The AGRIS database is accessible in English, Spanish and French - which makes it unavailable for most Thai users. As well, only the title and descriptors fields in the AGRIS database structure allow data in those three languages. This is not sufficient for data recording and use in Thai.
It is on this basis that the Thai AGRIS Centre decided to develop its bilingual database that could accommodate both the Thai and English languages. In addition to the Thai AGROVOC, the centre also has developed a Thai version of the WebAGRIS program for operating its databases.
Developing application program for managing bilingual database
In order to create its bilingual database, there was a need to develop database management system that can record, retrieve, index and display results in two languages simultaneously. Its structure had to be consistent with the AGRIS standard (AGRIN 3.0). Therefore fields were added for recording Thai data with the Thai alphabet in the same format as the English fields.
Obviously Thai alphabets differ from Roman alphabets. In the Thai language there are 44 letters, 24 vowels and 4 sound symbols. A Thai sentence is a continuity of words without spaces between them. For example: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Thai would appear as
In order for the database management program to recognize Thai letters and correctly produce an inverted file, the Thai alphabet has to be included in the alphabet code table. This was made possible by the MICRO CDS/ISIS file named ISISAC.TAB and ISISUC.TAB.
Applying WebAGRIS for managing bilingual database
The Thai AGRIS Centre has been experimenting with WebAGRIS since November 2001 with the objective to use it with Micro CDS/ISIS version 3.08 for managing databases. WebAGRIS is a Web-based program of CDS/ISIS developed by the Institute for Computer and Information Engineering in Poland in collaboration with FAO. WebAGRIS is multilingual and its database structure adheres to AGRIS standards and enables export of data in XML, HTML, ISO 2709 formats. WebAGRIS permits data use and sharing across the Internet and works on a clientserver basis.
Figure 5: WebAGRIS technology
Source: WWW/ISIS Technical reference manual. v. 5.1.0/00-12-01. Warsaw, February 2000. http:// www.icie.com.pl/
Studies conducted by the Thai AGRIS Centre highlighted the advantages of WebAGRIS for data recording and data exchange for a bilingual database. However, some minor problems noted had to do with inconsistencies in the data structure. Some fields in the WebAGRIS system identified subfields under repeatable fields, which is different from the old structure.
Applying WebAGRIS in data recording and displaying in Thai is done by copying data files to new ones for Thai application. This is possible because the system is purposefully designed to accommodate many languages. The copied data files can then be modified as necessary.
Thai AGRIS Centre experience with WebAGRIS
WebAGRIS possesses many useful functions for recording and retrieving data that are not available on Dos Micro CDS/ISIS. These attributes make it easier to manage data and to transfer data from the older AGRIN formats using the field selected table developed by AGRIS. The following outline of functions make WebAGRIS a better application for use by the Thai AGRIS Centre:
Authority control in some data fields. For instance, in the subject categories where there are fields for author, journal and conference names. The control enables consistency and data quality.
A controlled multilingual vocabulary (AGROVOC). Incorporated in the data entry process, this maintains quality and enables indexing in the desired language.
Data input rules, which are incorporated making cataloguing easier.
Possibility to copy a worksheet from ready data records. This saves time required for data entry.
Users can define the default value in the worksheet, a useful procedure when cataloguing many entries from one document.
Automatic updating of entries into the respective fields from the authority.
In general, entering and editing data is easier and more convenient. There are features that help reduce error from data entry.
There are both simple search and advance search with the latter offering the possibility of searching specific field to refine the search.
Use of controlled vocabulary and index to search.
A search history enables a user to retrace the searching path taken.
Help function is in HTML format and linked to other concerned sections. It is also very user friendly.
Full text can be displayed by clicking a link to a URL of that e-document.
Multi-database searching allows centres that have multiple databases to conduct simultaneous searches.
Data dissemination can be far-reaching due to the Internet.
Possibility to export data in XML format, making the AGRIS data available to data providers for other value-added services.
The system can be used in a stand-alone and client-server mode. Users can search data simultaneously through the network. Multiple data entries are possible in the same ISIS database.
The security system is easy to manage. One text file allows the administrator to easily create and manage the user privileges, applying different levels of access.
Data entry and editing is easier than with Dos ISIS because it can be performed online and in real time.
Performance evaluation of WebAGRIS
In addition to lectures on metadata and agricultural information standards during the first Workshop on agricultural information management: WebAGRIS system and Thai agricultural information networking(25–28 August 2003) at the Kasetsart University library, there was a training for WebAGRIS users. Participants were required to provide feedback on the performance. The results were encouraging with the participants being especially happy with the bi-lingual function of the program, its ability to initiate keywords automatically in different languages and its ability to export data in XML format. The following table presents a summary of that performance evaluation of WebAGRIS in Thai version.
Table 2: Performance evaluation of the Thai WebAGRIS
|WebAGRIS attributes and its functionality (Thai version)||Percent of response according to different degree of satisfaction|
1. Bilingual database (Thai and English)
3. Displaying result
4. Help function
5. System authentication
6. Format and method for data recording
7. Format and method for data editing
8. Into ISO 2709 format
9. Into text format
10. Into XML format
Limitations of WebAGRIS
Despite the favourable response to the Thai version of the WebAGRIS, several constraints have been noted:
Authority to update and delete record is determined at the database level so anyone who has access to the database can also have access to the records that are created by others. This is still problematic because it allows that person to modify the records that are not in their authority.
There are still some errors in the system because of the shortfall of the program; hence sometimes the recorded data are not properly or effectively saved.
Database lock and record lock happen from time to time with unknown reason. And untying the lock can be done only on the server. This makes it impossible for the network agencies to do data recording until the system administrator unlocks the system.
Creating a full inverted file has to be done on the server only while the client can do only the operation of updating inverted file, which is automatic.
Value table and data files for WebAGRIS are plenty and complicated. Modifying the system for a specific purpose is somewhat tricky, though it is not so for network agencies that are working on a standard and completed system.