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8. APHCA: 00/7 - Miscellaneous Papers


Information Communication Technology (ICT)
Status Report for APHCA - ICT

Status Paper[2]

Information Communication Technology (ICT)

Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA)

1. Introduction

APHCA is the acronym for the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Established in 1975 under the constitution of the FAO of the United Nations, APHCA is based on a desire by its member countries to create a common forum for developing strategies to tackle the most pressing problems of livestock agriculture in the region. APHCA is working with local governments, institutions and farmers to identify critical issues and develop strategies relevant to the millions of Asian farmers who have followed traditional agricultural practices, based on balanced integration of land, labor, livestock, crops and water, adapted to their particular environment and resources. APHCA is located in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) in Bangkok, Thailand and has as it’s secretary the Regional Animal Production and Health Officer.

For the past few years APHCA has been working to develop its own electronic communications applications to support and further develop its activities and goals. The use of appropriate technology has allowed APHCA to increase both the speed and depth (reaching a greater audience) of its information resources delivery and to reduce its operating expenses. Information communication technologies (ICT) and management (ICM) have enhanced APHCA’s ability to both collect information and to disseminate its strategies and related support information in the forms of a web site, an e-magazine, online publications, mailing lists, CD-ROM, etc. Most publications and the quarterly technical magazine “Asian Livestock” are now available free electronically. More information about APHCA is available on the APHCA homepage at http://www.aphca.org.

2. ICM and ICT

2.1 Information requirements

The nature of the information utilized by APHCA at this time varies in subject, but is limited in its formatting to documents for reading (as opposed to audio, multi-media, etc.). Essentially any information that assists APHCA in the achievement of its goals is considered useful. APHCA draws its information from a variety of sources including its own projects, FAO initiatives, academic research, publications and data of FAO or its collaborators, etc. Of particular interest to APHCA is time sensitive information of interest to its primary users or information suitable for a wide regional audience. The vast majority of the information is presented in text and photo suitable formatting such as MS Word, ASCII text (“text only” formatting), HTML (hyper text markup language, used for web pages), and PDF (Adobe portable document format).

2.2 Existing information facilities or services

APHCA currently maintains the following facilities and services:

2.3 Existing projects or proposals

APHCA has three major proposals that all include the use of APHCA’s ICT capabilities in their scope of work.

The Householder Poultry Enterprise - Asia (HOPE-A)

HOPE-A is designed to assist and encourage village poultry production at the householder level in Asia, including intensification if the conditions are right, with the aim of assuring food security and income generation in case of surplus production, benefiting the rural poor, especially women and children. The information technology of APHCA will be of particular use in promoting joint action, cooperation, coordination and information exchange among the members for better householder poultry production, developing appropriate education and research, and coordinating the activities of locally operating private, public and non-government organizations.

Animal Genetic Resources Management for Asia (ANGRASIA)

APHCA has proposed to continue the process of the original ANGRASIA project that established national plans for the optimal use of all animal genetic resources available. It aims to assist in the management of Asian animal genetic resources so as to maximize the effective use of those resources in a sustainable manner, while adding significantly to the financial status, and thus food security, of small-holder farmers. Information technology will be used to assemble, organize, and make available animal genetics information in line with ANGRASIA’s goals, foster cooperative activities with ILRI (International Livestock Research Inst.), FAO’s DAD-IS 2.0 (Domestic Animal Diversity Information System) and other collaborators, and provide training and other background administrative support.

South Asia Foot and Mouth Disease Control Unit (SA-FMD-CU)

The objectives of the SA-FMD-CU are to improve the standards of Veterinary Services in FMD-affected countries in South Asia, to improve the productivity of animals by keeping FMD under control and to increase the income of livestock producers in South Asia, and to facilitate and promote the international trade in animals and animal products by creating FMD-free regions in South Asia. APHCA’s information technology capabilities may play a role in improving FMD surveillance and reporting systems, training activities, linking national FMD coordinators, liaison function with international authorities, and preparation of annual reports.

