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Some states—particularly Japan and South Korea—are looking decidedly edgy.  Nor are the markets impressed.

It’s easy to be mired in the thickets of contention and the hedges of counter-contention in the recently released Defence White Paper.  But this judgment in WP2009 is looking a tad more shaky after today’s nuclear test by North Koreaand firing of short-range missiles:

While currently unlikely, a transformation of major power relations in the Asia-Pacific region would have a profound effect on our strategic circumstances. (3.17, p28)

We currently have a belligerent weak state challenging the carefully managed status quo between major powers in North Asia.  North Korea’s actions may not quite be transformational, yet.  But it does look determined to be.

Given such ratcheting up of strategic pressure, does the government propose to revise its posture and force development plans, perhaps bringing projects forward…? 

It is unlikely that contingencies involving major power adversaries could arise in the foreseeable future without a degree of strategic warning. As discussed in Chapter 3 and in more detail in Chapter 10, in the light of such strategic warning, we might have to adjust our strategic posture and force development plans. (8.48, p65)

And strategic warning constitutes…what, if not a nuclear test in North Korea and a couple of missiles tossed across the bows of one of our allies?  

References

Defence (2009). Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Canberra.

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I’d come across Ushahidi in the usual fashion: sideways, slinking through other people’s links.  Actually, it was this post on the Ushahidi blog that I’d come to see, about swine flu and emergency information patterns.  I was interested in what Erik Hersman, one of the founders of Ushahidi, about the pattern he could see in how the information developed as the crisis progressed:

  • First, we see an inordinate amount of traffic on the social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc).
  • Second, the aggregators step in to gather the data into one place.
  • Third, we see visualizations (maps and graphs).

Obviously this differs considerably from the conventional top-down command and control model envisaged by government.  And it takes advantage of the many ‘eyes’ that are on the ground when and where the crisis in happening, not relying on collection by officials and formal analysis by a office located faraway from the crisis.  Because the information is online, it can be analysed by many, rather than a few.  That’s not to say official expertise is not valuable or necessary–but it ‘slots in’ at the aggregator level, to help shape rather than dictate.  Institutions–particularly bureaucratic organisations–are slower moving than the flash collection, speedy analysis and distribution of information enabled by the internet.

And then I found that Ushahidi was more than a blog musing on such technological developments, but an organisation putting together a system for such collection, analysis and distribution of emergency information (yes, another TED Talk):

(having trouble embedding the video: the link above will take you there)

What struck me was the simplicity, especially the conceptual cut-through–the appreciation of the mobile phone as the default device and of the role of the people on the ground as both collectors and receivers of on-the-ground information.

Imagine how differently information could have been collected and warnings sent out during the February bushfires in Victoria had such a paradigm, and system, been in place.  

We don’t need more heavy, slow and distant organisations to come out of the current Royal Commission and follow-on deliberations.  We need the Ushahidi model.

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