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The Internet, the global network which connects millions of computers in a web, makes almost immediate communication possible, irrespective of the location of its users. The fast growth in the total number of users, both private and professional, is exceeding most predictions.
Likewise, the amount of accessible medical information is increasing rapidly. Ideally, this could provide a formidable opportunity for paediatricians to exchange and process medical information with colleagues around the world from their office or home. Can the Internet be of any practical use to the paediatrician today? A non-technical commentary is given here, with examples of the clinical, educational, and research applications available today as well as possible future directions.
The general characteristics of the Internet have been thoroughly reviewed1-5 and are probably familiar to most readers of this journal. It might, however, be appropriate to mention that essentially four types of services are found on the Internet: e-mail, discussion groups (UseNet), access to public documents, and file databases (ftp sites). The most popular and user friendly service is the World Wide Web, which is reached by a point and click interface. The two main applications of the Internet are electronic mail, which usually involves the interpersonal exchange of information, and reading documents posted as Web sites on the Net, primarily a form of one way communication.
Table 1 lists some useful Internet addresses in the same order as they appear in this paper. It is important to emphasise that such addresses may change, but may then be found using search programs such as Altavista. Table 1 is also available on the Internet with direct links to the Web sites.
Anything that can be digitised can appear on a Web page, including text based documents, pictures, animations, and sounds. …
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