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Planning for the information revolution.

"Over one billion pages of output is generated daily in the United States."

For each baby born in this country, eight four-drawer filing cabinets worth of paper documents are generated."

The USA Patent database contains enough paper to pave a highway from Boston to Miami."

"A single daily periodical typically contains more raw information than was available to the citizen of Renaissance Europe in an entire lifetime!"

Many of us smugly muse upon facts and figures such as these as proof of the powerful impact of the information revolution. While it is true that we have access to more information than ever before, we are barely at the threshold of any revolution in information. Producing information is not the focus of the dramatic upheaval that is to come. It is the fuel. The evolution we all talk about will be brought on by the implementation of tools, applications and methodologies developed exclusively for the mining of our extensive stores of information. The focus of the information revolution is in empowering every user - not enabling the power user. The revolution will result in the commoditization of information.

I use the term mining deliberately. If information is to be of value, it must be mined, or extracted like a gemstone from the boulder, and carefully honed to fit the thought process. Consider than even though we today have access to information resources that would have boggled the mind just decades ago, most organizations find (much to their surprise and dismay) that white collar productivity has been minimally impacted. Sophisticated word processors, imaging systems, report generators, statistical packages, spreadsheets, and databases have allowed us to amass information with assembly line-like characteristics. But, sadly, quantity has not directly translated into measurable benefit. In fact for most enterprises, this prized corporate asset - information - has become the new corporate problem. Taming the information giant that we have worked so diligently to create is one of the greatest challenges IS faces today.

We will be able to recover the benefits of the time and resources invested in our information base. But, it will take great changes in the way we view and use information. This is where the information revolution will have its greatest impact, in the creation of environments that facilitate the mining of a new host of information resources and a new paradigm for the empowerment he individual.

Setting the Stage for Radical Change

Advancements in the areas of online storage, data capture, and full-text retrieval have redefined the concept of the information resource and the definition of the knowledge worker. Optical storage is making it possible to hold the Library of Congress in the palm of the hand. High band-width networks such as FDDI make it possible to transmit this information - literally terabytes of data - across the United States in a matter of hours. Multimedia authoring packages are enabling the average user to create applications that rival those created by sophisticated "Infotainment Specialists" just a few years ago. "Documents" comprised of text, images, audio, and video orchestrated into a single coherent interactive presentation will be created with the same ease with which today's office worker produces documents with a word processor. The recent support of tactile types is fueling the advent of Virtual Reality-based information repositories.

These technologies are defining the battleground upon which the information revolution will be won. These technologies are making it practical to create, store, transmit, and manage information online. The key to the fundamental change afoot is providing a means to access and manipulate the information with the same speed and ease with which we create it. only then will we be able to fully apply the powers and strengths of the computer to control and mine the information into knowledge.

Key Players in the Revolution

To this end, the full-text system will play a large, albeit behind the scenes, role. As the size of the information base increases, the demands for intelligent and efficient text retrieval will grow dramatically. Today's full-text retrieval systems go far beyond the Boolean-based word retrieval of their humble beginnings. Systems can capture and incorporate human knowledge into the retrieval engine, organize information for more efficient control based on document content, dynamically provide intelligent document abstracts, discover and present associations between distinct documents, automatically construct a hypertext network, and provide natural language query capability. Information agents can be created which will continuously monitor incoming information, and dynamically inform the interested user.

But this is not enough. To have revolutionary effect, online retrieval systems will have to go beyond present day functionality and paradigms. They will have to bridge language barriers, become heuristically more intelligent, provide retrieval based on sound and image as well as text, and become proactive vigilantes of trends and anomalies.

A Timetable for Change

TV technology we select for our organizations today will result in a radical and unpredictable new world of information storage, retrieval and usage. Online information management technology has established the framework for a new work environment in which the information base is as much a tool of doing business as the Fax machine. The challenge is to move fast enough so as not to be left behind, but not so fast as to lose sight of die big picture and create a system that cannot embrace technology advancements and metaphors yet realized.

This is a simple task. The information management industry is in a state of near chaos, typical of pre-revolutionary times. There are few standards that one can hang their hat on. New vendors of solutions emerge on what seems to be a regular basis. But we must nonetheless accept the challenge. It is the organization which understands the basics of the tools and technologies behind this information revolution that will have the competitive advantage. You can begin this process by educating your staff, establishing strategies and systems that support the adoption of the new information model, and by re-engineering your workplace to fully exploit the capabilities of emerging technologies. Foremost a goal must be focused on in which every user is empowered through access to a global information network with the same ease with which a telephone provides access to the global communications network. This will be the net result of the information revolution and then more then ever, knowledge will be power.

Editor's Note: Carl Frappaolo, executive vice president, Delphi Consulting Group, will deliver the keynote speech at the National Online Meeting, May 4, in New York. I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Frappaolo for treating our readers to a review of this keynote speech, "Planning for the Information Revolution."
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Author:Frappaolo, Carl
Publication:Information Today
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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