3. Existing ICM/ICT Collaborations, Co-ordinations, Cooperation

APHCA works with several other groups and organizations in areas related to ICM/ICT, including:

4. Issues and Challenges of the ICM and ICT

The greatest challenge for APHCA is choosing and adapting the appropriate technology to facilitate information exchange over a wide range of users and technical environments.

Modern information technology (IT) clearly fills a need for fast, accurate information exchange, and can produce significant cost savings through reduced expenses for travel, printing, etc. However, not all IT is appropriate in all settings. Complexities arise due to limited access to hardware and software, a wide range of national and local IT infrastructure, government intervention, user experience and education level, and language difference.

In the case of APHCA’s IT systems, the primary users include member governments and large non-government organizations. These users are diverse in terms of concerns, background, technical skill, and most importantly access to technology. APHCA national delegates come from fifteen countries as far apart as Iran and Australia. Not all of our users can access information at the same level. (Some have email but no Internet access, some have very slow modems, some must travel to get access to a computer, etc.). Thus APHCA’s choice of technology determines not only how, but if and at what level of quality its users will have access to information exchange.

Beyond its primary users, APHCA has an even broader range of additional users. These users range from small-scale farmers in developing countries to administrators of large NGOs funded by and based in developed countries. This second level of users is where APHCA is experiencing the most growth in access to its services. The difficult challenge of expanding APHCA’s offerings to cover increasingly specific requests, while at the same time maintaining the overall interest of this broad group will grow as this group of users grows. Reaching out to the farmers in developing countries is particularly difficult. In light of this, APHCA strives to balance the need for high quality, innovative transformation of information into knowledge with a philosophy of maintaining simplified systems. In the case of a web site, this means creating an ASCII text only site in addition to one that uses Java, graphics, etc.

Like many organizations in this day, APHCA is limited in terms of its available financial and human resources. While APHCA is funded by regular contributions from its member countries, these funds must support many activities in addition to ICT/ICM. The finite nature of membership funding makes the continued development and long-term sustainability of APHCA’s ICT programs a challenge.

Fee-for-service ideas have been considered when dealing with non-members. However, our most critical users are typically those who can least afford to pay. Also, the practical issue of determining who can and cannot afford to pay is fraught with complexities. Thus APHCA currently believes it will be necessary to find donors to support efforts that are beyond the funding of its members. Now donor characteristics become an issue. One could easily look to commercial donors for addition funding. However, here there is a significant potential for the development of conflict of interest or other complications. It does not take long for one to think of several instances in which the goals of a commercial donor would clearly be in conflict with the goals of APHCA. APHCA has taken the view that information and knowledge are a “public good area”, and therefore, one that should be supported by government and international agencies taking responsibility for support of the public good.

A further source of challenge to APHCA is the diversity of its information in terms of subject matter, source, and formatting. Organization, storage, and retrieval are increasingly complicated issues.

5. Human Resources Development (Capacity Building) in Area of Agricultural Information Management

APHCA has organized and provided training sessions for both its own staff and other groups. Most recently, APHCA together with Office International Des Epizooties (OIE - the “World organization for animal health”) organized an IT training meeting for government officers from South and South East Asian countries. In the future APHCA hopes to expand its activities and offerings in this area.

6. Existing ICT Strategies/Planning

APHCA’s ICT strategic plan has been outlined to progress in three phases, from “Set-Up” to “Support for Members” to “Support for Non-Members”. The organization is well established in the “Support for Members” phase, and while continuing to develop in that area has also begun the phase of developing “Support for Non-Members.”

APHCA considers additional training on IT subjects, particularly for its members, to be critical to its future strategies. Planning is under way to develop multimedia and/or remote learning systems that will increase the number of individuals trained while reducing the cost. (Working in a regional or international setting, transportation costs are often the greatest burden of traditional training methods.)

