Intranet at CityU

Horizontal Rule [Sept 97]

Maria Chin

Imagine this scenario. An organization has 20,000 members who need timely and easy access to organization news, schedules, regulations, training materials, phone book, forms, procedures, and information alike. While jingling with the huge amount of printed information, we also have to look at the access control issue to ensure the relevancy and security of information.

In CityU, as in many organizations, we have been printing newsletters, handbooks, leaflets, user's guides, as well as other hard copy communications. This printed material is time-consuming and expensive to produce. Moreover, how can we guarantee that our target audience will receive the information on time and, more importantly, the correct information when needed?

Today's cost-cutting environment demands that we do more with less. Yet, we can hardly afford to eliminate these communications tools. You may quickly think of one "solution" - email information regularly to your audience. This approach is inefficient and means unnecessarily stuffing your audience email boxes since not all of them require access to the same information.

Intranet - is the Solution

Like many forward-thinking organizations, CityU is taking advantage of the Intranet as a more cost-effective and efficient approach. The Intranet refers to the use of Internet World-Wide-Web (refer to as Web hereafter) technology within the organization or the "intraprise" rather than for external connection to the Internet. At CityU, we have our first Intranet in December 1996, below is the new homepage which will be released in the new academic year.

The Structure

Similar to setting up and maintaining an Internet Web site, the basis of an Intranet site is a Web server. Upon proof of identity, a CityU member can retrieve information from this web server via the Intranet homepage which contains links to sub-pages. Depending on the relevancy or security level of information, access to sub-pages can be controlled by username and/or password, network location, access list, etc. Contents of sub-pages are directly maintained by the departments/offices in-charge, hence any new or revised version can be updated without delay. This approach enables departments/offices to deliver timely, consistent, and accurate information to staff and students without expensive typesetting, printing and distribution charges.

The Approach

In order to "webafy" or web-enable services and information, it will be necessary for us all to "Think-Web", that is, if you should come across new projects or developments, see if you can do it with the Web. Things have been progressing satisfactorily, for example, the coming implementation of the library catalogue system and student record system will have a web interface. Two legacy information services, the university yellow pages and the computer shop buyer's guide, have been web-enabled. All information, administrative, and network services have links on the Intranet page.

It is anticipated that Intranet will become our default desktop environment. It will have customized icons and shortcuts to take us to the Internet; invoke our favourite software and applications; bring up network menus and connect to central services. On achieving these, we still have to resolve a number of barriers, technically to select standard tools and platform; conversion of legacy systems; administrative-wise to co-ordinate and organize the flow of information to ensure that we are connecting our readers to the right information. In the process of webafication, the end-user is a key element. It is therefore important to educate and make them web literates in order to make webafication a real success.

The Web is the next step in the evolution of computer use. It provides us with a mechanism to present and access information much more easily than ever before either from the Intranet or Internet.

[Issue No. 12]

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Computing Services Centre
City University of Hong Kong

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