Volume 9 (3) May/June 1995
It is noticeable that new pharmacy resources are appearing on the Internet each month. These developments are not really surprising when the access to the pharmacy information server at Manchester is considered. Access to PharmWeb continues to increase with current access exceeding 5000 requests for pages per week. This is a dramatic increase in usage since the service was launched in December and clearly indicates a demand for information via the Internet. The Internet is a powerful means of disseminating information instantly and 24 hours a day to anybody in the world with a computer connected to the Internet.
One of the questions that I have been asked is how to actually get connected to the Internet, and how to access information such as the FIP pages. If you work in a University it is very likely that you will be able to connect your computer directly via the local network. If you are not certain, your local computer center will be able to help you. If you work in a hospital/company you may also have a direct Internet connection. If you are a home user or a small business then you can connect to the Internet over a telephone line providing your computer has a modem. The actual cost of connecting can be as little as US$ 10 per month plus the cost of local phonecalls. To connect to the Internet you will need to get in contact with an Internet Service Provider. These companies have set up in many countries and enable computer users to obtain access to the Internet by dialling into their computers. Internet providers often can supply you with all the necessary software and full instructions on how to connect to the Internet. There are also several new magazines which have emerged in the last year which focus on the Internet. The majority cater for new users.
Once connected to the Internet, how do you access information such as the FIP pages on the World Wide Web? Assuming that you have a computer connected to the Internet then you will need a programme called a World Wide Web browser. There are several of these available such as Netscape and Mosaic. Within these programmes you can enter an address, or URL (universal resource locator), that will take you straight to the information you are looking for. The URL may look daunting, but it is simply an address that directs your computer to an information source. In the case of FIP, the URL is: http:/www.pharmweb.net/pwmirror/fip.html
So once connected, what can you find on the FIP pages? There are several pages of information on FIP. There is information on FIP's mission, its structure, Sections, details of future meetings, and latest FIP news etc. There are also e-mail addresses which allow you to contact FIP directly by simply clicking your computer mouse on the screen. As part of its service to the pharmacy community, FIP also provides the following on its pages:
- a searchable database of world-wide schools of pharmacy. This database is regularly updated and also includes direct links to each schools World Wide Web server if they have one;
- a listing of conferences which may be of interest to pharmacists.
One of the limitations of the Internet can be the speed of connecting to computers on the other side of the World, particularly if the area you are located does not have fast Internet access. To overcome this problem, PharmWeb has established a number of mirror sites around the world. Mirror sites maintain exact copies of all the information maintained on the original computer. Mirroring is used to enable fast access to information in different parts of the world. It also provides backup in case a computer or network is not working. PharmWeb has set up mirrors in Canada and the USA. Further mirror sites are planned in Africa, Asia, Australia and South America. This means that wherever you are located you should have fast access to FIP information. Details of the PharmWeb mirror sites may be found on the PharmWeb homepage.
If you have found any interesting sites on the Internet that would be of interest to the pharmacy community let me know at the e-mail address at the end of this column. I will add the link on the relevant PharmWeb page and may also mention the site in this column.
Dr. A. D'Emanuele
University of Manchester