butterfly Census of Western Australian Internet Documents of Regional Importance

---------- theory & past projects ----------

Discussion on Western Australian Documents Based on a WA Internet Census undertaken from May 21st to 23rd, 1996.
Completed by David Novak (feedback) as a element of the Spire Project.
The full census in brief is found in a separate document.

This paper discusses the results of a simple scan of Internet resources here in Western Australia. Information of unique & general appeal was noted and detailed, particularly information tracking Western Australian development, particularly lengthy, well reasoned & graphically supported reports.

This project was undertaken to illuminate the types of information available on the Internet and our progress in publishing content of public interest to the civic/business minded Western Australian. This document discusses the results of this webscan. Thank you.
The Internet is swiftly becoming a public network - so much funding is supporting initiatives in developing access points and in assisting Western Australians to learn and participate. Libraries are seeking (and receiving) funding to provide public access, our world class Telecentre network improves its regional network of public Internet access points, and yes there are more initiatives coming.

Let us draw our attention instead to the quality of information that is out there.

Before I went looking for Western Australian information, I believed there was very little to deliver to our Western Australian Internet constituency. This, thankfully, was incorrect. We have a substantial amount on the Internet, some of it world-class brilliant. Almost all of it is being led by government agencies.

In an effort to further improve the content on the Internet, let us discuss what is present.

Media Releases
Several organizations have begun placing media releases on the Internet. The best tracks the activities of our Cabinet Ministers with perhaps 65 items per week!!!, while the Ministry of Fair Trading release 6 items a month. Several other agencies here in WA have developed media release programs.

Research Reports
Certain organizations have invested in making large documents available over the Internet. Considerable detailed information about Seniors here in Western Australia is about to be released in the form of 4 documents totaling 228k. I know that Family and Children's Services may chose to release a large 200+ document about family here in Western Australia. Commerce and Trade have placed a considerable number of their publications online - some of them 20+ pages. I especially enjoyed the high-school specific documents of the Jobsafe and Worksafe Smart Move packs.

Several agencies have chosen to place a considerable quantity of legislation on the Internet. I have little comment to make on this issue except that thankfully it is almost always keyword searchable. Tourism Department, Safety, The Parliament Building is investigating (or investigated this) recently.

Annual Reports
Yes, many organizations release their annual reports electronically. Others release some of the information (organizational structure, principal projects) without the financial details. Publications like this from commercial organizations also appear on the Internet

Several organizations are converting this type of information and placing it on the Internet. These documents are very simple to convert and place on the Internet, but have more detail than the media releases.

Artistic Efforts
Photo Galleries of Fremantle, The historic trail through East Fremantle, a gallery of prominent gold nuggets, Historic Shipwrecks of Western Australia, photos of Western Australian Scenery and similar projects. These are high in both entertainment and informative value.

Current Events
Several agencies maintain lists of events organized by these groups. Eventually there will come a time when someone creates a definitive listing of all events here in Western Australia (and there is some reason to believe it will be done by a ticket selling organization) but until this time, there are several sites of this type. The Art gallery is experiencing one of the difficulties with this as their events list is past due now. There are several "What's on in Perth" and "Gig guides" emerging from our community. Art Gallery, Westrail, EventsCorp, State Library and others have these types of web pages.

Extensions to Private Libraries Several non-government agencies have followed this path too with the Centre for Independent Living publishing details of the documents present in their private library. The Ministry of Sport and Recreation have a list of recent publications online. This dovetails nicely with the information that is already available about the four University libraries and our State library. The Geological Survey of Western Australia Catalogue of Publications 1980 - 1995 is another example, providing information about documents we can purchase.

Government Transparency Projects
With this I am thinking about the Strategic plans of the Education department, WALIS and the State Library, the Western Australian Electoral Commission Information on the 1996 Kalgoorlie By- Election, and the work of the Worksafe Western Australia's "Significant Incident Summaries". I look forward to seeing this technology changing the view of government as an outside influence to a public service effort where the community can understand the value-for-money agencies provide.

