[LINK] Gonski Report into School Funding misses the point of the digital education revolution

Paul Brooks pbrooks-link at layer10.com.au
Wed Feb 22 13:57:58 AEDT 2012

On 22/02/2012 8:27 AM, Tom Worthington wrote:
> On 20/02/12 19:41, I wrote:
>> The Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett is holding a School
>> Funding Forum on 22 February 2012 in Canberra I have registered for the event ...
> DEEWR have sent me a "School Funding Forum - Information pack" email 
> with 7.4 Mbytes of attachments. The attachments are PDF copies of 
> various documents about the school funding report. These documents are 
> available on the web and all the Department needed to have done was 
> include a link to them. As a result the message is a thousand times 
> larger than it need be.
> Hopefully administration of any new school funding program will be more 
> efficient than this. If this was one of my students, they would be 
> getting a "Fail". ;-)

<Devils Advocate hat on>

Tom - what is the metric you are considering to be inefficient here? Storage is
increasingly cheap, to the extent that a few MB for the email attachments are nowhere
as significant as they might have been 5 years ago.
Had they sent an email with links, you would then have clicked on the links and
downloaded the same PDFs in any case, using up precisely the same amount of download
quota - which are also an order of magnitude larger than they were a few years ago as
well - so no saving on bandwidth or data cap.

They could have put glossy dead-tree documents in a real paper envelope and posted
them to you. Instead, they have used a much quicker and cheaper method to deliver you
the same documents. By that measure, they have been more efficient by delivering the
documents electronically.

By sending a link, they would be making a larger number of assumptions about your
level of connectivity - that you had a web-browser installed which could understand
the link, and that you were using an email client which could interpret clicking on a
URL to invoke the web-browser. Further, that at the time you viewed the email you were
sufficiently connected to the Internet that the web-browser could reach the server
hosting the documents. Perhaps they were being more inclusive, by not assuming your
email was based on Internet technologies (you might be connected through an email
application gateway to a non-Internet email system), and by recognising that email is
store-and-forward and can be accessed while offline, while web-access requires you to
be online at the time.

IANAL, but had they merely sent links in the email, they would not be able to attest
that they had delivered the information to you - they would only have delivered
pointers to the information, not the information itself. In this case it probably
doesn't matter, but I can imagine situations where the difference between sending a
link and sending the information might be a significant legal distinction.

Perhaps including the content with the message is a more efficient means of achieving
the desired result - if you alter your perception of the criteria you are trying to be
efficient about.

<hat off>

I've been thinking a lot lately about waste and efficiency - if you waste something
that is plentiful, cheap or costless, and nobody cares about, is it really waste or
inefficient, and are we simply wasting time and energy trying to be efficient about
the wrong stuff.
Both time and energy are non-renewable. Vacant bandwidth on the other hand is there to
be wasted.


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