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close this bookC.I.S.F.A.M.: Consolidated Information System for Famine Management in Africa - Phase One Report (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - World Health Organisation, 1987, 33 p.)
close this folderCHAPTER 3: Information Systems, Databases and the CISFAM Project: Overview of General Findings
close this folder3.2 CISFAM Informatic Considerations
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.2.1. Computer Software Use and Development: An Overview of Low-cost Options
View the document3.2.2. Hard and Software Capabilities and Needs: CRED

3.2.1. Computer Software Use and Development: An Overview of Low-cost Options

With the introduction of the personal computer, data processing equipment has become more affordable, easier to install and maintain, and no longer demands specialized skills for full utilization. These characteristics tend to facilitate the use of computer systems in developing countries, where information technology continues to be an essential tool for development. Increasingly, the personal computer is being applied to the planning and managing of development. The result is high-quality information for use in decision-making to help determine what projects are needed, to aid in implementing and monitoring them, and to evaluate their results. On a much wider scale than ever professional and technical personnel in developing countries have available the computing power needed to organize and analyze large quantities of data.

Appropriate software is the key, in fact, to the effectiveness of personal computers in the development process. Such software has been prepared by United Nations specialized agencies, multilateral and bilateral donor agencies, universities and foundations. In most instances, it is available free of charge from the organizations that produced it, on request of developing-country governmental agencies. In addition to appropriate software, decision-makers and users must have the personal computer hardware. With these two elements in place, expanding the use of information technology is a matter of connecting the information need, the software package and the personal computer. Because of the way software is designed, no package works on a personal computer without an operative system. One or more supporting packages may be required, depending on the application programme.

Besides the ELAS system, operational in CISFAM, there are two other possibilities that require lighter support mechanisms for the international CISFAM focal point. These are as follows:

1) The ARC/INFO is a system running on the following hardware:

. PRIME 750 CPU with 6 Mb memory
. 2 × 675 Mb fixed disks
. 1 CALCOMP 1044 Pen Plotter and 9100 Digitizer
. 1 Textronix 4109 colour display

The ARC/INFO digitizes and processes vector based cartographic information and has many routines for operations research applications (optimizing networks etc.). It supports raster-based data and can do overlays. Whereas ELAS can overlay twenty raster maps, ARC can deal with two at a time. The INFO routine can carry out database inquiries on attribute data, which has special implications for the type of information available in health and other population-based data.

2) A PC option for similar analyses and processing is the ERDAS system. This designed to run on IBM and IBM compatible personal computers. The support hardware required are:

. IBM PC AT with 85 Mb fixed disk and 1 floppy disk units
. Cartridge Tape Unit
. Colour Image Display, 512 × 512, 19”
. CALCOMP digitizer
. Colour inkjet plotter

The ERDAS system supports both vector and raster-based data and is very user-friendly. It has a well developed digitizing and editing routines and a large number of image-processing routines.

Table 3
Software Available for Low-cost Information Systems: Sources and Types

PACKAGE NAME

APPLICATION

USER SKILL

HARD/SOFTWARE

FAO FARM ANALYSIS PACKAGE (FARMAP)

Processes farm survey data for farmers, agricultural experts and government officials

Familiarity with word processing, spreadsheet and/or databases helpful. Users must receive one month of initial training at FAO.

IBM PC (256 KB) with 2 × 360 KB diskette drives, IBM portable PC or PC XT; IBM monochrome display and Graphics Printer or equivalent DOS 2.10; PC-SORT

MULTIPURPOSE AGRICULTURAL DATA SYSTEMS (MADS III)

Produces computer models of agricultural development projects

Familiarity with word processing spreadsheet and/or databases essential. Ability to programme helpful

IBM PC (256 KB) with 2 × 360 KB diskette drives or PC XT; IBM monochrome display, IBM Graphics Printer or equivalent DOS 2.10

DEMOGRAPHIC PROJECTION MODEL FOR MICROCOMPUTERS

Projects population growth and change

No computer expertise required. Comes with an user’s manual giving step-by-step instructions on using the programme and a sample database on diskette suitable for training.

IBM PC (256 KB) with 2 × 360 KB diskette drives or PC XT; IBM monochrome display; IBM Graphics Printer; or equivalent. DOS 2.10

CENSUS TABULATION SYSTEM (CENTS 4)

Processes data from census questionnaires

Familiarity with word processing, spreadsheet and/or databases essential. Ability to programme helpful.

IBM PC XT with expansion unit; IBM Monochrome display; IBM Graphics Printer or equivalent DOS 2.10; COBOL Compiler, ASCII text editor

BACHUE-INTERNATIONAL LONG-TERM SIMULATION DEMO-ECONOMIC MODEL

Analyzes economic and demographic data to estimate economic growth.

Familiarity with word processing spreadsheet and/or databases essential. Ability to programme helpful

IBM PC (256 KB) with 2 × 360 KB diskette drives or PC XT; IBM Monochrome display; IBM Graphics Printer, or equivalent. DOS 2.10