marcus, I want to spend all this money in Asia, and try to turn it around, even though generally we aren’t making any profits there, and despite the fact we’ve already been there for 35 years. And I’m not sure when you’re going to see your cash back. I just know we need to do it.” That was my business case.

Why? Because we needed to build a natural hedge in the business, because our raw materials came from overseas, we needed to have diversification of risk, and so I talked through the other strategic reasons.

Generally, Marcus says a business plan is out of date the day the board has signed it off. Which is true, isn’t it? It’s like budgets, budgets change the very next day and you’ve got a different view.

So I think we need to think differently about financial hurdles and how we invest in innovation and opportunities. It’s not just financial – there are very many different other ways to think about it.

Are banks right to consider overseas investment risky?

I don’t think Australian business are doing enough to innovate. But it’s not just because the CEOs or the boards don’t want to, it’s because of a set of circumstances.

If you go to the bank and say “I’d like to build a facility down in Adelaide, can you lend me $10 million?” they will say, “Sure”, and just give you whatever your margin rate is over cash.

Conversely, if you say “I’d like to spend $10 million building a business in China,” they are likely to say “Sure, that’s three times your normal rate.”

So to start off with the banks, they generally make it more expensive for overseas investments, they put that hurdle in because they say it’s higher risk. Potentially it is higher risk, but I would suggest it’s higher risk if you don’t do it.

Free trade agreements are just the first step

Saying all that, I think the free trade agreements with the government are a really positive sign and a really good first step, and I’m really encouraged that Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon. Steve Ciobo is going to take on the great work of former Federal Trade Minister, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO and carry on with it.

It’s not really the tariffs that are the issue. They are a big impediment, but they’re not the issue. For us, for example, in food and health, it’s actually the ingredient strategies and the regulation when you go into a country.

For China I really want to see a recognition of our standards here in Australia, which are the highest in the world. And if we have recognition of them we would be able to take more products in.

China is booming because of the free trade zones. But really to serve a world market you need to be in the broader retail market, and that requires another level. The free trade agreements are just the first step. We now need to free up regulatory barriers.

We need to utilise our international student resources 

The Government can do one thing to help – well, they can do lots of things – but they can do one thing in particular. You ask a lot of small Australian businesses, “Why aren’t you embracing ASEAN or Asia?”

They’ll often say “Because there are so many risks” or “We don’t understand” or “We don’t have the skills”. The language barrier puts off a lot of people.

We have hundreds of thousands of students right now living in Australia. What I would love to see is the government changing the rules on the number of hours these Asian students can work in our society.

Legitimately, they’re only allowed to work 10 hours a week, and so what happens is they can’t get meaningful work. So they end up working as waiters and waitresses, and – whether we like this or not – so often not being paid the correct wage, working more than their 10 hours and being employed illegally.

I say this because I have first-hand experience of how great these students are. We took in a foreign student at Blackmores with the help of Sydney University; a young law student from Korea. He helped Blackmores launch in Korea, and he’s now our junior lawyer.

So as you can see, there’s this wonderful resource not being utilised. While students can legally stay on for a year after graduation, this clause is actually not good enough. These students need to go back to their families and they haven’t got the money for that luxury – and if they’re being sponsored in any way then those businesses want them back.

But while they’re here, let’s have them doing meaningful work. It’s good for them, it’s good for their countries, but selfishly, it’s good for our business.

Long-term government support

In terms of waiting on government for policy changes to encourage better regulation, we have a culture of knocking off politicians as soon as they get voted in. Maybe we need to support our politicians and it’s us as voters who are a part of the issue.

We should respect the people that are voted in, respect the people’s choice in voting them in, and get behind them and help them be successful. We need a long-term government.

Christine Holgate

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Blackmores

This speech on intellectual capital and other innovation opportunities was first published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). Read the original text and more of CEDA’s top 10 speeches on disruption and innovation here

Read next: Dr Eva Balan-Vnuk, Microsoft’s state director for South Australia, considers how the cloud can lead to the democratisation of technology.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on intellectual capital and other innovation opportunities using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

research and industry partnerships

What you can do for industry

My team and I have just run a two-day workshop at a Sydney-based university aimed at empowering academic researchers to engage professionally, effectively and sustainably with industry, and it was an eye-opening experience for us all.

As always happens when I teach, I learnt a lot, even though technology transfer is my expertise. I learnt more about what holds researchers back from beneficial partnerships with industry, and shared the joy of ‘A-ha!’ moments, when they realised what they could change or start doing, to seed the relationships they need.

From 1 January 2017, academic researchers will need those ‘A-ha!’ breakthroughs more than ever, as the Australian Government intends to introduce new research funding arrangements for universities that give equal emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement as it does to research quality.

After two days exploring industry imperatives and restrictions, and developing skills in market research and commercial communication, I interviewed the 16 participants, to determine any leaps in understanding they had made during the workshop. I found two major developments in their thinking:

1. Looking at the relationship with industry from the other side

‘I need to engage with the needs of the stakeholder,’ said one participant.

‘Go with open questions – don’t make it about you,’ said another.

To paraphrase JFK, academics should ask not what industry can do for them, but what they can do for industry. Only by identifying and understanding the needs of businesses (driven by the needs of customers), can academics think about how outcomes of their research – innovative ideas or new technologies – might solve some problems faced by industry. This is the first step in building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

A particularly switched-on workshop participant realised the value of talking to industry before starting a new research project, then designing the project to deliver a real-world solution, identifying the ‘importance of prior planning – allowing time for the relationship to develop’. A-ha!

For many, the breakthrough came when they realised that this is not selling out – that commercialisation is not the dark side of research. Commercialisation is how researchers can turn their potentially life-saving or world-bettering discoveries into real products or services to make an actual difference in medicine, the environment, space, communications, data, energy, or wherever their passions lie. I have written more about this here.

