|Expanding Access to Science and Technology (UNU, 1994, 462 pages)|
|Session 2a: Experiences with international cooperation and the developing countries|
|A critical evaluation of experiences and strategies|
After providing an overview of the contributions of various types of bodies participating in international cooperation - (1) non-governmental organizations and professional associations, (2) organizations of national character, and (3) intergovernmental organizations, with those of the United Nations system in a separate category - the paper discusses three intergovernmental conferences that considered the question of improving access to scientific and technical information. Particular attention is given to an examination of the strategies that governed the establishment and execution of the sets of actions and programmes that emerged. Finally, attention is given to special difficulties in access encountered by the developing countries.
During my last three of four years at Unesco, I had the privilege to be concerned with the project for the Revival of the Ancient Library of Alexandria . I cannot help but recall that this great library of classical antiquity was in many ways the first information and learning centre with an international dimension. Its policy was to collect manuscripts in different languages from every source, translate the texts, prepare them for use by bibliographic control, and make them available to the scientific community of the time. It was in the intellectual environment of this information centre that scholars came to explore, exchange information, invent, and study astronomy, physics, mathematics, geometry, anatomy, biology, geography, literature, philosophy, and engineering. The numerous findings and inventions born under the roof of the ancient Bibliotheca Alexandrina are clear evidence of the close relationship that has always existed between information and the advancement of science and the role that scientific and technical information (STI) plays in the discovery of new frontiers.
From the time of the international library of antiquity to the international information systems, networks, and services of today, history is rich with examples of international cooperation pointing the way for the information world of tomorrow.
The most advanced countries have indeed already entered the Information Age - a creature of information technology that itself results from the marriage of computers and telecommunications, hardware and software, information systems and services. We are told that "by the year 2000, to all intents and purposes, information technology will be able to create a nearly Information-transparent world, while fiber optics will carry libraries of information to anyone, anywhere, who pushes a button!" . It seems that three revolutionary technological changes will be required to bring about affordable individual access to global on-line information: efficient large-scale database construction and maintenance, high speed digital transmission networks, and highly precise intelligent searchware. "As these technological revolutions appear over the next several decades, they will result in a worldwide information system that will have a major impact on the entire information industry" . And, indeed, on society itself, since they will affect the way people work, the way they act and organize themselves, and even the way they think.
We are gathered in Kyoto today to explore the role of information technology in facilitating access to science and technology. The objective of the symposium is to assess the potential of scientific and technological developments for enhancing the capacity to handle, transfer, exchange, and access information. Towards the conclusion of the symposium a panel will discuss and recommend new modalities of international cooperation for the future.
It seems useful to consider past experiences in international cooperation. A shared knowledge of past efforts and a better understanding of the strategies used, their impact and limitations, will help prepare the future. This paper is not a comparative review of international information systems and programmes, nor is it an evaluation of performances and results. Although the information needs of the developing countries permeate the whole presentation, it cannot be considered a review on the subject. The panel in Session 2B, "Achievements and Limitations in International Cooperation As Seen by the Developing Countries," is complementary since it will provide a perception that the developing countries have of international assistance, international programmes, and other schemes and systems set up under the banner of "international cooperation."
The paper first describes the various patterns of international cooperation and then analyses three experiences and strategies resulting from high-level intergovernmental conferences. In the three cases sovereign states discussed the question of improving access to STI. Their recommendations and the sets of actions that emerged provide matter for a critical evaluation of the strategies selected for international cooperation.
From the outset it should be emphasized that the international support systems involved in international cooperation, whether governmental or non-governmental, bilateral or multilateral, can hope to play only a catalytic role in assisting national efforts. Decisions on the nature of involvement in new technological areas, the kind of infrastructures to create, and the areas for priority action are all primarily the responsibility of the developing countries concerned .
International cooperation among nations is founded on the belief that everyone stands to gain from the benefits of sustainable growth, prevention of deterioration of the national environment, and satisfaction of people's basic needs - including access to information.
As we approach the end of the millennium, we observe that the developing countries are recognizing the value of self-generative efforts to orient their internal development strategies as an essential precondition to engaging in international cooperation. At the same time, the international community should conceive new ways of organizing international cooperative efforts that will take the real needs of the developing countries into greater account .
A first set of questions comes to mind: What bodies are concerned with international cooperation in the field of information? What are the prevailing patterns? What are the driving forces behind such cooperation? What are the strong points and weaknesses of these different patterns? What are the implications for the developing countries?
The literature contains several papers that cover some specific aspects of international cooperation in information. In general, the literature on this subject is descriptive rather than analytical or critical. Some review articles do provide a useful general overview [e.g. 1, 4, 10, 12, 14, 16, 21, 22].
We may attempt to elucidate the subject under three main headings:
(1) Professional associations and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
(2) National systems, agencies, institutions, and foundations
(3) Intergovernmental organizations
But before doing so, it may be useful to establish working definitions. In this paper the term "information" is generally used in a generic sense, irrespective of the sources, form of presentation, or transfer medium used. The term "data" denotes groups of numerical and statistical facts. The term "information system" is also used in a generic sense to denote libraries, documentation and information services, data banks, etc., as well as networks of these components.
2.1 Professional Associations and International Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
International cooperation has long been an essential characteristic of both the scientific and the information communities.
Since the early days scientists have developed a tradition of interchange of information and data. This tradition has survived the challenges of distant communication, wars, and totalitarian regimes. Of course, political, military, and industrial interests prevent a totally free exchange of information, but cooperation remains an intrinsic element in the advancement of science - a fact well illustrated at the international level in the work of the ICSU, the International Council of Scientific Unions.
Parallel to the trend towards cooperation among scientists is, of course, that in the information professions. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID) are known internationally for their achievements in this area. The FID will soon celebrate its hundredth anniversary and is the senior NGO in the information field. To name but a few of the numerous non-governmental bodies that have programmes for fostering worldwide cooperation in information transfer, we may also cite the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), the International Council on Archives (ICA), and the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO).
It should be recalled that many national professional associations in the industrialized countries also have international cooperative programmes and, therefore, participate in international cooperation.
