​Australian Bureau of Meteorology to crowdsource data digitisation process

The Australian Bureau of Meterology is looking for a contractor to develop a data entry portal that will be used by volunteering members of the public, who will be helping the agency digitise hard-copy climate records.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has proposed to use crowdsourcing to help digitise hard-copy climate records so the information can be added to the Australian Data Archive of Meteorology (ADAM), the agency's computerised climate database.

In a request for tender issued on AusTender, the agency is on the hunt for a contractor to help develop and implement an international crowdsourced digitisation portal (CSDP) to enable the data entry of different climate variables in a variety of units, which may be reported up to several times a day.

According to BOM, the CSDP will be used by volunteering members of the public to digitise historical Australian climate data into a web-based form from images of the climate observations record. The images will be created using original data that will be in tabular form and provided to the contractor by the agency.

BOM has estimated there are approximately 30,000 station-years of undigitised historical climate data.

"There are many historical Australian climate observations dating back to the mid-19th century that are only available as hard-copy documents stored in National Archives Australia repositories, effectively rendering them inaccessible to the Australian public and the wider international community," the agency said.

The contractor will also be responsible for operating and maintaining a help desk, similar to an interactive Wiki, according to BOM, to answer queries arising from the crowdsource digitisation process.

The Bureau said it currently intends the contract will be for two years, with a right of extension for one or more periods not exceeding two years in total.

Deadline for expressions of interest is May 27, 2016.

Last month, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull owned up to the attack on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology that became public in December, stating that the Department of Parliamentary Services suffered a similar attack in the past.

The agency remained tight-lipped about the security breach when it was probed with questions during a Senate Committee hearing back in February.

"I can say a few things, the first is that there have been no security-related disruptions to our service delivery, to our ICT systems at all -- that's the first thing," BOM CEO Rob Vertessy said at the time.

"The second is that it is well known throughout the internet and the systems that we all run in government and business that there are a range of threat actors out there that require gradually improving security posture for those agencies to minimise the risks of the violations.

"The bureau, like all agencies, has an active program of improving its ICT security posture and we are in the fortunate circumstance because we're rebuilding some of our ICT infrastructure chiefly around the supercomputer. We've got the ability now to redesign the architecture of our systems as such that we have improved ICT security."

Last July, the BOM signed a AU$77 million supercomputer contract with American manufacturer Cray. At the time, BOM CIO and deputy director information systems and services Lesley Seebeck told ZDNet the new Cray XC-40 supercomputer was going to upgrade the agency's capability to "deliver forecasts more accurately, more frequently, and with greater precision".

"It is going to allow us to take on board a lot of the data that's coming in from new and upgraded data sources, and it's going to be able to provide far more resolution for the Australian public.

"By 2018 we're going to move into a 1.5km grid, we're going to get right down to fine resolution in the cities, verses the 4km we currently see," she said.