Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Local Government and the Internet

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Local Government and the Internet

Article excerpt

The internet is a global network of computers linked by telecommunications--in essence, a network of computer networks. It has evolved through collaboration and cooperation between network owners around the world. It is not centralised, so common standards, rules and protocols have been agreed to and adopted by all users. It does not matter if you use an IBM compatible personal computer, Apple Macintosh or a computer running Unix. The many different types of computers are all able to access and use the internet.

The internet is a new form of communication, advertising, marketing and publishing. It is the source of a vast amount of information and is a tool that enables efficient exchanges of information. Using the internet and electronic mail, delivery of correspondence is almost instantaneous.

Different ways of using the internet have progressively developed. The internet's popularity today can be attributed to the easy access offered by the world wide web (www). Using web browser programs such as Netscape and Mosaic, it is easy to find information and also make information available to others using the web.

Many new computers these days come `internet ready'--simply plug them in and you are connected. From a survey conducted of internet providers, it appears that some 4,000 people are already using the internet in the Northern Territory. This number is growing at a rate of approximately ten per cent per month.

People with access to the internet can

* search for information

* provide information to others

* receive regular news services

* communicate with other people with access to the internet

* join discussion groups on almost any topic

* access software of various types and have it installed on their own computer

Why the internet?

Use of the internet by local government authorities has been initiated for a number of different reasons. As the City of Alexandria in the US has noted

the internet has the potential to change

the way local governments interact with

their citizens... (and) will make

government more efficient, more

relevant and more responsive[1]

Reasons why the internet is being used in Australia vary from one authority to the next.

It is seen as a valuable marketing tool for the specific local government area. For the Ipswich City Council (Qld), the council wished to promote an information led economic recovery. Its mission statement and objectives are based on a number of assumptions that emphasise the role of information technology and telecommunications.[2]

As part of a computing upgrade at the East Torrens District Council (SA), the internet was used as a tool to allow staff to have after hours access from home. This access could have been achieved by the use of modems and staff dialling in direct to the system. The internet option was chosen as it was faster, allowed greater access, was easier to use, provided access anywhere in the world and also did everything that dial up access could do.

Many local government authorities use the internet as a method of disseminating information about their organisation and its services. The Hurstville City Council (NSW) wanted to provide information in an electronic format. It had started with a bulletin board and then moved on to the internet as it offered greater public access.

The Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne sees the internet as a tool of democracy. It allows people `to have their say'.

In Newcastle (NSW), the City Council's museum had created a database of its resources that it wished to make more broadly available. This has been achieved by use of the internet.

The Nillumbuk Shire Council (Vic) saw the expanding use made of the internet and thought that it was important for it to establish a presence. It regarded it as an alternative means of disseminating information to the local community and as a marketing tool with a much wider audience. …

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