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Press Release 98/29






Rome, 7 May -- The number of "hits" on the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) World Wide Web site ( increased from 287,000 in March 1996 to more than 2 million last month and is expected to expand further with the rapid development of modern information and telecommunication techniques, FAO announced today.

Another key indicator, the number of data records downloaded by users from the FAO statistical data bases, jumped from 498,000 in March 1996 to 10.3 million in March 1998, an exponential growth demonstrating a huge information potential.

The FAO Web site was first released in June 1995. "FAO's site has reinforced, as never before, the Organization's capacity to disseminate information to its Arabic-, English-, French- and Spanish-speaking users. At the same time, more than 4,000 CD-ROMS have been distributed to all FAO Member Nations to provide access to WAICENT in geographical areas where the Internet is not easily or widely available," explains Anton Mangstl, Director of the Library and Documentation Systems Division, which manages WAICENT.

WAICENT (World Agricultural Information Centre) is FAO's information gateway on the Internet. It comprises three interactive and complementary systems: FAOSTAT for the storage and dissemination of statistical information; FAOINFO for hypermedia information (text, photo, audio, video and graphic); and FAOSIS for specialized information systems.

FAOSTAT currently contains over 1 million time-series records covering statistics for over 210 countries in the areas of agricultural production and trade, land use and irrigation, forestry, fisheries, food aid shipments and nutrition.

"Before the launch of WAICENT on the Internet, FAO's Statistics Division handled 1,400 user requests per year. Today, FAOSTAT ( is handling an average of 4,000 requests per day," FAO technical systems manager Kurt Vertucci said.

In addition to background documents, photos, video clips and other graphic files, FAOINFO provides news, updated several times a week, on FAO's activities and projects. Press releases, news features, informational graphics, maps and photos are also available on FAO's site. They can be easily downloaded by the media, NGOs, institutions and individuals.

FAOSIS covers specialized information systems such as the Global Information and Early Warning System of Food and Agriculture (GIEWS), the Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) for transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases, and the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS), which is the key communications tool for the global programme for the management of farm animal genetic resources.

User statistics analysed last February by FAO indicate that FAOSTAT customers are mostly commercial users (27%), educational institutions (26%), organizations and governments (26%) and network providers (21%).

The FAO Web site has been rated "exceptional" by the prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica, placing it among the top 1% out of 65,000 noteworthy sites profiled. The newly published Britannica Internet Guide used criteria such as substance, accuracy, elegance and frequency of revision. It praised the site's "valuable information both for interested browsers and research professionals," particularly its "collection of statistical databases which offer complete yearly data" by country on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and nutrition.

FAO staff have also benefited from the introduction of electronic facilities. Thanks to Internet technology, they can now access from anywhere in the world the corporate information disseminated by the Organization.








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