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8.3. Cost estimates for permanent facility - options

The following cost estimates are based on a completion period over two years, but costs are only given for one year. These estimates are rather speculative. All estimates are in US dollars. None of the costings include the delivery of courses on using DIAL, which is dealt with separately.

The quantity of content added is the main variable - it is very elastic in that the resources applied will determine the quality of the site, but not whether it can be constructed at all (above a minimum level). Other elements such as system and software maintenance are largely inelastic.

Estimates are given for development of a permanent DIAL facility by:

Estimated size of project facilities

The estimates are based on the creation of a facility which has the following characteristics (until the amount of available data stabilises): These are probably conservative assessments.

Software licensing costs and additional contract costs for software integration

No `off the shelf' software has been located which provides the features of the three main pieces of software used to construct the DIAL prototype (Feathers - indexing , SINO- search engine, Wallace/Gromit - web spider), and in particular the integration between the three components.

Netscape's Catalog Server did seem to contain an indexing system for targeting web spiders on intranets, although it would have required customisation, but it no longer appears to be available. There are programs available which can be licensed free to academic institutions and will provide the core functions of an indexing engine (a MSQL database engine, for example), search engines (such as the new version of Glimpse) and web spiders (a number are available). The Argos limited area search engine (used for JURIST) and Verity's web spider and Topic search engine (used for legal databases by Knowledge Basket in New Zealand), both discussed in Chapter 2, provide some of the required features but do not appear to include the degree of integration with web indexing software that is required by the Project DIAL approach, and do not include web indexing software.

The amount of software development work necessary to develop these tools so that they have equivalent functionality to the prototype, and particularly the degree of systems integration required for a targeted web spider, is unknown. On the experience of the prototype, it could be achieved within six months, but this depends very much on the availability of computing staff with a wide enough range of skills.

8.3.1. Start-up new DIAL system in an academic environment

Completion stage (first year)

An estimate of the costs of starting a new Project DIAL system, in an academic context, without the benefit of adding it to an existing Internet server facility follows for the first year of operation. The estimate must necessarily be very tentative. All personnel components include University on-costs and the person's personal computer equipment, but not accommodation costs. The personnel component amounts to a total of 3.33 persons at an average cost of $51,000 including computing equipment and on costs.

As noted above, the software cost is very difficult to estimate, as the development time involved depends very largely on the availability of a person with a suitable range of skills. Although the difference in the costs of running a facility like this in the context of an existing system such as AustLII appears to be substantially lower than as smaller dedicated facility which would provide equivalent performance, this may not be the main difference. The most important difference is likely to be in the availability of people with the necessary experience in computerisation of law to carry out all of the tasks required in a complex project such as DIAL, and in particular the system integration tasks.

Additional costs of DIALogue component

The additional work necessary to support the DIALogue component expanded to involve a full range of Panelists and Authorised Users, with all of the communications options provided in the prototype, can probably best be estimated as requiring the equivalent of 60% of one additional person (equivalent to 3 days per week) on the DIAL team (in the first year) at an average staff member cost of $51,000. If the operation of DIALogue is simplified (one of the options recommended in Chapter 7), the cost would reduce considerably. If DIALogue is operated in-house at the Bank, there would be no external costs involved. If the DIALogue

Additional matters for consideration

The following cost items are not strictly necessary for successful completion of DIAL, and involve matters where the costs are very elastic depending on what is desired:

Total cost of completion phase

The total cost of establishing a new DIAL system on start-up basis in an academic environment, through to the end of the completion phase (probably a period of two years) is therefore in the range of approximately $300,000 - $400,000.

No allowance has been made for the Bank's costs in finding another appropriate host institution.

Production system stage (subsequent years)

A stand-alone facility will have difficulty in substantially reducing annual costs in the production system stage because input will still be needed from all the personnel components involved in the completion year, but a stand-alone facility is not in a position to make these personnel roles fractional appointments of other positions in an existing public legal information institute. There is therefore a problem of combining the 3.3 positions of the first year into something equivalent to two positions in the production system stage, but exactly how this would be done would depend on the personnel available and their mix of skills.

It is difficult to give a more precise estimate than to say that it should be possible to reduce the annual production system cost to approximately $200,000 (including stakeholder contributions), through reduction of the personnel component from 3.3 to 2, reduced software development costs and reduction of hardware costs to allow only for upgrades and additional disk space. It may be possible to reduce this further.

8.3.2. Take-up by another existing public legal information institute

The costs of another existing legal information institute (other than the prototype host, AustLII) taking up the development of the DIAL facilities would probably be substantially less than the stand-alone facility in the previous estimate. They would not have the same costs in starting new server facilities from scratch, and would have expertise in dealing with legal materials (but probably not in internet indexing). They would have software licensing and software integration costs, and a need to re-implement the content currently in the prototype. An existing public legal information institute would have the advantage of not having to purchase all hardware and software solely for DIAL use, but would be able to share capacity between different projects. Similarly portions of the time of staff with particular skills could be allocated to DIAL.

We estimate that this would reduce the overall costs of the development phase by at least $50,000, to a range of $250,000 - $350,000. It would reduce the production system phase costs by at least a similar amount (possibly more) down to $120,000 - $150,000 per year (including stakeholder contributions). These are estimates only, they have not been confirmed by other public legal information institutes, who may put forward different estimates.

No allowance has been made for the Bank's costs in finding another appropriate host institution.

8.3.3. Take-up by prototype host (AustLII) and prototype project consultants (DataLex)

A separate document has been provided to the Bank setting out an estimate of the costs that would be involved if the permanent DIAL facilities were developed as a continuation of the DIAL prototype, hosted by AustLII and with consultancy provided by DataLex Pty Ltd. This estimate is required by the project's terms of reference. The estimated costs for the completion phase are $200,000 - $230,000, about $70,000 less than those given above for take-up by another existing public legal information institute, due to the existing infrastructure (particularly software development) within which a continuation project would occur. The estimated costs for the production system phase are the same, $120,000 - $150,000 per year (including stakeholder contributions). The details are not included here as they relate to specific academic institutions and companies.

8.3.4. Take-up by a commercial legal publisher

The costs of a commercial legal publisher taking up the development of DIAL are also difficult to estimate, but are likely to be higher than the previous options. Given that DIAL would now be run as a commercial venture, seeking advertising revenue, it is unlikely that staff would be working at less than full commercial rates, which are generally higher than University rates (although probably not for law librarians / indexers). University prices for equipment would also not be available. These factors could add up to $50-100,000 to the overall budget.

It is difficult to imagine a commercial legal publisher wanting to operate the DIALogue facility (for reasons explained earlier), so that would probably have to be run separately, at additional cost.

8.3.5. Recommendations

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