Information Infrastructure in Developing Countries the African by ngs20854

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									          Information Infrastructure in Developing Countries
                                  : the African Case



                                    Abdoulaye GAYE
          Chairman CODATA Senegal, CODATA AFRICA Coordinator



Information Sharing, Cooperation & Collaboration
William Wulf has defined collaboration, thus cooperation as a “centre without walls” where
users can “perform their research without regard to geographical location interacting with
colleagues, accessing instrumentation and applications, sharing data & computational
resources, and accessing information in digital libraries”. We fully agree with him in the light
of experience in developing countries like ours which are in absolute need of data sharing,
while dealing with poverty alleviation, education, agriculture, water management,
biodiversity, environment and human health etc.


The list is endless for social needs in Africa and we need to help solve them through :
      Realization of efficient scientific research activities in the developing countries
       especially in Africa
      Utilization of the tools offered by ICT for scientific research collaboration- Integration
       of African countries into the international scientific community
       Avoidance of information isolation and reduction of “brain drain”
      The main focus is always the impact of data exchange on sustainable national and
       regional development in the specific conditions in Africa.
      Collaborative Results should help each nation or region to address its own specific
       problems while sharing its research findings and data that are useful to all.


Requirements
      Sharing a visionary view of the importance of cross-discipline research in solving
       scientific problems and the necessity of sharing STI in computer revolution to allow
       progress in the future
      Reaching consensus and agreements on the conceptual level to maximizing the
       potential of the national and regional Information Infrastructure through
       networking.
      Another major problem inhibiting access to data is the lack of directories that describe
       what data sets exists, where they are located and how users can access them. The lack
       of adequate directories adversely affects the exploitation of our national and regional
       data resources and leads to unnecessary duplication of efforts and waste of time.
      Review of the wide variety of approaches to S&T data exchange and integration and
       barriers to overcome : In many cases, the existence of data is unknown outside the
       original scientific groups or agencies that generated them and even if known,
       frequently enough information is not provided for a potential user to access their
       relevance and usefulness.
      The    need   for   cross-discipline   efforts   to   share   across   application   areas
       Information modelling in the specific conditions in Africa.
      A lot of the archived data may become inaccessible because they are not regularly
       migrated to new storage media as the hardware and software used to access the data
       become obsolete or inoperable.
      Human factors data should be considered : an additional level of problems to data
       sharing and integration such as privacy, political correctness, cross-cultural differences
       and reliability (with emphasis placed on lessons learned)
      Getting decision-makers understand those (scientists and engineers) who contribute
       more to solutions than problems
      A hard look at the facts : on population, on food needs, on environmental responses to
       health problems, on the need for rapid shifts in uses of energy, materials and other
       resources
      Binded to a common dependence on the steady advance of technological capability


The Implementation of CODATA - AFRICA

All the African participants to the CODATA AFRICA workshop held July 2000 in Dakar
have signed an agreement on the making and conduct of a “CODATA AFRICA” entity which
goals and aims are as following :
   1. The implementation of an African Task Group to take a critical look at the knowledge
       based economy so that we can re-orient our activities to support national and regional
       development goals; as already accepted by the CODATA Executive Committee and
       General Assembly.


   2. In so doing we place emphasis on content and relevance to our national and regional
       development aspirations, seize the opportunity to „leapfrogging‟ into the new
       information economy. Our new Task Group “Scientific Data Sources in Africa”
       (based on DSAO model) is trying to reach to several countries within the continent
       with the view to sensitizing scientists about the activities of CODATA.


   3. The CODATA AFRICA initiative would create an integrated and adaptive
       Information Infrastructure and related processes for providing ready access to the
       national resource of scientific data and related information. This effort will support the
       needs of data originators, users, and custodians across all phases of the data life cycle.


   4. The establishment of a discussion list server to keep on with the positions that have
       been initiated in Dakar and ultimately we should aim at cooperating at the regional
       level and have the North, West, East and South African Groups set up.


   5. A survey of the S &T Research Potential in order to obtain information on African
       factual and numerical data collections with directories and summaries of current
       research projects, centers of expertise and individual scientific qualifications and
       experiences.


This program will help the local scientific community in Africa take advantage of the
opportunities and expertise offered by CODATA International (and DSAO in some extent)
which has made a commitment to assist scientific research institutes and the local scientific
community by organizing web based training programs in the area of database development.
We will focus then on estimation of biodiversity, water management, environment and health-
related consequences on human health and on ecosystems.


By the end of the next biennium, formats for the data and the general structure of an
integrated multidisciplinary database will be developed. This database is assumed to satisfy
the following minimum requirements for working as effective research-support tool: step-by-
step development of small-sized single discipline databases before their integration,
clarification of data sources, reliability of systematically covered data within a specific area,
and user-friendliness in search, analysis, estimation, simulation, presentation and visualization
interfaces.


We will develop a practical multidisciplinary database prototype. This will help us move to a
short to long time-scale advanced database with functions for data analysis and estimation as
well      as      for      data      validation,      presentation       and       visualization.
These problem-oriented databases will include a thesaurus of terms and key words.


At the national, regional and international levels CODATA AFRICA members (Cameroon,
Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa) are working in numerous fields and are involved
in several scientific workshops and symposia. They are committed to help their governments
and parliaments to adopt and implement comprehensive strategies to alleviate poverty, with
explicit target for access to health, education, safe water, roads, energy and – specially –
telecommunications.


Visualization of ICSU – CODATA Activities in AFRICA

CODATA Senegal has developed since 1997, the very first bilingual (French and English)
CODATA - AFRICA Web Page in the whole region and has organized 2 successful
International CODATA AFRICA Workshops in 2000 and 2002. Those are contributing to
publicizing and more visibility for both ICSU and CODATA and maintain a high standard of
connection and networking of data and publications between African scientists, engineers,
teachers and the worldwide scientific community. http://www.codata.sn/homeeng.htm and / or
http://www.codata.sn
The highly successful Second International CODATA AFRICA Workshop on “Scientific
Data for Decision Making Toward Sustainable Development: Senegal River Basin Case
Study” was held this spring (March 11 – 15, 2002) in Dakar in cooperation with the US
National Committee for CODATA, the National Science Foundation and the US National
Academies. This workshop has examined data sources and data handling in the West Africa
region, using the Senegal River Basin as a case study, to determine how these scientific and
technical data assets are or can be better used in decision making related to sustainable
development.

								
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