Knowledge reference for national forest assessments - information management and data registration
4. Putting a full National Forest Information System in place
4.1 System design and development
Formal project management processes, of which there are many examples, can aid system design and development. A requirements analysis is used to determine purpose and objectives, clients and drivers, and usage. The requirements analysis must be developed in the context of organizational issues, implementation plans, evaluation criteria, hardware software and networking issues, and standards (US Army 1998).
4.1.1 Requirements analysis
Requirements analysis should result in a clear statement of end-product characteristics and estimated data volumes, and can have sub-activities such as system requirements analysis, data requirements analysis and business requirements analysis. The system requirements analysis in turn can include topics such as objects, data, relationships, processes, narratives, business rules, access paths, data integrity and information design. Human-computer interactions and interface designs are defined. Requirements analysis must take into account issues such as laws (Michalek 2002) or policies (Kelatwang 2002) relating to access to information, and may be guided by documents such as "Common Principles for National Forestry Planning and Programme Implementation" (FAG 1995).
4.1.2 System development
Based on the requirements analysis, an architecture (CGDI 2001b) and operating system will be determined. Decisions on whether to use a proprietary software or open-source software will have a significant effect on system development, as will the decision to develop the system from scratch or to adapt an existing system. Choice of software products will determine the availability of tools (Richard and Reynolds 1999) and re-useable components, and may be pre-determined by existing enterprise-wide computing requirements (Beck 2001). Manpower and training requirements may have to be addressed at this stage; with different categories of training such as Webmasters, Librarians and Documentalists and End-users (IUFRO 2002) being identified. Pilot projects may need to be established and benchmarks and testing protocols implemented, and intra- and inter-institutional agreements must be formalized.
4.1.3 Funding and financial mechanisms
Information has costs and timeliness (Janz and Persson. 2002), and costs of providing forest information can become a major concern (Bureau of Rural Sciences 1998). How a FRA is funded, and who pays for what, depends to some extent on whether information is regarded as a public or private good (FAO 2000d). A business case for an information management system (Centre for International Economics 2000) resembles a requirements analysis in establishing the magnitude, nature and likely influences on the demand for the product to be developed as well as identifying risks and uncertainties, but also includes costs and benefits with the goal of obtaining funding. The mechanism of funding may incur substantial information management and reporting commitments, becoming a limiting constraint as in the case of Bangladesh (EC/FAO Partnership Programme 2000). Some costs may be offset by income from data provision (e.g. Swedish National Road Administration 2003); however, data pricing may be a policy implemented at the national level.