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Internet and Web Technology: On-Line Information Strategies
National Health Informatics Conference -- Hobart 1999

There is NO Free Lunch!

Paragraph indent The computer news has recently been reporting enthusiastically about "free" computers, e-mail services, and web access. Unfortunately, the reality is often far different from the news reports.
Paragraph indent Most of the free and low-cost services depend upon advertising to cover their costs. Thus when you access any of the public search engines you'll have to endure one or more banner ads as you compose your search. Increasingly, the ads are specifically targetted to your assumed interests. Thus a search on automotive topics will be accompanied by related advertisements.
Paragraph indent Similarly, most of the "free" computer deals require the user to permanently sacrifice a portion of the screen to regularly delivered advertisements. Some such systems will not even function unless they are connected to the web, thus owners/users are charged for "connect" time while they use their computer for any purpose.
Paragraph indent However, some of the services appear to be worth the cost. Hotmail, for example, provides "free" e-mail to thousands of low-volume users who would otherwise likely not use e-mail.
Paragraph indent The best value from the web is the ready availability of information and resources. However, these materials are also not free--someone has to pay for the time and telecommunications costs (uploading the information, etc.), even if it is your employer.
Paragraph indent Likewise, there are significant costs to maintaining a web site, mailing list, etc. A commercial site selling automobiles, for example, might cost several million dollars to establish and several hundred thousand dollars per year to maintain. It is these costs which contribute to the poor quality of many sites, the rapid disappearance of many useful pages, changing addresses [several of the sites in this presentation changed their URLs in the six weeks or so between selecting them and finalising the presentation], etc.

Presenter Image

This workshop is presented by A C Lynn Zelmer, PhD, a Central Queensland University senior lecturer who has long been involved in health training and health informatics. Contact him by e-mail at L.Zelmer@CQU.edu.au or visit his Home Page at http://vl-zelmer.cqu.edu.au. Research was provided by Hon Prof Amy E Zelmer, Faculty of Arts, Health and Sciences, Central Queensland University.
Paragraph indent LAST UPDATED: 17/8/99 (LZ)