Magazine article Information Today

Digital Update: London Portal Opens Doors to the City

Magazine article Information Today

Digital Update: London Portal Opens Doors to the City

Article excerpt

London may be one of the world's greatest cities, but its poor ranking on a list of official Web sites recently spurred the launch of the London Portal ( This new site is designed to be the first choice for users (residents, workers, or visitors) who need information about London.

The London Portal is a joint project developed by London Connects, a citywide e-government agency, and System Associates, a company that specializes in delivering integrated software services including advanced Web management. The portal provides a one-stop guide to information and services available in London.

The project supports Mayor Ken Livingstone's goal of improving accessibility to public services and social venues, which was outlined in his 2004 information and communication technology policy statement. Not only will the portal provide access to a range of information and services, it will also offer London residents free public access sites and Internet training, which is expected to increase the use of e-government services.

London has a complex administrative structure with 33 separate borough councils; each is responsible for its own public services. Users can navigate the site in their search for information from a variety of organizations. A simple search on "Where's My Nearest?" links users to facilities such as cash machines, pharmacies, hospitals, police stations, and recycling centers based on street name, postcode, or name of a London landmark. The geographical search facility combines a landmark database with mapping software in a Java application that System Associates developed specifically for this project.

The portal also provides a gateway to more than 6,000 other sites that contain information about London, ranging from employment, law, and business advice to cinema listings and restaurants. Visitors attending Online Information 2005 in London later this month should have an easy time navigating the city and finding things to do outside the exhibition hall.

Future plans for the site include offering access to additional resources, with an emphasis on online transactions such as e-payments and the submission of e-forms. The service will naturally provide a useful access point for information about the 2012 Olympics in London.

Collect Britain

System Associates has also been involved with Collect Britain (, The British Library's (BL) largest digitization project. The site provides access to images and audio files pertaining to Britain's heritage from the BL's vast collection. System Associates was responsible for the provision, integration, and implementation of the g-Serve content management software as well as the g-Media work-flow driven digital media library system.

Collect Britain comprises 19 themed collections, including drawings and illustrations, paintings, postage stamps, regional dialects, wildlife sounds, songs, maps and plans, and photos and newspapers. A grant from the National Lottery New Opportunities Fund supported the digitization of more than 90,000 items, which are now freely available worldwide. The site features an innovative pan-zoom facility that allows users to switch between viewing parts of an image in fine detail and an overview of the entire image.

Navigating the collection requires a highly effective search mechanism to retrieve relevant information. As part of the content management system, System Associates provided an advanced search engine that uses GIS technology and the Ordnance Survey Landranger database. A user can type in the name of a place or its postcode and search for any information relating to the area, including references in newspapers, maps, plans, and illustrations. This may not sound unusual, but U.K. postcodes were first introduced in 1959. I was particularly impressed that when I searched my current postcode I turned up a zoomable image of an illuminated manuscript that dates back to 1460. …

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