Community Oriented Newsletters
Several agencies have electronically published newsletters which discuss the activities within their agency and the changes emerging in their industry. These include:

  • Office of Seniors Interests - The Bulletin now in issue #3.
  • Western Australian Land Information System - WALISnews issue #8, four are online.
  • Materials Institute of Western Australia (MIWA) - Newsletter with second issue.
  • Department of Land Administration (DOLA) - Issues 3 & 4 of Landmarks.
  • The Orienteering Association of Western Australia Monthly OAWA Info Newsletter - now in its 15th electronic edition!!
There appears to be considerable interest in this kind of community involvement and we are likely to see a number of further documents coming out as most are published in print. There are many more government newsletters are yet to be released electronically.

The purpose of this document is threefold. I firmly believe progress can be best started through dialogue and measurement. This document is the first of several to develop a discussion among government staff working with this new medium. One of the first tasks is to take this simple description further with much more detail. I also believe fame and fortune favours the brave.

One of the important reasons more is not published here in WA is the difficulty establishing a workable publication policy. I have seen this appear in several government agencies already. As the cost of publishing plummets we can see opportunities for publicly releasing documents previously denied on cost grounds. In time, I believe we can invite our community into participating much closer through the information we make available.

Perhaps by categorizing the types of information on our web pages we can see there is a wide range of information within our agencies which can be easily and rapidly released electronically. I have suspicions that certain types of documents (large detailed reports) are receiving considerable attention (an assertion I hope to investigate soon) and that the task of establishing a more free and accessable publication policy will be greatly assisted should we have more information. I am a little concerned that in our cautious approach to this technology, we do a two fold disservice to our community.

Firstly, I feel caution may be used as excuse to maintain a level of information control which is not in the interest of our community. Just as sunlight kills germs, if we could measure and publish information about, say, the number of homeless people in Western Australia, we are closer to solving the problem. I could see reasons, however, why this type of information would cause some political embarrassment. We are certainly uncertain of the response from our public that such a publication would incite. Neither of these two reasons, however, should enter into our decision about whether to publish. When information is power, the last task we want to do is dis-empower our community by keeping the information to ourselves.

As an example, I felt profoundly pleased to read details of all the accident reports published on the safetyline web site. Think how brilliant it is for the Department of Planning to tell you the progress of your subdivision request as well as statistics about performance. Now let me ask if we should place the state budget on the Internet? Let me ask if we should allow electronic documents to be released on disks from the Telecentres? Should our duty be towards liberating the information or towards carefully taming the content for public consumption and agency promotion.

I am most pleased with some of the progress towards this emerging age of transparent public service management. I am not certain if the movement is strong enough to weather some of the difficulties which we will see shortly.

Secondly, a range of high (and low) level reports on information technology have repeatedly highlighted how this technology is becoming a significant strategic advantage for both the welfare of our community and our economic development. (Just recently we were five times as active on the Internet than Singapore.) These reports (my next project is to find these reports) highlight the value and the importance of government agencies in leading the way in promoting this technology for our community.

Of course, we are also spending big on developing public access to this technology.

We need to ask ourselves if publishing caution is not also a guise for a wait-and-see attitude which may pay dividends for specific agencies but does a disservice to our community. With your help we can dispel the illusion of grand but unsubstantiated interest in this technology and replace it with supportable details. Perhaps we are limitted because people can not find newly released documents. Perhaps there is avid interest in large detailed documents and speeches but little in annual reports.

One of the first tasks I wish to ask is to share the information contained in the log books of the many government agency web sites. If you can assist with either analysis or in overseeing this process, please speak to me in private.

Please respond to this document either in private or in communication with other agencies as proposed.

David Novak
Lets Talk about this together:
This document is a discussion about an incomplete scan of documents of Western Australia web pages. Please excuse any errors which may have occurred in categorizing web sites, in scanning web sites or in locating web sites of local importance.
About the Author:
David Novak is a sociologist by education, a professional researcher by training and an active developer of the local Internet scene through training (small group tutorials to government employees at Commerce and Trade, Family and Children's Services & Homeswest, public training through WestLink) through previous work at web page creation (involved in the initial Commerce & Trade pages, the Family and Children's Services page and others) and for work with a number of agencies to develop a more accessable publication policy. He is not employed by a government agency but is preparing the groundwork for community discussions on the Internet - taking the publication process one step beyond public newsletters.
You are free to make use of this document in non-commercial uses provided the document is unchanged and complete. Further permissions from David Novak

© 1997 David Novak (SpireProject.com). This is just one page from a much larger archive.