The work of these international associations and non-governmental organizations is essential and their contribution in international cooperation is fundamental. They are non-profit organizations, the driving force of which is the advancement of their respective professions in the service of society. They usually assemble, on a voluntary basis, top specialists in their fields and implement an impressive variety of useful activities and projects. However, there may never be resources enough to allow all their plans to be carried out. A critical study of these organizations  showed as early as 1973 that their proliferation to help solve information problems created an information problem of its own! Their number is continuing to grow, especially in Europe, underlining an urgent need for overall coordination. A recent World Guide  lists over 600 associations in the field of library, archives, and information science around the globe, of which 76 are international.
Most NGOs are concerned with the problems of the developing countries, and many have branches in or members from the various regions of the world. However, all in all, the participation and influence of the members from the third world remain weak - in many cases because of the high cost of travelling involved. Consequently most of the NGOs and professional associations having international missions and programmes are still primarily oriented around Europe and North America.
2.2 National Systems, Agencies, Institutions, and Foundations
Under this second pattern of cooperation we have grouped structures of national character - created, funded, and governed essentially at the national level - such as national information systems and services, national development agencies, and institutions and national foundations that undertake some form of international cooperation but are neither professional associations, NGOs, nor intergovernmental organizations.
In the last 30 years, agreements signed by information systems from different countries, in the same or in different regions, have grown in number and proliferated rapidly. These may provide for the operation of joint information services; the sharing in information systems' input and output; the creation of databases; the setting up of information networks; the distribution of information products; the development of common tools; the exchange of indexed literature; and the training of personnel; as well as, in general, for the sharing of workload.
Such cooperative work patterns exist among publishers and editors, abstracting and indexing services, information systems and services - at every step of the information-transfer chain, from the producer of information to the final user .
The impetus for this type of international cooperation or sharing of resources varies. It is usually economic, aiming essentially at reducing product costs, increasing timeliness and reliability, improving access, and extending the usefulness of recorded information. The driving force is often commercial, information being considered a commodity. Economic and time pressures are forcing organizations to share rather than duplicate information and resources. In most cases international cooperation among institutions and services is achieved rapidly when the economic advantages of doing so become clear. In the next section we shall see that many regional cooperative schemes, systems, and networks, linking a number of national institutions in the developing countries, are sponsored by intergovernmental organizations.
Under this second pattern of international cooperation many national development agencies or institutions carry out bilateral assistance to the developing countries. Most industrialized countries have a national agency, ministry, or programme within a governmental structure devoted to international cooperation, especially with the developing countries. We may cite for the purpose of illustration JAICA, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; NORAD, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation; SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency; DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency; The British Council; The Direzione Generale Cooperazione Allo Sviluppo, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the French Ministries of Cooperation and of Foreign Affairs; the USAID, the US Agency for International Development; and the BMZ, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation.
The impetus for such international cooperation, often referred to as "bilateral assistance," is essentially political in nature; it aims most often at helping friendly countries. The recipient countries may sometimes feel that this type of cooperation has more "strings attached" than does the more "neutral" cooperation with the NGOs or the intergovernmental organizations. However, the relatively larger funds invested per project by these development agencies provide incentive. In addition, there is often an element of project evaluation with strong possibilities of follow-up and phasing of the project until the national authorities can absorb its management.
A very interesting tendency can be observed among some national development agencies to shift from offering purely bilateral to the so-called "multi-bilateral" assistance. In this framework individual development projects, while financed by a donor agency, are entrusted to a specialized agency of the UN system such as Unesco, FAO, or UNIDO, for execution. In such cases, the national development agency enters into a funds-in-trust agreement with the executing agency. This trend indicates that some donor agencies recognize the competence of the specialized agencies in their respective fields and the difficulty they themselves have in dealing with projects in a very wide array of technical fields. The "multi-bilateral" approach is also preferred in sensitive areas such as communication, because, as said earlier, the association with the UN is perceived as "neutral" and void of political interests.
One agency that deserves to be singled out on two accounts is Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). First, although the IDRC is funded by the government, like the other development agencies mentioned above, it is autonomous in its policies and activities. Its Board of Governors is international and reflects the non-partisan, multicultural nature of the organization. It assists developing countries in creating their own long-term solutions to pressing development problems. The second important fact is that the IDRC has designated information as one of its major sectors of activity.
This is not generally the case. Development agencies may sometimes include an information-related component within a larger development project, but seldom assign priority to a project dealing exclusively with the establishment of an information system or network in a developing country. Access to scientific and technical information is generally not viewed as a need at the same level as food, health, education, etc., when priorities for assistance to the developing world are assigned.
This is also true of the numerous foundations that in the industrialized world support a wide variety of activities in many different areas, including music, restoration of art, study grants, etc. There again information-related activities tend to find little favour except in the form of support to publications.
2.3 Intergovernmental Organizations
While there is ample justification for bilateral modes of cooperation among countries and for their preferred orientation, it is generally recognized that there are some problems that are universally significant and appropriate for multilateral efforts, and that require concerted political will. Access to STI falls within this category. We shall consider this issue under two broad classes of intergovernmental organizations: (1) Intergovernmental organizations outside the UN system and (2) the intergovernmental organizations belonging to the UN system.
2.3.1 Intergovernmental Organizations outside the UN System
Since the end of the Second World War, we have witnessed the emergence of regional groupings of countries for cooperative purposes in the areas of politics, economics, and development. In many cases, the countries have recognized regional cooperation in information as a necessary basis for their cooperation in other fields. This has been the case, to various degrees, for instance, for the Arab League, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Commission (EC), and Les Sommets de la Francophonie (summits of countries using French as one of their languages), which created BIEF, a data bank of francophone countries that constitutes an example of successful North-South cooperation.
A regional approach to the development of cooperative information systems appeals to the countries concernedin that it focuses attention on their specific needs and fits into a framework of other co-operative programs in the social, economic, and cultural fields. The possibility of sharing their resources for the development of national information infrastructures and for the improvement of their capacity to utilize international information systems, services and programs is also a positive feature of regional co-operation.... Similarly, the sharing of resources among countries of the same region results in greater effectiveness, particularly with regard to the training of information personnel, the use of telecommunications, the elaboration and application of norms and standards, and the improvement of access to information sources. 
