Magazine article Online

Online in Australia

Magazine article Online

Online in Australia

Article excerpt

Online In Australia

With the growth of online searching in Australia during the mid-1980s there was a tremendous increase in the number of "home-grown" databases. According to the 1988 edition of the Directory of Australian and New Zealand Databases, there were 193 publicly available databases of which 81 were listed for the first time. Most are from are the Commonwealth (federal) government, business, and educational/research organisations. Search aids and documentation is commonplace. Few Australian producers contribute to overseas systems.

DIALOG, BRS, and the ESA (European Space Agency) are the most popular foreign online services available in Australia and provide information in all major subject areas. There is a need for better coverage of subjects relevant to the Australian community, although DIALOG has helped with the ASIA-PACIFIC database, File 30.

Other factors encouraging database development in Australia are:

* Exchange rates play havoc with budgets. For example, in early 1989 the Australian dollar would buy $.84 U.S. Today it will buy $.74, a loss of 12%. When online searching first started in Australia the dollar would buy $1.25 U.S. This, and an inflation rate of 8% last year, have effectively reduced online budgets by 20%.

* The cost of overseas telecommunications is higher than in the U.S. That inhibits efforts to refine searches.

* Document delivery is difficult because of smaller internal holdings of resources and simple geography. It's approximately 8,000 miles to Los Angeles and 10,000 to London, so it's easy to see that ILL requests could take time! Documents can be ordered online, but this requires additional computer and telecommunications time. A brief check with several U.S. document delivery services found that a deposit of up to $1500 U.S. may be required to maintain an account. Also delivery time and cost is a factor since all documents must be sent to Australia by airmail, e-mail, or fax.

* The lack of a local representative can cause simple problems, such as a billing question, to drag on for weeks. International toll-free numbers still appear to be a thing of the future. Fortunately, some online services, like DIALOG, do have a local representative.

By learning to tap into some Australian databases overseas users will find local and regional business and economic information difficult to locate elsewhere. With the continual growth of the economies in this area, it is important for America and other countries to keep abreast of the latest business and technologies developments. The scientific and technical databases, published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) contain a wealth of information on research in progress, past research, and other databases cover non-scientific topics, such as the social sciences.



The discussion here will center on which online services are available, telecommunications, and search logic for the three major Australian services: Ausnet, Australia, and ABN.

Before doing anything else it would be best to acquire detailed information about databases that might meet your needs. One of the best books to consult would be the Directory of Australian and New Zealand Databases that includes detailed descriptions of over 200 databases. This directory has been updated every two years since it was first published in 1984. See the list of source information for additional titles.

Telecommunications can be a scary subject when you think of the price to make a long distance (trunk) call to another country. However, for transmitting data, prices are more reasonable. An informal survey of three major telephone services found that telecommunications time for online searching varies from $10 to $13.55 per hour from the U.S. to the link up with the Australian data services of Austpac or Data Access. …

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