By Donna MacMullin
What was already a good thing just got better.
Three years ago Western became a leader in the information technology market when they helped launch the London and Region Global Network, linking the city's leading medical institutions. Yesterday, the network expanded beyond the medical realm, announcing four new partners.
Originally established as a high-speed communications network capable of linking members and running applications a normal Internet could not run, the network was used to share access to such things as medical imaging databases, research data, information resources and doctor-to-doctor long distance consultations between hospitals and research centres in the city.
During a presentation at Elborn College yesterday, where Western President Paul Davenport was the master of ceremonies, the new partners were welcomed marking the expansion LARG*net and its new ability to be a self-sustaining system.
"This will not only put London at the forefront of communications technology in Canada but it will also serve as incentive for future business development," Davenport said, while extolling the virtues of the network.
Although the network was originally launched with the help of $2.2 million in provincial government funding, the newest phase of expansion marks the end of this support.
Now partners using the network pay an annual membership fee based on their level of network activity to make the network self-sustaining, said Mike Bauer, senior director of Information Technology Services at Western.
Norm Middaugh, general manager of LARG*net at Western, said the university plays a key role in the community network as it provides the infrastructure allowing the system to run. "Western's role is on the operational end, to run the applications provided by the members," he said.
The four new members announced yesterday include the City of London, London Public Libraries, the London Board of Education and the National Research Council's new Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute.
"The idea is that eventually every organization will be connected with the network so research can occur and people can communicate more easily," Middaugh said.
Yesterday a teleconferencing demonstration was given to show how the network can be used to assess speech pathology problems in children.
The main benefit of the system is that it allows people to work together in a much more efficient manner, Middaugh said, adding the only downside to the system is the issue of keeping information secure. "Security is an issue we are trying to address now, because of private information which is passed through the network, such as patient records passed between medical centres," he said.
Carl Drysdale, director of management information services for the City of London, said the city will use the network mainly to do research and maintain their software, along with improving access to their website. "London prides itself on its excellent communications and City Hall wants to be a part of that," he said. In the future, City Hall also expects to use the network to provide education programs on-line and registration for parks and recreation programs.
"It is clear the benefits are not just technical, but social and economical as well," added Grant Hopcroft, Deputy Mayor of London.
Wayne Cole, director of MIS and planning at the London Public Library is also optimistic over the potential of LARG*net. "It allows us to participate in closer partnership with other agencies in the city," he said. The technology will be used in the library to access information for catalogues and research and also for patrons to use for public reference, he added.
"This is a tremendous advantage to the City of London and to our patrons," he said.