We shall cite as an example of successful regional cooperation the EURONET - the European On-Line Information Network. Homet  described European policy in mass communication and telecommunication in the 1970s and pointed out the domination, rarely challenged, of the national postal, telephone, and telegraph agencies (PTTs). The engineering predilection for a single, standardized telecommunications system prevailed over arguments in favour of innovation. In fact, when the Commission of European Communities decided to establish EURONET, no public European network existed, but thought had been given at some point to building a private network with limited PTT involvement. By mid-1975 it became evident that such a network would make economic sense only if it were eventually extended for computer services and community-wide information. The technical network of EURONET became a sub-network of a public PTT network. It created for the first time a distance-independent tariff. Following the agreement with the national telecommunications authorities, EURONET was replaced by interconnected national networks in 1985.
In parallel, the European Commission encouraged the creation of European databases and their use across the Community. International collaboration was stimulated and many projects were supported by the Commission. By the end of 1988, Europe was offering more than 900 databases on 88 computer hosts. The direct information access network in Europe became known as EURONET DIANE. Many users were dissatisfied with the variety of retrieval languages that had to be used, so the Commission encouraged the use of the Common Command Language (CCL). Now, the European Commission Host Organization (ECHO), a non-commercial organization, offers access to unique databases and data banks that are not available on other on-line host services. ECHO is also a Community instrument for the development of the information services market and the promotion of new technologies .
This is an example of concrete and successful international cooperation within a regional group of countries. Two important ingredients were basic to the success: political will and adequate funding. All technical problems could be solved in due time.
2.3.2 Intergovernmental Organizations of the UN System
Most organizations within the UN system have developed information systems to support their internal needs as well as international information systems in their fields oriented toward member states. We are concerned here with the latter, since they contribute to improved access to science and technology. Large amounts of substantive information are gathered and disseminated by these systems. Improving the accessibility of the UN information resources has been, since its creation in 1983, one of the main objectives of ACCIS, the Advisory Committee for the Coordination of Information Systems. Earlier, the JOB, the Inter-Organization Board for Information Systems, had had this role. The Directory of United Nations Databases and Information Services  produced by ACCIS is a guide to 872 computerized databases and information systems and services.
These cover a wide variety of subjects, including natural resources and the environment, agriculture, industry, health, population, human settlements, science and technology, and education. In spite of their shortcomings, they have had a very positive impact. It is doubtful that such international development could have occurred solely under the auspices of national governments or private firms and in the absence of the "UN family." The legitimacy of UN systems has generated in the developing countries an interest and activity in the information field that would not have come about in their absence . In fact, a developing country, in order to participate in and take advantage of the UN information systems has to develop a minimum information base, that is to train personnel, collect nationally produced documentation as input into the international systems, organize the diffusion to national users of the information made available through the UN information systems, and in many cases obtain high-level decisions and develop national policies. In all cases, a certain infrastructural development, including the use of information technology, is necessary. A statement by C. Keren, who reviewed the literature  deserves repetition: "Information activities in less developed countries would probably never have reached their present state without the active support of international organizations, such as Unesco, UNIDO, FAO and IAEA; professional organizations, such as FID and IFLA; and funding organizations, such as IDRC."
On the problematic side, one may say that countries without the necessary information base have not been able to benefit from these systems. The information provided by many of them is in the form of bibliographic citations, which are of limited usefulness if access to the primary literature cannot be provided. The information retrieved from these systems in large quantities often needs to be organized, evaluated, and digested by qualified personnel with a good grasp of the scientific subject covered before it can be utilized by the end user. In addition, these systems are costly and their operating budgets at the international level are usually. low. This often impedes the granting of substantial assistance to the developing countries.
A few selective examples will serve to illustrate the wide array of information services offered within the UN family:(a) The United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBIS) of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library is an on-line bibliographic and factual information system covering the publications and documents of the United Nations. About 25 per cent of the citations concern STI.
(b) The United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) has developed the Corporate Profile System (CPS) dealing with the activities of transnational corporations in developing countries and the issue of technology development (transfer of technology, the role of transborder data flow, impact of new micro-electronic technologies). Over 60 per cent of users of the system are from the developing countries.
(c) The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) operates a regional multidisciplinary bibliographic information system called the Pan-African Documentation and Information System (PADIS), containing references to information on African economic, social, scientific, and technological development.
(d) The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) operates two major information systems, the Industrial and Technological Information Bank (INTIB) and the Technological Information
Exchange System (TIES), combining referral, retrospective search, and the provision of consolidated and repackaged information. The first, INTIB, covers bibliographic information generated by UNIDO as well as information on institutions and technology suppliers. TIES provides information on the terms and conditions of technology contracts. UNIDO also assists countries in establishing information services for industry.
(e) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) operates the on-line International Referral System for Sources of Environmental Information (INFOTERRA), which directs users to sources of information in a wide range of scientific and technological topics pertaining to the environment. UNEP also runs the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC).
(f) The United Nations University (UNU) operates a bibliographic database entitled Abstracts of Selected Solar Energy Technology (ASSET), covering solar, wind, and bioconversion energy.
(g) The two major information systems of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are the International Information System for Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS) and the Current Agricultural Research Information System (CARTS). AGRIS is a decentralized cooperative bibliographic network of centres in charge of collecting, processing, and disseminating information on published agricultural literature. CARIS is a referral system on ongoing research in the field. FAO also provides technical assistance for strengthening national information services in agriculture in the developing countries.
(h) The International Labour Organisation (ILO) operates the International Labour Documentation (LABORDOC) - a global bibliographic database covering industrial relations, technological changes, labour laws, employment, etc.
(i) The World Health Organization (WHO) is a highly decentralized organization comprising a headquarters in Geneva, six regional offices, and a number of programme coordinating units. Information systems exist at all levels on a large number of specific medical subjects.
(j) The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) operates an International Patent Documentation Centre (INPADOC) that provides information on technological solutions as described in patent documents.
(k) The International Nuclear Information System (INIS) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) covers the substantive literature of nuclear science and its peaceful applications. It is organized on the same pattern as AGRIS. It provides for decentralized input, centralized processing, decentralized access, and utilization of information.
(l) The World Weather Watch (WWW) provided by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is considered among the most successful and truly global cooperative information networks.
(m) Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, carried out in 1991 through its clearing-house an inventory of
its information services  and lists 69 operational databases as well as 15 under development (46 per cent referral, 43 per cent bibliographic, and 10 per cent numerical). Among the numerical ones, we may cite the Statistical Yearbook, which provides access to over 2.1 million statistics from over 200 countries and territories concerning population, education, science, culture, communication, and information.
