Session Report: Four speakers from diverse backgrounds addressed issues relating to the globalization of digital collections in a panel organized by SIG III (International Information Issues) at the 1997 Annual ASIS Conference in Washington, D.C. The panel was moderated by Michel Menou.
The first speaker, Elliot Siegel, (SIEGEL@NLM.NIH.GOV), Associate Director for Health Information Programs Development at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), discussed "The Global Information Infrastructure: A Perspective From the NLM." Siegel is working on a project utilizing the Internet to improve the ability of African scientists to do research in malaria, a disease that kills three million people world-wide each year. The project is not intended to "wire up" Africa--rather, it focuses on partnering with African countries that already have an Internet node. Siegel believes access to electronic communication technologies is essential to carry out productive malaria research in Africa.
The malaria project plan begins by identifying research locations, like Kenya, that (1) have a malaria problem and (2) already have access to the Internet. The team assesses the needs of the local scientific community, which often requires a site visit. During this visit, the team gathers information on the local technology needs as well as how additional technologies will help the area. Then the team generates cost estimates and time tables for the addition of the new technologies to meet the local needs. The project also focuses on expanding materials in local libraries, including establishing interlibrary loan programs among libraries to share valuable resources. Finally, the team trains local scientists to use the new technologies.
Siegel predicts success for the project because the African scientific communities and the National Institute of Health (NIH) enthusiastically support it. Through partnering with the World Bank, foundations, local public telephone companies, AT&T, Motorola, etc. this project expects to make a difference by fostering collaboration and sustainable support for local communications and networking resources as an integral component of malaria research.
The second speaker, Sue O'Neill Johnson, representative from the World Bank, discussed "Organizational Challenges to Global Demands for Information Sharing at the World Bank." Johnson focused on recent organizational changes in the World Bank, which involve using Lotus Notes among their more than 80 field offices to enhance decentralization. This new corporate structure allows the field offices to be closer to their clients without losing the benefits of electronic access to important documents.
The World Bank strategic plan includes the development of 76 knowledge management teams of varying sizes with different priorities. They are also experimenting with room layouts and furniture groupings to enhance to knowledge sharing. The estimated cost of this restructuring was $50 million in the first year, largely from costs of staff time. Johnson listed critical success factors which include
Johnson invited the audience to visit the World Bank's home page at http://www.worldbank.org. By adding /sources" to the web address, visitors can have access to over 5,500 internal Bank project reports completed since 1987.
The third speaker, Martin Kesselman, (firstname.lastname@example.org), Associate Media Librarian at Rutgers University Library of Science and Medicine, discussed "Cooperative International Partnerships for Sci-Tech Libraries." Kesselman's speech emphasized that with the advent of global networking and collaboration it no longer matters where information is stored or where the users are located.
Kesselman defined "twinning" as the "ongoing relationship between two libraries in different countries..." (based on the UNESCO Guidelines, 1994). Several benefits including access to unique resources, preservation of materials, ability to share instructional programs and access to experienced, well-trained staff were discussed. However, challenges of twinning including language, currency exchange, access to networks, lack of necessary resources, and national policies were also addressed.
Guidelines must be written for twinning partnerships. This process begins with a needs analysis and formulation of expectations and goals. Then an appropriate twinning partner is selected. Many choose to seek financial support. Local committees are organized and partners should define agreements. Finally, partners evaluate their programs to ensure their goals are being met.
Kesselman discussed three case studies including:
The following sources were listed for further information:
The final speaker, Margarita S. Studemeister, (email@example.com), Library Program Director at the U.S. Institute of Peace, discussed "The Impact of Information and Communications Technology on International Conflict Management." Studemeister focused on how information and communication technologies are impacting the conduct of international relations and the way these technologies assist in global relations.
Technology changes affect the world economy, military power and national sovereignty. Global media networks have no borders and provide information to the entire world--for better or worse. During the Gulf War, global networks served to disseminate information to US citizens, officials in other countries, and even Saddam Hussein. Studemeister mentioned ReliefWeb (http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int), which includes news, maps and financial information about conflicts. Also, Project Bosnia, (http://www.vcilp.org/vcilp/bosnia), a joint project between the University of Sarajevo and Villanova University, established an Internet-based legal system for Bosnia.
Information and communications technology can empower individuals and groups to act regardless of their geographic location. People use the Internet to mobilize support for human rights issues, such as the banning of landmines. Also, for the first time ever, advanced mapping and visualization technologies supported peace talks, resulting in the Dayton Accords for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Studemeister believes that information and communications technology is more important than ever in U.S. diplomatic activities. For more information, see http://www.usip.org/oc/virtual_dipl.html.