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USQ research forges into digital frontier

At the Springfield launch are (from left) Paul Russell (DSITIA), Professor Robin Stanton (ANU), Professor John Cole and Professor Janet Verbyla (USQ)
It’s a world where students in India can control laboratory equipment in Toowoomba at the touch of a button, and where farmers download precise climate forecasting information from an online, virtual farming community.

It’s a world where smart phones and digital tablets replace a student’s pen and paper and their lecturer’s textbooks.

And it’s a world that is just around the corner, thanks to groundbreaking new research being done by institutions likes the University of Southern Queensland.

This month, USQ launched five research projects through the Digital Futures (CRN), supported by $5.1 million in funding through the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Networks (CRN) program.

The projects are addressing national priorities in:

i. Social and policy challenges in a digital future for rural Australia
ii. Implications of technology usage in higher education
iii. The impact and sustainability of mobile learning
iv. Education for Remote Access Laboratories
v. Australian farmers’ operation decision using discussion support

For the launch events, the University welcomed researchers and industry leaders from across the nation to its Toowoomba and Springfield campuses where attendees were given an overview of each of the five major research projects.

Member for Toowoomba North Trevor Watts and Toowoomba Regional Councillor Geoff McDonald attended the Toowoomba launch, while key project partners such as The Australian National University Pro Vice-Chancellor (E-Strategies) Professor Robin Stanton spoke to guests via video link — just another indicator of USQ’s activity on the digital frontier.

At USQ’s Springfield campus on 7 November, the Digital Futures (CRN) launch welcomed attendees from the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, the Digital Economy Queensland Government as well as CRN project partner representatives from the University of South Australia and The Australian National University.

This time around, Professor Stanton not only gave a digital endorsement but was also a ‘real’ person present on the day. Both project partners are providing much appreciated support and mentorship as USQ develops its research capability.

CANEGROWERS, the peak body for Australian sugarcane growers, has thrown its expertise and support behind one of the five projects, Project 3.

Matt Kealley from CANEGROWERS said the cutting-edge information and technologies being developed would contribute to improved industry performance.

“The project has capacity to reach many more farmers, and to contribute towards the adoption of best practices and improved industry performance through better on-farm management of climate risk,” Mr Kealley said.

USQ’s world-renowned expert in climatology and water science, Professor Roger Stone, said the outcomes from the research projects had the potential to change the lives of people right around the world.

“The ideas and technology we’re using here is also being trialled in India,” Professor Stone said.

“We can broadcast the climate information in an accessible and engaging format using avatars in a virtual world. This can benefit literally hundreds of millions of farmers in India because they’re getting accurate, timely and localised climate information through a discussion support system.”

USQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas said the five research projects would build on the University’s existing strengths in the digital realm.

“Digital Futures is certainly one of USQ’s strengths,” Professor Thomas said.

“We are forging ahead into the digital frontier — not just online, not just mobile, but everywhere and all the time.

“In the end, the future is digital.”

Media contact:

Jim Campbell, USQ Media, +617 4631 2977, jim.campbell@usq.edu.au

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