But Unesco is unique within the UN family since it not only provides information services in its areas of competence, as do the other UN agencies, but it also covers "information" as a subject and has developed programmes in this field known as UNISIST and the General Information Programme (PGI). Through these, Unesco has been concerned with improved access to STI and has provided a conceptual framework for the establishment of national, regional, and international information systems and services, including technical assistance to the developing countries. We have seen that other agencies, such as FAO and UNIDO, also provide technical assistance to member states to create national structures. Because of their scope, magnitude, "horizontal" nature, and evolution, UNISIST and PGI deserve particular attention and will be the subject of separate sections in this paper.
Another separate section will be devoted to the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD), the recommendations of which are implemented by the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development with the support of the United Nations Centre on Science and Technology for Development. It will be remembered that UNCSTD also gave particular attention to the problem of access to STI.
The analysis of Unesco's programmes in STI, UNISIST and the PGI, their evolution, changes in emphasis, difficulties and achievements, as well as the analysis of UNCSTD's original ambitions and later problems of implementation, will provide a basis for evaluating past experiences and strategies. These programmes have offered, at various periods, high-level international forums for the expression by all countries of their information needs and requirements, their wishes and priorities, and their views regarding international cooperation in the field of information. The lessons to be drawn are important and should help in designing future programmes and aid reflection on new modalities of international cooperation.
Emphasis will be placed on strategies, choices, and approaches rather than on activities, projects, and modalities of action. Regarding modalities, we may simply recall that international programmes of cooperation have attempted to reach their objectives by a range of actions, including the convening of intergovernmental conferences, congresses, and symposia; meetings of working groups and committees; publication and diffusion of guidelines, studies, surveys, and technical documents; promotion of norms, methods, and standards; demonstration of new technologies through pilot projects; organization of training programmes and workshops; granting of fellowships, equipment, software; provision of experts and consultants; etc. In view of the emergence of new information technologies, we may ask whether: there are modalities, other than those mentioned above, to be experimented with. Will the new information technologies offer new ways of communication and exchange that will allow innovation and the exploration of new horizons in international cooperation?
3.1 UNISIST I
In the 1960s the attention given to "Big Science" was paralleled by an uncoordinated development of information systems and services. Many leaders in the international scientific community became concerned that the prevailing unharmonious trends in handling information were in fact jeopardizing the traditions of international exchange of scientific information. The ICSU and Unesco-joined in a three-year (1968-1970) feasibility study, the results of which were submitted to an intergovernmental conference convened in October 1971 and later known as UNISIST I. The recommendations and priorities expressed by member states at the conference gave shape to the UNISIST Intergovernmental Programme of Unesco, designed to stimulate and guide voluntary cooperative action and to facilitate access to and exchange of STI.
Despite early use of the terminology "World Science Information System," UNISIST was from the beginning conceived as a long-term programme. It had as its broad principles:
The unimpeded exchange of published or publishable scientific information and data among scientists of all countries.
Hospitality to the diversity of disciplines and fields of science and technology as well as to the diversity of languages used for the international exchange of scientific information.
Promotion of the interchange of published or publishable information and data among the systems, whether manual or machine, which process and provide information for the use of scientists and engineers.
The co-operative development and maintenance of technical standards in order to facilitate the interchange of scientific information and data among systems.
Promotion of compatibility between and among information processing systems developed in different countries and in different areas of the sciences.
Promotion of co-operative agreements between and among systems in different countries and in different areas of the sciences for the purpose of sharing work-loads and of providing needed services and products.
Assistance to countries, both developing and developed, which seek access to contemporary and future information services in the sciences.
The development of trained manpower and of resources of published information and data in all countries as necessary foundations for the utilization of machine systems.
The increased participation of scientists in the development and use of information systems, with particular attention to the involvement of scientists in the evaluation and synthesis of scientific information and data.
The involvement of the coming generation of scientists in the planning of scientific information systems of the future.
The reduction of administrative and legal barriers to the flow of scientific information between and among countries. 
These principles, considered basic for the improvement of the international flow of scientific information, later proved applicable not only to science and technology but also to all fields of human knowledge. The whole UNISIST programme and international movement derived therefrom was based on the firm belief that:
Scientific information embodies the heritage of man's scientific knowledge. It constitutes an essential resource for the work of scientists. It is a cumulative resource; knowledge builds on knowledge as new findings are reported. It is an international resource, built painstakingly by scientists of all countries without regard to race, language, colour, religion or political persuasion. As it is built internationally, so it is used internationally. Scientists who are its builders and users ask only that each other's contributions be verifiable; it is, therefore, not only a source; it is a means through which the world's scientists maintain their discipline. It is a medium for the education of future scientists, and a principle reservoir of concepts and data to be drawn on for application to economic and technological development programs. Unisist is concerned with the cultivation of this resource, with increasing international co-operation to improve its accessibility and use, to the end that, as an international resource, it contribute optimally to the scientific, educational, social, cultural and economic development of all countries. 
The twenty-five-year-old UNISIST "credo" is still valid today. It is in fact basic to all present and future efforts of international cooperation to expand access to information on science and technology. While the strategy remained the gradual establishment of a flexible and loosely connected world science information network, based on voluntary cooperation of existing and future information services, UNISIST remained a promotional and catalytic programme organized along the following five programme objectives:
(1) Improving tools of systems interconnection
(2) Strengthening the institutional components of the information transfer chain
(3) Developing specialized information manpower, especially in the developing countries
(4) Developing scientific information policies and national networks
(5) Assisting member states, especially the developing countries, in creating and developing their scientific and technical information infrastructures
During its implementation, increasing attention was given to "technology," in addition to "science," and to the needs of the developing countries. In fact, the feasibility study had come under criticism at the UNISIST I conference for its lack of adequate attention to the specific situations in the developing countries.
The Intergovernmental Conference on Scientific and Technological Information for Development (UNISIST II) convened in 1979 [28, 29] evaluated the work achieved so far under the UNISIST programme. The original recommendations of the 1971 conference, the strategy adopted, and the programme activities carried out were thought to have been sound. Much had been achieved, but a great deal more needed to be done. Many countries had yet to develop coherent national information policies, to set up and coordinate the necessary information infrastructures, and to establish systematic programmes for education of information workers and users, who now ranged from economic planners to "grassroots" workers in local communities.
