A WATCHING BRIEF ON INFORMATION SYSTEMS
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CTA. 1996. A WATCHING BRIEF ON INFORMATION SYSTEMS. Spore 62. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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While the industrial countries are building their information superhighways across the world the question remains how this information can work for the development in ACP countries. New technology opens many avenues for the wholesale and rapid...
While the industrial countries are building their information superhighways across the world the question remains how this information can work for the development in ACP countries. New technology opens many avenues for the wholesale and rapid deployment of the mass of information in the world's data banks. Storage of digitalized data on CD-ROM is equally useful for supplying complete electronic texts (as just completed by the CGIAR system) as for interactive games and multimedia. The Internet also makes it possible to create networks or to hold forums, at least in theory, allowing direct communication between participants at the local level as it does on a global scale. Paul Osborne of ONE Foundation is of the opinion, however, that 'there are many obstacles to the generalized use of this technology in ACP countries.' This is mainly due to the quality of local telephone systems and the lack of high speed data transfer equipment which permit little more than simple e-mail exchanges and make access to online services rather difficult. Equipment has been installed in about 20 African countries but shortage of operating funds or political objections mean that only a few African countries and a few Pacific nations are fully on-line to the Internet. Even for fully connected countries the information needed is still difficult to find. The UK's Natural Resources Institute (NRI) compares the system to 'an enormous library with all the books laid out on the floor where the visitor has to find a specific page. 'An observatory is therefore necessary to follow the very rapid developments and to help ACP countries obtain the best benefits. Information networks are certainly important in easing the way communications are made among scientists in national, regional and international centres. They are still, however, a long way from replacing other methods ranging from a simple meeting to the publication of national and regional development reviews and scientific journals. These traditional methods are still in need of support in the ACP countries. The new technology is by no means a panacea. High performance international communications channels serve to support the natural desire of scientists in ACP countries to improve their relations with the international scientific community. However, this is being done at a time when they should be collaborating more closely with development and professional organizations. For further information: Robin Bourgeois IICAPO Box 55 2200 Coronado COSTA RICA Tel: (506) 29 02 233 Fax: (506) 29 47 41
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