Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

FAO’S capacity building activities keep pace with changes in Information Technology: Focus on new AGRIS vision

30 Nov 2004 -- Many FAO member countries still struggle with the impact of new technologies on how they exchange information related to Food Security.

In response to this crucial challenge, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is strengthening the AGRIS network by increasing partnerships with key national and regional institutions.

AGRIS, the international information system for the agricultural sciences and technology, was established by FAO in 1975 and brings together more than 240 national, international and intergovernmental agricultural centres with the goal of improving access to and exchange of information in the area of agricultural science and technology.

During the 2002 Consultation for Agricultural Information Management (COAIM), FAO members agreed on the need to adapt AGRIS to cater for new developments in the field of food and agriculture information exchange. Members are now working with the Organization to establish new guidelines and principles to assist in this task.

Among these are a decentralized approach with emphasis on national partnerships; a greater diversity of participating organizations; a strengthened role in capacity building; a focus on the management of full text documents; and a continually improving set of Web-enabled AGRIS methodologies and tools.

As part of this work, FAO, in conjunction with national, regional and local partners, is holding a number of specialized training workshops on the management and publication of documents in electronic format and on methodologies and tools for full-text bibliographic database management using Web-based technologies. Basic sets of information management standards, guidelines and tools are also available to member nations in parallel to their own training resources.

FAO's partnership-based e-learning initiative, the Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) is valuable resource within these training activities. IMARK, which trains individuals in the effective management of agricultural information, is blending face-to-face training with self-paced learning for participants, with the ultimate goal of building skills among AGRIS users.

Since 2001, over 300 people have participated in FAO’s Electronic production of agricultural documents and bibliographic database management workshops held around the world. Regional partners have included the SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) for workshops held in South East Asia CAAS/SDIC for workshops held in China, and (SPC) for workshops held in the Pacific. Other workshops have included Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin American and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.

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