The emphasis on "science" in the original UNISIST programme had been thought by the developing countries to indicate a primary concern with the "elite" and thus to bypass many of the basic information requirements and needs of the most deprived international partners. The developing countries had not fully appreciated, in the early 1970s, the emphasis given to information technology, the systems approach, and the accent on standardization with a view to interconnecting systems. At the time, real information concerns in the third world were much closer to the preoccupations of the librarians and archivists facing everyday problems of poor collections, low budgets, lack of adequate space, lack of trained manpower, need for simple equipment, etc. UNISIST was perceived as being too sophisticated for the developing countries. Pure science was felt to be the realm of the industrialized countries, whereas the developing ones needed applied sciences, technology, know-how, and relatively simple solutions to social and economic problems.
In fact Unesco had at the time - in the early 1970s - another programme that addressed these library, documentation, and archives issues. The overlap between these programmes was such that in order to avoid risks of duplication, competition, and conflicting advice and opposing approaches to problems, the General Conference of Unesco combined them and created in 1976 the General Information Programme (PGI) .
3.2 The PGI and UNISIST 11
The inclusion of libraries and archives, together with a programme conceived for scientific and technical information, under the General Information Programme was accomplished within the basic structure that had been designed for UNISIST:
- promotion of the formulation of information policies and plans
- promotion and dissemination of methods, norms, and standards for in formation handling
- contribution to the development of information infrastructures
- contribution to the development of specialized information systems
- promotion of the training and education of specialists in and users of in formation
The PGI was formed concurrently with the launching of Unesco's first Medium-Term Plan (1977-1982). The integration of issues related to library, documentation, and archives services with those related to the transfer of scientific and technical information proved smoother and easier than expected. However, the international scientific community, represented through the ICSU, felt that it had lost its specific programme in this new marriage and was never reconciled with the way the new programme evolved.
By 1979, when UNISIST II was convened, it was obvious that a majority of member states were concerned with the role science and technology played in the development process. It was generally felt that humanity was confronted with a set of problems that needed all the wisdom, intelligence, and generosity it could muster to solve them. To the difficulties caused by the energy crisis were added those created by threats against peace, the deterioration of the environment, the disorder of international commerce, unemployment, political and social tensions, hunger, and the dramatic gap existing between the standard of living in the richer and that in the poorer countries. There was cause for concern, but not alarm. Man can use knowledge to solve these problems. The wise use of knowledge presupposes the efficient management of information .
During the 1960s development and progress had been regarded to a large extent as synonymous; and for many developing countries "development" meant striving to reach in two or three decades the stage that had then been reached by the industrialized countries. By the end of the 1970s perceptions of the development process had changed. Developing countries were seeking a type of development that was endogenous, that is, more closely related to their own cultures and traditions; they were concerned with the social and economic consequences of the applications of imported technology. Developing countries wanted information relevant to national needs and objectives. Without relevant information, decision makers cannot choose the best courses of action. If information systems and services were to play an effective role in the solution of development problems, they had to be designed accordingly. It was widely accepted that access to information somehow contributed to development, although as has often been pointed out [14, 21], there has been little research, collection of hard data, or verification of the assumption that there is a well-established correlation between information and development. However, it was known that highly developed countries used 2-3 per cent of the R&D expenditures for STI activities, while for the developing countries this figure fell to a few per mills. Even if the connection between development and information had not been established, it was intuitively accepted as a fact.
It was in this frame of mind that the UNISIST II conference met in May 1979. There was wide agreement at the conference  that building up national ability to generate, handle, disseminate, and retrieve information was a paramount task of an international cooperative programme such as Unesco's, since without this ability, such goals as improving access to and the flow and use of information would be difficult to reach. But in this area, as in others, Unesco could act only as a catalyst. The success of its action depended on member states freely accepting their share of responsibility for sustaining effective action.
Political, economic, social, and cultural conditions varied so much from country to country that advice on how to develop information policies and infrastructures could only be of an indicative kind. The experience of developed countries was not necessarily relevant to the developing ones, and a great deal of imaginative adaptation was necessary.
The conference strongly felt that information users deserved greater attention. It discerned a wide variety of users engaged in the development process and advocated the design and supply of tailor-made services to meet the various needs. This implied the selection and evaluation of published information and its presentation in forms suitable for defined audiences. Repackaged information was needed both at the levels of policy makers and planners and at the grass-roots of development in rural areas and small enterprises. Since all sorts of information in a variety of subjects and in different forms and on a variety of supports were thought to be useful for development, the accent was placed for the first time at the intergovernmental level on the social "function" of information. This outlook has since been further developed and expanded to form the notion of "professional information" .
Concerning the application of new information technologies, the developing countries needed clear and unbiased explanations of what the new technologies could, and could not, do for them and to have as support further demonstration of services based on new technologies. Developing countries also needed cheap access to on-line services, since long-distance telephone costs were prohibitive for most users. New forms of training were in great demand.
A primary role for Unesco could be summarized as mobilizing "seed" money or "pump-priming" money for the creation of information policies and structures, systems and services, and training programmes in countries of different stages of development, so as to lead them to the point where their progress could become self-generating. This role implied a broad range of activities but, given limited resources, it also implied a strict identification of priorities for action. The priorities were in the areas of education and training and infrastructure building. A criticism often addressed to Unesco/ PGI was that the funds available for the programme were not commensurate with the wide variety of tasks to be performed, which resulted sometimes in spreading the budget very thinly and the risk of minimized impact.
The General Information Programme was gradually modified to approach as nearly as possible the new orientation recommended by UNISIST II. It became an interdisciplinary and intersectoral programme applied to the natural and to the social and human sciences. The Second Medium-Term Plan of Unesco, which defined the conceptual framework, goals, and action strategies from 1984 to 1989, defined the role of the PGI as: "to facilitate general access to information, to promote its free flow and to expand Member States' capacity to exchange, store and use information needed for development." The centre of gravity of the programme remained scientific and technical information, but changes from the previous plan included an insistence on information as a prerequisite for economic and social development; a strong emphasis on user-oriented systems and services and the problem of information underutilization; a marked concern with questions related to new technologies, the creation of databases in the developing countries, and the provision of software packages; an increased emphasis on developing tertiary information sources; an insistence on an adequate balance in the activities between information, libraries, and archives and the importance of regional approaches and collaboration.
