Introduction to the Local Information System
The Local Information System developed by Andy Henderson of Constructive IT Advice and provided free to Citizens Advice Bureaux, provides an effective and efficient way of making information about local and national organisations, charities, solicitors, housing departments etc available to advisers.
I found it to be an excellent system for referencing, indexing, and finding the sort of information held outside Advisernet (and a lot faster in use)
... from a reviewer of the local information system
Margaret Henderson was Local Information coordinator for Epsom & Ewell CAB until she moved out of the area. She writes...
The enquiry screen for advisers allows them to search the database to find matching items which are then displayed as a list for the adviser to choose the most relevant one. Clicking the item heading gives more details which may contain links to websites or documents on your network. It can also cross refer to a paper system.
Previously we had a set of 30 ring binders to hold local information. Since using the system we have been able to eliminate all our paper documents except leaflets that provide supporting information (and we could scan the leaflets into the database if we wanted to).
To update the system there is a maintenance screen that is password protected in order to prevent inadvertant changes. It is a straightforward interface allowing changes, new items and deletions and automatically adding the date and time of the change. It is much easier and quicker to update than a paper system.
There are two ways to run the Local Information System:
- Advisers run a program on their Windows desktop to search the database and find the information they need. This is the simplest system to install if your CAB runs from a single office - it will cost you nothing. The desktop and intranet versions happily run side-by-side so it's easy to switch to the intranet version later. Our installation guide contains specific instructions for installing the desktop version on a single PC so you can try it out for yourself.
- Advisers use a web browser to access the system.. It takes a little more work to set up the system centrally, but no work at all on people's PCs. It offers the possibility of a single database being available across multiple offices, even if the connection between them is slow - or non-existent! You can set the system up inside your own network for free. If you undertake a lot of outreach work, placing the system on the internet gives it the widest possible access for very little cost. The system comes with id and password checking if you need it. If you want, you can try the intranet version out right now.
We also provide tools to allow desktop and intranet versions to work together
We are happy to help you set up the system on the internet for free. You will, however, have to do the hard work: collecting and maintaining local information for the benefit of your advisers.
We designed both versions to be installed, run and managed without the need for specific IT expertise. We deliberately chose a simple set of technologies to build the system that do not require you to buy any software beyond Microsoft Windows.