2. Appreciating the importance and value of social media – especially LinkedIn – in finding industry contacts and maintaining industry partnerships.

‘I need to advertise myself better,’ was one participant’s succinct take-home.

Yes! Otherwise industry will struggle to find you, even if your R&D capabilities are a perfect fit for their needs. It came as a surprise to several academics that the kings and queens of commerce do not spend hours trawling ResearchGate, seeking potential partners, or in many cases even know of it. They hadn’t considered that ResearchGate is a closed door to non-researchers. In contrast, a targeted, professional and proactive presence on LinkedIn will rapidly get a researcher’s foot in the right industry door.

Other breakthroughs in learning about research and industry partnerships

One workshop participant found it enlightening to think about research outcomes ‘in measurable terms’.

Another experienced ‘surprising results from acting outside my comfort level’ when they were tasked with approaching and engage strangers in conversation.

Engaging with industry can be confronting for researchers, requiring investment of time and some additional knowledge and skills, as I know from personal experience, shared here. But what if you consider the potential comfort of ongoing funding from a productive industry partnership, plus the satisfaction of turning your research findings into measurable real-world benefits..?

A-ha!

– Natalie Chapman, Managing Director, gemaker

You might also enjoy this post on research and industry partnerships:

Engaging industry in research

women in STEM

Everywoman: the modern scientist

I’ve always been a strong proponent and active promoter of women in all fields of endeavour, but for about a decade now my focus has been on promoting the stories of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). So I was somewhat horrified when I took a Harvard University-designed online test designed to detect unconscious gender bias in STEM and found that, when it came to science and technology, I very slightly and subconsciously favoured men.

How could this be? Deep-seated societal programming and a lifetime of hearing ‘he’ as the default is very difficult to undo. Children’s toys and characters in books are often automatically ‘he’: we have to think twice to designate a character as ‘she’. Growing up surrounded by assumptions, words and images that constantly reinforce gender stereotypes, we have our work cut out for us. And when it comes to STEM, those stereotypes are so embedded that even people like me, who actively work against gender stereotypes, unconsciously assume scientists are men.

That’s a tough thing to admit, but I believe it’s important. If I recognise the problem, I can start to do something about it.

There are many important and worthwhile programs aimed at changing the systemic barriers to the retention and advancement of women in STEM. I am so heartened by the rapidly growing volume of excellent work being done in this arena. It’s a significant and meaningful step towards building true equality.

As well as changing the systems in which we work, I believe we also must create new stereotypes. To do that, we need to significantly elevate the visibility of women in STEM, and in particular the visibility of heroines of STEM. We must tell our stories; we must tell them loudly, we must tell them often, and we must tell them in many different ways.


“Changing a stereotype can take generations, and different audiences respond to different story-telling techniques and platforms, so the more people telling success stories of women in STEM at all career stages, the merrier.”


I’m a woman in STEM, but I’m not a researcher or entrepreneur. Instead, my work is to support and elevate scientists and people working in technology. My background is in communication, and my focus has been to find and publicise our success stories. This is not an exclusive or competitive endeavour. Changing a stereotype can take generations, and different audiences respond to different storytelling techniques and platforms, so – as far as I’m concerned – the more people telling success stories of women in STEM at all career stages, the merrier.

We need children’s books featuring women engineers, scientists and technology gurus. We need to celebrate and include women in STEM on social media, in magazines, on daytime TV, on talkback radio, in soapies and the news. We need to see women equally represented on stage at public and private events. We need them on websites, in advertising, and on blogs.

I know the first reference source for many students is Wikipedia, so a few years ago I created the first ‘Women of Science Wikibomb’, with the dual purpose of increasing the (woefully low) percentage of women Wikipedia editors, and increasing the number of Australian women scientists celebrated with their own page on Wikipedia. About 150 science enthusiasts – most of them women – participated all over Australia. Between us, on a single day during National Science Week we created 117 new Wikipedia pages about Australian women scientists. The model has since been replicated by research institutions, museums, governments and big corporations, and the number of Australian women in STEM featured on Wikipedia continues to grow.

I’ve organised nationally broadcast women in STEM events at the National Press Club, supported an outstanding woman scientist to create a Boyer lecture series on Radio National, contributed to creating a national award for women in STEM, and created and produced more than 30 public events featuring women doing extraordinary and fascinating work across the breadth of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

I’ve also coordinated exclusive interviews in the news media and extensive social media campaigns highlighting the vast range of stories, work and motivations of Australian women in STEM at all levels. Science & Technology Australia will keep adding to that work, but it’s just a small drop in a very large ocean. We need lots and lots more drops (some fabulously clever woman could probably tell me exactly how many drops there are in any given ocean). We need to permanently dislodge the ‘pale, male, and stale’ STEM stereotype and recast the modern scientist as everywoman as well as everyman. We need to normalise the idea of women in STEM so completely that the unconscious bias test becomes obsolete.

The good news is, my nine-year-old daughter counts doctor and engineer among her career aspirations (along with rock star and veterinarian). And my 11-year-old son names among his role models geneticist Professor Suzanne Cory and physicist Professor Tanya Monro. Why? Because they’ve both met a number of women working in science and technology, including those two high-achieving professors. Because they have shelves full of books and games featuring women scientists, engineers and maths whizzes as lead characters. Because their parents routinely show them true stories featuring women working in STEM – as researchers, lab assistants, teachers, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and communicators. Because, for them, the stereotypical scientist is just as likely to be a woman as they are a man.

Kylie Walker

Chief Executive Officer, Science & Technology Australia

Read next: Pip Marlow, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia, on encouraging girls in STEM and the value of maths to future careers.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on women in STEM using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.