At the recent New Zealand Institute of Surveyors (NZIS) conference in Rotorua, the Internet was the hot item. For a professional association like NZIS, the Internet can provide a number of capabilities: a forum for open communication among members, a conduit for professional information on new products and techniques, and increasingly, a source for online geographic and land-related data.
According to Robin Brill, a surveyor with Works Consultancy and who has an interest in Net issues, many surveyors work in rural areas and find it hard to keep up with the latest information. "They are remote from their colleagues and land-related offices, so just getting information on titles and plans is often a time-consuming activity. We are hoping that the Internet will address some of these issues.”
Already the NZIS has an “interim” home page (http://hn.planet.gen.nz/survey/) which contains quite a bit of information on the NZIS. However, operating a closed discussion forum for members is proving to be a tough issue. “We have a discussion group,” Brill concedes, “but only a few members can access it.”
The Institution of Surveyors, Australia (ISA), has a nice solution: a bulletin board accessible from the Web.
John Crickmore, head of the ISA, says: “We needed a system where we could discuss issues at a local, state and national level as well as issues dealing with certain sub-areas of surveying. Setting up newsgroups was too hard and setting up a forum on our Web site was too expensive. So we borrowed the bulletin board format from an engineers group and set it up--it has worked beautifully.”
They use bulletin board software called First Class, which effectively stores the information on a server in Canberra. Each member gets a copy of the First Class client software for a modest price and then they can participate in any number of open discussions.
The NZIS is seriously thinking about adopting a similar programme. “We like the concept of a Web page and a bulletin board,” says Crickmore, “as both provide services vital to our members. The two technologies complement each other well.”
In addition to information dissemination and communication, the Internet will serve an important role in data delivery.
Both Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and Terralink have plans to provide land information over the Internet. LINZ has a corporate intranet with a raft of information, both for employess as well as surveyors. One particular set of data is an online database of trig stations, complete with NZMG coordinates and maintenance history. Terralink is also under some pressure to provide online access for land-based data.
For a mid-sized professional organisation such as the NZIS, the Internet provides a common network for increased communications, advanced information dissemination and even the provision of cadastral and other land-related data. The costs are relatively low, most surveyors have computers and there is an increasingly large set of information that is of importance to the profession.
Expect to see more and more professional organisations adopt the Internet as the communications medium of choice.