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Nelson urges caution on Facebook, Twitter

Paul Smith (via AFR) | April 23, 2013
Australian War Memorial director and former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson believes technology is wonderful if it helps people add value to their personal and working lives – such as enabling far-flung communities to connect virtually with Anzac Day. But too often, he says, technology rules us.

An occasion as leader of the opposition, when he was taken unawares by a motion of condolence for a well-known Australian sporting figure, helped demonstrate the positive flip side of instant internet access. Speedy typing and printing of a relevant Wikipedia page left him with enough information to be able to make a respectful address ­without floundering.

In the lead-up to Anzac Day, Nelson is excited about the positive improvements the latest technology can make to visitors' experiences and their connection with the community.

As part of an ongoing $30 million refurbishment of the World War I exhibition, smart labels for the wall displays will be introduced to give information in multiple languages.

Improved lighting and new smartphone apps will be created to help act as a guide around the building. Nelson is also investigating the feasibility of ­virtual tours around the memorial for those who cannot afford or make the trip to the capital.

A change to the traditional Last Post closing of the memorial is imminent, with an expanded ceremony that will feature the story of one of the 102,000 names on the roll of honour. For the first time, the closing each day will be broadcast live, via webcam, so that far-flung communities can attend in a virtual sense.

"We will let communities know in advance that we will be featuring a ­soldier who died who came from their area. That way families and local papers will be able to log on and observe it, even if they couldn't be in Canberra," says Nelson.

"It won't be a Hollywood production by any means, but they will get a sense of what we are doing and feel more of a connection to it. I really feel the memorial is the soul of the nation. If this technology lets more people feel a bit closer to it, then that is great, as this role is a labour of love for me."


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