Other areas specifically intended for development by APHCA include:

7. Conclusion

APHCA has firmly established its commitment to and system of information communication technologies. It will continue to develop these systems to serve the interests of its member countries and governing principles. APHCA will also strive to continue reaching out to a broader audience in order to increase the value of its information and hopefully bring in additional value to its primary users.

APHCA actively collaborates with several groups on IT systems and management. We look forward to the opportunity to find additional partners with whom we can develop new or share existing projects that will be mutually beneficial.

Status Report for APHCA - ICT

Information Communication and Technology Services.

The 24th Session Meeting, 6-9 November 2000

R. D. Hart Consultant Report ’97 steps

Status



Phase 1; Start Up (6 months)



a) Hire director/manager for Electronic Forum

COMPLETE

b) Set up a server with List server and Web Server

COMPLETE: (homepage; APHCA-L)

c) Training and motivation of key APHCA staff

COMPLETE; ONGOING



Phase II; Supporting APHCA Members (12 months)



a) Identify/hire additional personnel

COMPLETE

b) Actively publish an APHCA electronic newsletter online

COMPLETE: APHCA-L; ASL

c) Organize at least 2 moderated electronic conferences

NOT INITIATED

d) Set up simple electronic library

IN PROGRESS



Phase III; Begin Supporting Non-APHCA Members (18+ months)



a) Complete personnel staffing


b)Continue newsletters and electronic conferences

ON GOING

c) Set up a full electronic library

IN PROGRESS

d) Set up an APHCA Livestock Development Electronic Technical Assistance Program

NOT INITIATED


Activities for 2000

A homepage and additional web pages have been set up. Currently the site is being moved from a group of no cost, ad-based revenue servers to a single dedicated web-hosting service. The new service will provide greater reliability and functionality to meet the growing sophistication of the APHCA site and needs of its users. Hits have increased approximately 300%, and with the new service are expected to increase further.

The established APHCA-L mail server was revised from “unmoderated” to “moderated” status in order to prevent “spamming” or other technical misuse. Content delivery has been increased. Regular updates on changing or new functions of the APHCA web site are communicated via the mail server.

The technical magazine “Asian Livestock” is now published electronically on a regular quarterly schedule. It can be accessed in multiple formats (HTML, PDF, text), and can be viewed on the web site, downloaded, or emailed in response to an autoreply command for those without world wide web access. Standard article submission guidelines have been established, and efforts are being made to increase the number of articles submitted so as to increase the quality of the publication.

An electronic library of information is being established as one of the larger ongoing projects for the APHCA web site. Past issues of “Asian Livestock” are being scanned and prepared for electronic archiving and distribution. All current and future publications from APHCA are published electronically, and available through the web site. Older publications in hard copy may be ordered via the web site, and select publications are being converted to electronic media for access and distribution via the web site. CD-ROM printing capabilities have been established. This project will be ongoing for some time, as the back catalogue of publications at APHCA is significant.

There have been no electronic conferences organized on the APHCA web site. While this is now technically feasible, in order for the e-conference to be a success there must be a specific demand and Internet access at a local level. The “Livestock Development Electronic Technical Assistance Program” specified in Phase III of the consultant report is not currently feasible due to limited resources.

Initial training of APHCA staff was completed in Oct.-Nov. 1998. Training continued and was expanded this year to include APHCA Focal Point Officials at the “OIE-APHCA Joint Meeting on Internet Technology” in February 2000. Training was provided not only in the use of APHCA technologies, but also for complimentary resources from WAICENT, OIE, etc. Additional education/promotion about the site’s capabilities and resources to APHCA’s main constituents will continue to be necessary.


[2] Presented by Michael Riggs at the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) Expert Consultation on the Development of an Asia-Pacific Regional Agricultural Information System (APRAIS) 6-7 November 2000, Chiang Rai, Thailand; and at the 24th APHCA Session, 6-9 November 2000, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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