06 October 2007

Experts discuss international information systems for agricultural science and technology

In October 2005, FAO and partners convened the first 'Expert Consultation on International Information Systems for Agricultural Science and Technology.' The participants initiated three collaborative task forces: Advocacy (policy level issues), Content Management (standards and services issues), and Capacity Building.

To assess progress of these Task Forces and to determine next steps as well as gain input from national-level agricultural research organizations, a 2nd IISAST Expert Consultation was held 23-24 September in Rome as part of e-agriculture week.

The first day included case studies from Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Peru, and Thailand. Discussion points included the need to address national ICT policies and advocacy as well as agricultural policies, problems with high turnover of decision-makers, need to build on existing institutions (i.e. libraries), lack of local content, incentives for researchers to submit content, need to follow common standards, more coordination among donors, and limited human and infrastructure resources. On the 2nd day, reports from the Task Forces were presented that outlined progress made and potential opportunities for the future.

Based on this combined input, participants met in working groups to discuss lessons learned, to identify needed products and services, and to determine next steps for Task Forces. Included in the recommendations were short term priorities including the initiation of a coordinating body for IISAST, the development of terms of reference for the three existing Task Forces and securing additional participation, establishing a repository of case studies, strengthening communication both internally within the Task Forces and externally to all stakeholders, and developing a “Starter Kit” of open source software. Longer term priorities include creating a monitoring and evaluation program.

contributed by Barbara Hutchinson

Some photos from the meeting; report of the consultation (pdf)


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