The tasks carried out by the PGI were grouped under the following programmes and subprogrammes:
1. Improvement of access to information: modern technologies, standardization and interconnection of information systems(a) Development of tools for the processing and transfer of information
(b) Development and use of databases through the application of modern technologies and normative tools
(c) Exchange and flow of information: regional and international cooperation among member states and with the organizations of the United Nations system
2. Infrastructures, policies, and training required for the processing and dissemination of specialized information(a) National information policies and infrastructures
(b) Training of information personnel and information users
The impact and achievements of the programme are recorded in several documents, such as the biennial Report of the Director-General on the Activities of the Organization, the so-called C/3 series. Another set, known as the C/11 series, constitutes a statement and evaluation of Major Impacts, Achievements, Difficulties and Shortfalls for each programme activity of Unesco. Two articles, by Parker  and Roberts  respectively, provide useful overall reviews, rich with detailed examples of the wealth of guidelines, studies, and publications produced under the programme over the years.
One aspect of this programme deserves particular attention with respect to the theme of the Kyoto symposium: regional cooperation. Under this subprogramme, regional cooperative schemes requested by member states were encouraged and supported. Countries often find it easier to collaborate within the same region or subregion, as we saw earlier in the case of EURONET, for a number of reasons, including language, geographical vicinity, similarity of social and economic political and legal ties, etc. The projects undertaken have been fairly successful and have received strong encouragement and active participation. The weakness in these regional ventures, sponsored by Unesco in the developing countries, has been the paucity of funds. The seed money made available by Unesco in addition to the national contributions has often not been sufficient to reach the sums required for these schemes to progress as fast as they deserved and meet the regional demands. This is obviously not the case when substantial additional funds are made available from extra-budgetary sources, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as was the case for the setting up of the Arab League Documentation Centre (ALDOC).
We may cite as an illustration of successful regional projects CARSTIN, the Caribbean Regional Scientific and Technical Information Network, intended to build up scientific and technical information infrastructures, create a framework for information exchange, and enhance national capacity for handling and using STI. Other interesting examples are the Regional Programme for Strengthening Cooperation among Information Networks and Systems for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (INFOLAC); the Asia and Pacific Information Network on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (APINMAP); and the Regional Network for the Exchange of Information and Experience in Science and Technology in Asia and the Pacific (ASTINFO) [16, 20].
The objectives of ASTINFO are (a) to strengthen bibliographic control of each member country's own scientific and technological output, establish databases in subjects of interest to the region, supported by clearing-houses and document-delivery services; (b) to stimulate and promote the creation of non-bibliographic databases in science, technology, and certain socioeconomic fields of importance to development in the region; (e) to develop the basis for cross-border exchange of data and information; (d) to improve national information infrastructures; (e) to create in each country a national node; (f) to introduce new and innovative information services; (g) to train information specialists; and (h) to promote and market existing information services.
According to the ASTINFO Independent Evaluation Report , ASTINFO's major impact has been in the area of training scientific and technical information personnel, particularly in the use of computerized systems; the distribution and utilization of the CDS/ISIS software package; the creation of a considerable pool of expertise within the region for the utilization of the software package; and the demonstration of the use of information technology, on-line access, the use of CD-ROM, and similar tools.
Regional and subregional information networks are also emerging in specialized fields such as - in the case of Unesco - marine sciences, microbiology, renewable energy, and the chemistry of natural products.
As we pass from the Second to the Third Medium-Term Plan of Unesco (1990-1995), we can witness further significant changes in emphasis and environment.
First of all, the PGI was relocated to a newly created sector on Communication, Information, and Informatics (CII). Each of the three programmes constituting the sector has so far maintained its identity and specificity, but links will be strengthened resulting, on the one hand, from the convergence of technologies and their impact on society and, on the other, from the benefits to be derived from cooperative implementation of projects and activities, whenever feasible. It seems that a whole momentum has been initiated that will lead the way to a movement of cooperation and harmonization between the programmes of Communication, Information, and Informatics. The future will reveal how far this cooperation will go. At the Twenty-sixth Session of the Unesco General Conference, delegates were opposed to integration of the programmes under CII, but they endorsed coordination.
One of the significant changes in the present biennial set of activities for the PGI (1992-1993) is the disappearance of STI as a visible entity . This fact, which was deplored by a large number of delegates at the General Conference, deserves to be analysed.
We have seen how UNISIST, a programme essentially created for the promotion of STI, was conceived in the late 1960s and launched in the early 1970s. We saw how it expanded by the early 1980s to be concerned with information for development, broadly defined, and to achieve a satisfactory balance between activities in information, libraries, and archives.
During the first biennium (1990-1991) of the Third Medium-Term Plan (19901995), the activities of the PGI were grouped under the following headings:
- Conceptual and methodological framework
- Information services and networks in science and technology
- Libraries Archives
- Intergovernmental Council, subventions to NGOs, PGI Documentation Centre
In the second biennium (1992-1993), the PGI's activities are grouped under the following headings:
- Methodological framework, regional strategies and training
- Libraries and documentation units
- Coordination of the PGI
The disappearance of the heading "Information Services and Networks in Science and Technology" triggered at the General Conference a series of interventions deploring the disappearance of STI as an obvious major component of the PGI even though activities dealing with STI remained scattered under various headings of the programme. As we have seen, no agency of the United Nations, other than Unesco, had developed a programme for the promotion and coordination of STI systems and services, at the national, regional, and international levels. Unesco has had the leadership in this area within the United Nations for the last quarter of a century.
At this point, a reference to the ICSU is necessary.
With the encouragement of the ICSU Executive Board and the active collaboration of the ICSTI, CODATA conducted a survey in 1991 on current perceptions of problems in accessing STI  to see what new role the ICSU could play, in addition to the many activities related to information and data transfer carried out by the unions in their respective disciplines and by CODATA, the ICSU Panel on World Data Centers, and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). The survey considered the issue inter alia under the following headings:
(a) Restrictions on transmission across national
boundaries. No political barriers to the transfer of STI across national
boundaries seem to preoccupy scientists today. "Any scientific information
publicly available in one country appears to be accessible also to scientists in
other countries. In fact, the major information services do operate on an
international basis; the location of the computer containing the database which
a user is accessing is usually transparent to him" . The great concern with
"trans-border data flow" of the early 1980s seems to shade off, although some
continue to fear that governments may be tempted to restrict data outflow.
