The Singapore government is spending $18m on the first of a series of major products designed to make it a world leader in a number of niche computer applications markets. An example is the Integrated Land Use System, funded by the Ministry of National Development, which combines Unix workstations and two mainframes into what is planned to be the biggest and most sophisticated land-use information system in the world if it becomes operational as planned in 1994. The aim is to build a giant database containing detailed maps of the whole island, showing telephone, gas, water, sewage, and electricity lines, together with architectural plans of every building and road. It will also hold a mass of related data on development projects, land descriptions, planning laws and the like. It will have to hold and manipulate two million pages of data, 35,000 plans and maps and 15m microfilmed documents, and be able to recall and display them on 500 graphics terminals for city planners, engineers and the public. Project director Lum Siew Chong admitted that the project was ambitious and would have to rely on advances in new technology: The complexity lies in integrating the database and mapping technologies. Each technology on its own is fairly mature, but we are planning to build an integrated system and no one has approached it this way before. We have only seen installations done piecemeal which have had to be scrapped. It took his team five years to develop the specifications for the systems, which come in nine volumes and are two and a half feet thick. The Unix-based graphics terminals will be linked to two mainframes, one holding the graphical data and the other the text and numerical data, with the two linked to provide all the relevant data for a particular site on demand, or just the location of water and electricity mains for a contractor wanting to dig a hole – at present most holes dug in Singapore roads by one utility seem to one of those owned by another, causing massive disruption.
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