Prof Julian Thomas: The digital divide is still a cause for concern in Australia.

Ten years ago, whenever we spoke about the digital divide in Australia, the answer was always ‘The NBN’. Prof Thomas and his team have asked whether the digital divide is still a problem, whether there is truth that it is ‘narrowing but deepening’.

Today at the Digital Media Research Centre, Julian Thomas talks about the important new report he and his team have recently launched. The team has created an ‘Australian Digital Inclusion Index‘ (ADII), designed to be a useful measure of digital inclusion across time and Australian geography. The index includes three dimensions: Access, Affordability, and Digital Ability.
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Digital Rights Watch: A new voice in Australian civil society

I am pleased to announce that we have officially launched Digital Rights Watch, a new advocacy organisation to protect the human rights of Australian internet users.

I am the Deputy Chair of this new non-profit. We have a great Board of Directors, and I am really looking forward to working with our extensive networks of supporters around Australia and internationally.

My goal for Digital Rights Watch is to build an organisation that can better connect the disparate groups of individuals and organisations who care about how human rights are protected online. A key part of the problem, as we see it, is that while many people care deeply about these issues, as a sector in Australia we lack good channels of communication and strong consensus-based strategies. Recent debates over data retention and copyright policy have demonstrated that civil society must be better organised to be able to effectively represent the public interest.

With DRW, I hope that we can bring together activists, NGOs, technology firms, academics, lawyers, designers, and other individuals to work together to protect and promote human rights online.
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The Marrakesh Treaty could bring the world’s books to the blind

Originally published in The Conversation by Nicolas Suzor and Suzannah Wood.

An estimated 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Some 90% of those live in developing nations, where less than 1% of the world’s books are available in a form they can read.

In developed countries, the situation is only marginally better: only around 7% of the world’s books are accessible to print-disabled people.

The right to read is part of our basic human rights. Access to the written word is crucial to allow people to fully participate in society. It’s important for education, political involvement, success in the workplace, scientific progress and, not least, creative play and leisure. Equal access to books and other cultural goods is also required by international law.

The technology now exists to deliver books in accessible electronic forms to people much more cheaply than printing and shipping bulky braille copies or books on tape. Electronic books can be read with screen readers and refreshable braille devices, or printed into large print or braille if needed.

Now that we have this technology, what’s been referred to as the global “book famine” is a preventable tragedy.

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The ‘miracle of Marrakesh’: negotiating the VIP Treaty for books for the blind

Today the PIJIP held a panel on the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The people involved in the negotiations explain that from the start of the diplomatic conference, it appeared that the treaty would not be successful. So how did the “miracle of Marrakesh” happen? Here’s my liveblog about how the panelists saw it.

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Authors Guild v Hathi Trust: do accessible repositories harm copyright owners?

You may have seen the most recent development in the Google Books litigation: Authors Guild v Hathi Trust. There’s plenty of commentary around, including from the EFF here (full judgment). One of the interesting points to come out of the case is Judge Baer’s finding that creating accessible digital repositories, in order to give access Read more about Authors Guild v Hathi Trust: do accessible repositories harm copyright owners?[…]