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Net benefits

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The evidence from a new survey suggests that architectural practices may be missing out on the advantages of the Net

Slightly fewer than half of architectural practices have an Internet connection, a survey by research organisation Kadence has shown. The study, of 208 respondents in senior positions in architectural practices, found that 46 per cent of the organisations had a working Internet connection.

Since architects like to portray themselves as the original workaholics - they were devotees of presenteeism long before it became a buzz word - there is some reassurance in the knowledge that nearly two-thirds of them use the internet for communicating by e-mail with family and friends. Not surprisingly, an even greater proportion of the users (more than four- fifths) use e-mail for communication with business associates. In fact, the surprise is more that nearly a fifth of them are not using e-mail for this purpose. The clue may come from the fact that many of the users of the internet make extraordinarily infrequent use of it. Only a fifth claimed to have used it to source information more than ten times in the previous 30 days, and a staggering 42 per cent had made no use of the connection at all.

So why bother to be connected at all? The answer seems to be diverse. Nearly half of users are downloading computer software from the net, and nearly half use it for the ambiguously defined purposes of 'gathering business information' and 'looking for suppliers and products to buy'. Over a third also list 'locating outlets or suppliers of products'. Together, these responses indicate that materials suppliers would do well to concentrate on creating useful, easily accessible internet sites. Increasingly, manufacturers are producing high-quality information on cd-rom, but many seem loath to offer a similar service on the internet, possibly because they cannot keep tabs on customers and potential customers. But this evidence suggests they may be missing a trick.

There are many imponderables about the future of the Internet but these are to do with the ways in which it will be used, and how people will make money from it. What is not in doubt is that usage is growing, and will continue to grow. The distribution of uses in these statistics may therefore be of more significance than the absolute figures. Similarly, fewer than a third of practices at present have their own web sites. This figure is bound to grow too, but many are lacking in quality. Presenteeism is no more to be applauded on the internet than in the office - it is not just a matter of being there, but of what is offered and produced.

Kadence (uk) is an independent research organisation. Tel: 0171 610 6464, e-mail: kadenceuk@msn.com

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