(b) Pricing policies and economic issues. There is concern about the high cost of electronic access to STI. There exists a wide variety of pricing policies and cost-recovery practices. The cost of creating and operating electronic databases obviously must be borne by someone, but wide variations in current practices exist from country to country, between different government agencies within the same country, and from one discipline to another. "The replies [to the survey] suggested confusion and concern but did not pinpoint a clearly-defined problem amenable to solution by ICSU."
(c) Information needs of the academic community. Discounts to academic users are sometimes offered. Most respondents to the survey favoured some form of price reduction for educational institutions. The fact that many university libraries cannot afford to purchase needed journals and books is not a simple problem of access to STI "but an integral part of the much broader problem of inadequate support to basic scientific research."
(d) Barriers that result from efforts of database owners to protect their intellectual property from unauthorized redistribution or other illegal practices. Most vendors seem to be moving toward a philosophy of charging on the basis of the amount of information delivered and permitting recipients to use that information as they wish. There is, nevertheless, a certain tension between the providers of STI who wish to protect the "added value" to the raw data and the scientific users "who reason that the scientific community created the information and therefore should have unhindered use of it." A balance between these points of view "will have to be established, but this will take time, and it is not clear how ICSU can influence the process."
In conclusion, the survey suggested several areas where CODATA and the ICSTI might expand the types of activities they have traditionally carried out (e.g. education and training, preparation of directories, standardization of formats and classification systems). In regard to the ICSU itself, the study does not indicate a need for a new ICSU activity on STI other than "to issue a statement of principle regarding the importance of effective information flow to the health of science" .
It should be stressed at this point that two of the above-mentioned issues remain at the heart of the debates in the industrialized countries and are reflected in the current published literature. First is the issue related to the consideration of information as a commodity versus a (subsidized) public good made available on a non-fee basis. And second is the problem of restriction to access. For example, in the United States, the 1991 White House Conference on Library and Information Services (WHCLIS) recommended that neither the Congress nor the Executive Branch shall abridge or restrict the right to public information through inappropriate classification, untimely declassification, or privatization of public information, nor should decisions be made to eliminate information collection and dissemination programmes for solely budgetary reasons .
A set of questions come to mind: Now that Unesco/PGI has modified its traditional balance in favour of libraries and that STI has lost its visibility, has not a gap been created? Should this gap be filled? Is there a need for an international focal point for STI? Will Unesco recapture this function in the future, or will information be amalgamated more and more with informatics and communication in Unesco international programmes of cooperation? Should not other governmental and non-governmental organizations strengthen their contributions in the area of STI ? Is STI an appropriate concept for international cooperation, or should one rather focus on the social use of information ?
The analysis of Unesco's programmes in STI has sketched the information needs and requirements of the international community and the evolution and changes in strategies of an international cooperative programme. The analysis of the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD), also known under the name "Vienna Conference," of 1979, will describe another international effort to improve access to STI, using a different approach.
We have seen that the UNISIST II Intergovernmental Conference that met in Paris in May 19;'9 - three months before the convening of UNCSTD in Vienna had emphasized the need to strengthen national capabilities to handle and use STI as a prerequisite for the developing countries to effectively participate in international efforts and achieve better access to the international reservoir of scientific and technical information, data, and know-how.
The UNISIST II conference addressed a resolution to UNCSTD in this respect emphasizing the importance of the "national level" and recalling that
. . . (f) given that national and international information services and systems develop in a compatible fashion, it will be technically feasible to establish, gradually and stepwise, flexible, co-operative international networks of information systems and services for the exchange of scientific and technical information; (g) the establishment of these networks will necessitate substantial resources and will need to be sustained by a continuous effort of goodwill and collaboration among nations and international systems; (h) the creation, maintenance, and development of national information infrastructures in developing countries necessitate large financial assistance without which it would be impossible to achieve these objectives in a satisfactory manner; . . .
The Unesco resolution further invited UNCSTD, when elaborating guidelines for future action, to take full advantage of the considerable experience accumulated by Unesco, through UNISIST, and by other United Nations agencies, and invited the conference to "avoid the creation of new programmes and structures within the United Nations system which could duplicate the work of existing agencies; . . . " 
This message was not heard in Vienna.
At its closing plenary meeting, UNCSTD adopted a Programme of Action. This programme dealt, in paragraphs 30 to 33, with scientific and technological information systems. The topic had been the subject of controversy. In fact, the conference report contains in Annex l "issues of the draft Programme of Action on which agreement was not reached at the Conference." As a follow-up, the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development and a secretariat, the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development (also referred to as UNCSTD), were developed.
Regarding STI, the Programme of Action foresaw the setting up of a new mechanism under UN auspices called GIN - the Global Information Network . Rather than building GIN gradually from the foundations up as recommended by UNISIST II, the UNCSTD conference advocated what could be called a "top-down" approach. Each country would have a national node, while a global central node would be created under UN auspices. The network would operate as a channelling mechanism facilitating contact between users and suppliers of information. Each national node would have the information-on-information for its country; the global central node would have it for the world at large. In cases of difficulty of obtaining a response from any other national node, the global node would take measures to ensure that the required information is provided. The accent was not only on published STI, but more particularly on know-how; on "foreign sources of technology supply, its terms, conditions and costs of all major factors and components contributing to the use and application of technology, to enable comparative evaluations to be made"; conditions of licensing, identification of suitable experts, engineers and consulting services, and the like .
The implementation of GIN met with many obstacles. Its establishment was an enormous task that could have been possible in the form of an evolutionary process taking place over several years during which considerable efforts and large financial resources would have had to be made by national administrations, regional intergovernmental organizations and the United Nations system, as well as the international scientific community at large.
This did not take place. Funds were not made available, probably because potential donors did not really believe in the proposed scheme. The UNCSTD conference had been essentially a political forum, where the voices of the scientists and the technical experts in the information sciences, telecommunication, and informatics were not heard. Also at stake were sensitive areas, such as know-how; terms, conditions, and costs of foreign sources of technologies; licensing conditions; and commercial interests. There was a widespread belief that GIN was an over-ambitious dream for which no serious systems design or cost evaluations had been done. One of the major obstacles, as was pointed out at UNISIST II and that is experienced in every international information effort, is the situation in many developing countries that were invited to become partners in the network. Lack of human and material resources, absence of information flow between decision makers and the productive sector, inadequacy of telecommunications and computer facilities, lack of trained manpower, difficulties in accessing primary documents, and the prevailing difficult overall social and economic conditions prevented many countries from seriously considering the proposed scheme, unless substantial investments could somehow have been made available to the developing countries. Most UN agencies had not made any specific budget provisions for their participation in GIN, considering instead some of their ongoing activities as contributions to the overall effort .
