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Mailing Number 27 - 22 December 2003

163 subscribers on publication date

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Season's Greetings

Firstly, this is to wish all readers a peaceful new year break.


Sharing personal data between public sector organisations. The UK's Department for Constitutional Affairs has published guidance to clarify the law on sharing personal data about citizens, with a particular focus on when they such data can be shared and when not. According to eGov Monitor Weekly "To ensure they remain within the law, public bodies need to have regard for several, inter-related and sometimes overlapping, legislative frameworks, including the Data Protection Act, EU law, the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. The guidance sets out the procedures public bodies should follow to establish this."

UK Online Annual Report for 2003. On 15/12/2003 the Government published an upbeat 2003 Annual Report for UK Online [700 kB PDF], reporting major improvements in "connectedness" in the UK. Despite the fact that the 47 page report is formated in 3 columns, making it rather cumbersome to read on-screen, it is worth scan-reading for its:

  • informative graphs and charts covering things like how internet adoption has increased over the last 5 years, broadband availability, and the rate of increase in the volume of e-commerce transactions;
  • overview on current planning to improve the provision of government services online;
  • reports on developments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales;
  • so called "sign-off summary against the 2002 action plan", which gives a clear overview of progress on many of the Government's targets and plans.

The report also highlights indirectly that the post of "e-Envoy" will soon lapse, to be replaced in 2004 by a Head of e-Government who will "give strategic leadership and drive to the application of ICT within central government and to support the reform and modernisation of Britain's public services". See also E-envoy gets the chop.

Open Source competitor to Microsoft Office and Windows makes further strides. Sun has announced an agreement with The China Software Company - a consortium of government-funded companies - to put the "Java Desktop System" on between 500,000 and 1 million PCs in the next 12 months, and on as many as 500 million eventually. Meanwhile the UK National Health Service is to run a Java Desktop trial, with the prospect eventually of using the product in place or Microsoft Office on 800,000 PCs.

My list service provider fixes an error. After several fruitless attempts on my part to discover why a small handful of subscribers were having difficulty downloading the emails which I use to notify you when a new mailing is ready, my friend Rob Hindle at Webtechnik compared the hexadecimal code of what I was sending to TridentList (my service provider) with that which TridentList was sending out. The outgoing emails had some extra hexadecimal nul codes added on by TridentList, and some email clients are known to "stick" on nul codes. TridentList has now stopped appending nul codes, using spaces instead. As far as I can tell, the downloading problem has been cured. If it persists for any subscriber, please email me.

Resources [back to top]

COPAC. COPAC provides free online access to the merged online catalogues of 24 of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland as well as to the British Library and to the National Library of Scotland. Not to be missed.

Equal Opportunities Commission. The EOC has launched EOC Law, a new(ish) web site providing a comprehensive resource for legal advisers and representatives who are conducting claims on behalf of applicants in sex discrimination and equal pay cases in England and Wales. Neatly designed, with a handy font-size adjuster, and extensive links to advisory documents, official claim forms etc.

e-Learning Centre. Jane Knight's e-Learning Centre claims to be the world's largest free information resource about e-learning, and is definitely worth browsing. Contains annotated reviews of a many hundreds of e-learning resources. The jobs area of the site is current and quite full, and you can sign up to be updated when a new vacancy is posted.

Review of VLE accessibility. City University has recently published return to SENDA (ouch!), a review of VLE accessibility, by Sara Dunn. The study combines an extensive literature and web review with a survey and interviews, and analyses the widespread lack of accessibility of VLEs and the materials which get put into them. Concluding section contains useful diagram and comprehensive recommendations aimed at different "actors".

Technologies for Online Interoperable Assessment. TOIA is a JISC-funded project to create a standards-conformant tool for making online assessments. Interestingly, a major component within the tool has been bought from the Mysore-based Excelsoft, one of the growing number of e-learning software companies in India. Links:

Infobits. I have featured previously Caroline Kotlas's excellent monthly Infobits. This has now been published without a break for over 10 years, making the archive, which links the pre- and post- WWW worlds, particularly interesting.

Accessible on-screen text. Techdis has published Sit Back and Relax, a guide to producing readable, accessible on-screen text, by Bruce Ingraham and Emma Bradburn. The summary recommendations are worth reading.

Oddments[back to top]

New Curiosity Shop. Pleasing-on-the-eye web site offering online "learning for the sake of learning", with two courses to date - one on hot air ballooning, the other on astronomy. More courses to follow.

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Last updated - 22/12/2003; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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