Magazine article Information Today

Information Online & on Disc '99

Magazine article Information Today

Information Online & on Disc '99

Article excerpt

Donald T. Hawkins is editor in chief of Information Science Abstracts and Full-text Sources Online, both published by Information Today, Inc. His e-mail address is

Australia's premier information industry event again gets high marks

The Information Online & On Disc 99 conference was held January 1921 in the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbor, Sydney, Australia. As it has for many years, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) sponsored the conference. Held in odd-numbered years, the Online & On Disc conferences have become recognized as Australia's premier online information industry event, and the 1999 conference was no exception.

Total attendance was about 2,000, with 1,200 of those registered as delegates. The conference featured a full program of speakers during the 3 days, an exhibition featuring products from about 70 companies, an "Internet Lounge" where attendees could surf the Internet or check their e-mail on a multicolored array of iMac computers, pre- and post-conference satellite seminars, and associated social events. Of particular note in the exhibit hall was a "Web showcase" at which projects from university departments and small entrepreneurial companies were featured. Information Today, Inc., publisher of information Today, made its first foray into the Australasian marketplace with a stand in the exhibit hall.

The 1999 conference was my second visit to an Australian conference. I attended the 1993 conference, and it was interesting to compare some of the trends I noted at that time with those of significance today. (See my report on the 1993 conference on page 10 of the April 1993 issue of information Today.) It was also interesting to observe how the conference has grown. The 1993 conference was held in a hotel; it now requires a significant portion of the facilities of Sydney's Convention Center.

In 1993, I noted that an outreach to the local community, proceedings published on CD-ROM, and public Internet workstations (only two!) were interesting departures from normal conference organization. In 6 short years, awareness of electronic information has become widespread so that outreach programs are no longer necessary, proceedings are routinely published on the Web, and Internet workstations (a plethora of them) are taken for granted. Times certainly have changed! One thing that has remained unchanged since 1993 is a keen interest in the role of the information professional; constant change in technology and the information marketplace continues to profoundly impact information professionals. Several of the major presentations are summarized below; the complete proceedings can be read on the conference Web site at

The Hon. Kim Yeadon, New South Wales Minister for Information Technology, officially opened the conference. He characterized 1999 as a hectic and challenging year and identified the Y2K problem, privacy and authentication, and equity of access to the Internet for everyone as significant challenges. The NSW government has developed a single-window interface to over 200 of its Web sites. It has also sponsored initiatives for public access to the Internet during non-business hours using the equipment and telephone links in public schools--a novel idea.

Opening Day Keynote

The opening day of Online & On Disc '99 was keynoted by Marydee Ojala, editor of Database magazine. She titled her presentation "The End of Online as We Know It" and noted that the apocalyptic theme is currently fashionable. We are seeing the end of a period of history and the death of distance. Our online industry has died, she said, then has been revitalized, popularized, and transformed. There is a new "online" coming. With e-mail, listservs, and discussion groups, the Internet has removed the distance between information and its users. …

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