In 1989, 10 years after the Vienna Conference, the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development devoted its tenth session to the end-of-decade review of the implementation of the Programme of Action . It was concluded that the accomplishments during the 1980s had fallen far short of the objectives sought by the Programme of Action, except in a limited number of areas. The Global Information Network was not among these areas. As a matter of fact, the concept seems to have been altogether abandoned.
On the other hand, particular attention was given in the report to new technologies associated with development. Two distinct categories were identified: (1) technologies with relatively affordable R&D intensity, such as biotechnologies and energy technologies in which practically every country can hope to participate, and (2) technologies with high R&D intensities, such as information technologies, micro-electronics, microcomputers, and telecommunication and space technologies, whose core aspects of invention and development are presently centred in a handful of countries. Most developing countries and many developed countries could at best only participate in the innovative adaptation and use of these technologies .
A lesson that can be drawn from this experience is that an important impetus for successful international cooperation in the transfer of information is political. In Vienna, the developing countries insisted on having the Global Information Network, while the industrialized countries were opposed to it. The concept was retained in the Programme of Action but could not be implemented. The case of INIS, the International Nuclear Information System, also illustrates the importance of international political consensus. Woolston  explains that the member states of the United Nations wanted INIS
not so much for its intrinsic values as an information system, but because it represented a breakthrough from the Cold War and an early step towards a US-Soviet detente in the nuclear field. The politicians were right and, after the agreement on INIS, along came the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
If the political will is there, funds can always be found and enough pressure can be exercised to reach international agreement on technical matters. In the case of INIS, participating countries agreed in a relatively short time on all aspects of the system. This was also the case, as we have seen, for EURONET DIANE, where technical problems were gradually solved once the political will existed.
Another conclusion of the GIN experience may be that since the new information technologies evolve so fast, it may be practically impossible to design such a rigid system on a global level. Flexibility is essential. And, as was suggested earlier, a more realistic approach would have been to build the system from the foundations up, by trying at the same time to cope with some of the most urgent problems and obstacles in the developing countries.
What should not be lost sight of in the above analysis of the attempts and problems encountered in trying to establish GIN is the fact that it represented yet another cry of the developing world for better access to information relevant to their needs. GIN may be criticized on conceptual and technical grounds, but the fact remains that a visible and still growing imbalance does exist among countries in their ability to access and use STI.
In this respect, before concluding, a few further remarks are called for regarding the developing countries, although, on the one hand, many references to their needs, requirements, and problems have already been made and, on the other, the panel in Session 2B, "Achievements and Limitations in International Cooperation As Seen by the Developing Countries," will treat the subject.
"Developing countries" - a term widely used in the literature - comprise over 80 per cent of the nations of the world and include the most populous countries, such as China, India, and Indonesia, and account, therefore, for most of humanity. It has been found convenient to group under one term all these countries in spite of the fact that they are at different stages of development and demonstrate important differences in cultural, political, and social environments and traditions. We should, therefore, be fully conscious of the limitations of such a generalization [10, 14, 21]. As mentioned by Menou , there are much greater differences in the national situation regarding STI between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, for instance, than between Canada and Switzerland.
The published literature reporting on the situation of STI in developing countries tends to describe lacunae but seldom suggests solutions. It is generally observed that developing countries wishing to cooperate in international programmes and systems encounter many obstacles and present many interlinked problems in need of solutions [4, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 37]. These obstacles and problems constitute an impressive list that is well known to the organizations involved in international cooperation. They include inter alia language difficulties; the high cost of acquiring new technologies as well as primary literature and of linking to international systems; the emphasis on the supply of information rather than demand; legal and administrative barriers; low salaries, lack of trained personnel, and the brain-drain problem; minor relevance of available information to local problems; frequent personnel changes that occur with every government change; and the lack of adequate government support. According to Saracevic , "many reports perceive that if there is any one factor to be isolated as the greatest internal and external obstacle to the beneficial use of STI in development, it is the low level or even lack of recognition of its potential role and value, particularly among decision makers and officials of high ranks in the Less Developed Countries." Most reporters concur, although it is remarked that in recent years the third world has to some extent recognized the importance of information since it has used this as an issue in NorthSouth negotiations .
One of the serious problems in many developing countries is a lack of coordination among the information systems and services operating at the national level. Many so-called "focal points" are established to cooperate with diverse international information systems or programmes (e.g. focal points for AGRIS, UNEP, INIS, UNISIST, etc.). The situation is particularly dramatic when human and financial resources are scarce, as is too often the case. Better coordination is needed among them, at the country level, and among the supporting programmes at the international level.
To the above obstacles we should add the cultural environment; it is generally agreed that internationally available information products and sources are insufficiently attuned to local cultures and practices. Information technology may be alien to local perceptions and may cause resistance to change. Difficulties of a psychological or an intellectual nature that relate to the presentation of information cannot be neglected. In many cases there is a lack among potential users of a real information-seeking mentality and tradition, which are not conferred by the education system.
Past experience in working with the developing countries in trying to enhance access to information raises a number of questions :
- Should the developing countries be considered as permanent users of information, the bulk of which is produced and made available in the North, while their endogenous production is neglected? If not, then do we know how to harness endogenous information and make it available internationally through existing systems and services?
- Should the developing countries focus on their connection to existing systems and services, internationally available, or invest in creating their own infrastructures?
- If the option selected is the creation and strengthening of national information infrastructures, and considering the limited resources, should priority be given to building a "national memory" for the long term or to providing effective services to the users in the short term?
- Can the information services in the developing countries be sustained and allowed to survive and grow, if information continues to be locally subsidized and handled as a free public good, rather than a commodity?
- Consequently, how could an "information market" be progressively created in a socio-economic environment marked by low income and low resources?
The challenge of international cooperative programmes and systems has been to deal with this set of complex and intricate obstacles and problems and yet produce some tangible results. Will the new information technologies provide new opportunities and new modalities of international cooperation to relieve the developing countries from this burden and improve access to STI?
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