The international information system for the agricultural sciences and technology (AGRIS), was established more than thirty years ago as an international initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its partners to build a common information system for science and technology in agriculture and related subjects, based on a collaborative network of institutions. Recognizing the importance of agricultural knowledge and information, Thailand was quick to become an active partner in the AGRIS network, with the Thai National AGRIS Centre celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary this year.
During the 21st century, agriculture will increasingly become a science, knowledge and information based sector. Against this backdrop, FAO convened the first Consultation on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) in June 2000, attended by 161 representatives from 91 countries. COAIM 2000 discussed ways of improving the capacities of decision-makers, professionals and the public at large to access and use information essential for achieving sustainable agricultural development and food security.
The consultation recognized the continuing importance of AGRIS as a key enabler and catalyst to establish a new model of agricultural information management in the 21st century. The “new AGRIS strategy” would follow and capitalize on the growth of technology and decentralized information systems. AGRIS Resource Centres would develop and adopt an agreed upon set of information management standards to allow the effective exchange and retrieval of information and to accrue considerable synergistic benefits and cost efficiencies. Standards would pay special attention to categorizations schemes, thesauri and standard exchange formats. The Resource Centres would document and organize both relevant non-conventional and conventional scientific and technical literature, and create digital repositories accessible via the Internet where possible and reasonable for improved dissemination.
One of the first institutions to take up this new strategy was the Thai National AGRIS Centre. Its vision, development and experiences are described in this valuable report that may serve as both an inspiration and example to others. The Thai National AGRIS Centre has excelled beyond expectation and serves as an outstanding example of commitment to improving the value of agricultural information and improving rural development.
Now more than ever it is important that we focus on the development of tools and contents needed to enable regional and global sharing of agricultural information and knowledge. To succeed in this endeavour, it is essential that we work as partners and continue our collaboration in the service of rural communities and farmers.
FAO congratulates the Thai National AGRIS Centre and Kasetsart University for their contributions to agricultural knowledge and information over the past twenty-five years. The Thai National AGRIS Centre is a cornerstone of the global agricultural information network. We hope they will maintain this leading position as an agricultural information resource, developer of information management tools, and capacity building resource for others in this region over the next twenty-five years.
Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific