Networked Society Institute


The institute explored connectivity between people and objects, and the social, ethical, environmental and economic impact of digital technologies.

3 Minute read

While connectivity can improve lives, it also presents challenges. The Institute was created to meet the transition from industrial to digital technology. Interdisciplinary research created solutions to manage the environment, ensure digital security, promote social equality, and support business.


The Networked Society Institute (NSI) examined how networks connect people, places and things. It looked at digital, networked and automated technologies, and the social, ethical, environmental, and economic impacts of this connection.

Research projects covered the sharing economy, virtual reality in health services, and traffic filtering for cyberattacks. They also included social robots for older people, fighting fake news, and drones for vineyard health during bushfires.


The NSI enabled interdisciplinary research that looked at the challenges and opportunities of the networked society. It built and supported research and education, fellowships and technology development.

Key outcomes:

The Academic Centre of Cyber Security Excellence

In 2017, the Australian Government awarded the University of Melbourne and Edith Cowan University $1.9 million to establish the Academic Centre of Cyber Security Excellence.

The Centre aims to increase the number of skilled post-graduates needed to tackle emerging cyber security challenges.

Key challenges:

  • Detecting attacks in large, complex systems
  • Using formal methods to design platforms that are resilient to attack.
  • Designing robust controllers for critical infrastructure
  • Providing a legal framework for the governance of cyber operations.

Advances in knee replacement surgeries

In collaboration with St Vincent’s Hospital, the NSI Lab developed a SmartApp to support the assessment of total knee replacement surgeries.

The tool led to a further $1.1 million funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project for Better Health.

The project focuses on total knee replacement, one of the most successful surgeries for treating knee arthritis. Researchers are evaluating a program for surgeons to improve adherence to guidelines, and surgical efficiency and equity.

Projects awarded national funding

Several projects received funding from the ARC and NHMRC:

  • Aboriginal remote narrowcast TV and audiovisual archive
  • Disposal of the dead: beyond burial and cremation
  • Harnessing optical metasurfaces for reconfigurable optoelectronic devices
  • Development of far Infrared multispectral thermal image sensors
  • Enhancing social functioning in young people at ultra-high risk for psychosis

Smartwear for workplaces

The NSI worked with Chushan Technology, China, to develop a wireless, smart, wearable system to monitor health and safety.

Mining, construction, farming and emergency services use the system to increase workplace productivity and safety.

The project was supported by the Victorian Government through the Victoria-Jiangsu Program for Technology and Innovation R&D.

Interdisciplinary focus

NSI researchers came from areas including Veterinary and Agriculture Science, the Social Sciences, Computing and Information Systems, Culture and Communication, Engineering, Architecture, Building and Planning, Design, Psychology, Education and Medicine.

The NSI engaged with external researchers, industry, governments and not-for-profits. Partners included Google, NBN Co, AARNet, AustinHealth and City of Melbourne.

A Fellows Program enriched the NSI’s work through research, outreach and collaboration. Fellows held expertise in STEM education, digital agriculture, wood and wine, virtual reality, and networks and traffic processes.

The NSI focused on three research themes:

  • Technologies. Automation and artificial intelligence, internet of things and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).
  • Applications. Use of technology in sectors including urban environments, professional services, health and agriculture.
  • Impact. Use and regulation of government data, economic value, privacy, regulation of new services like autonomous vehicles, and social issues resulting from increased connectivity.

The NSI Lab supported much of this work. It provided technical leadership and research expertise to develop and apply new technologies. The Lab was also a leader in VR and AR development. The Lab provided equipment and space for education, workshops, prototyping, and testing.

First published on 10 May 2022.

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