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UDT Series on Data Communication Technologies and Standards for Libraries

Packet Radio: Applications for Libraries in Developing Countries (1993)


Packet radio has the potential to alleviate problems libraries and information centres in developing countries encounter as a result of a lack of a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, referred to in Chapter 2 as the problem of isolation. The present chapter discusses this potential in greater depth, assessing packet radio's suitability for library applications and its appropriateness as a technology for use in developing countries. The needs assessment, a requirement for the successful implementation of any packet radio project, is also described.

The core of the chapter presents a non-technical discussion of potential library applications of packet radio, focusing on broad classes of problems—in information retrieval, document supply, cataloguing, and professional development—from which libraries in developing countries suffer as a result of isolation. Because the problems experienced obviously vary from library to library, and from region to region, the applications are necessarily presented in a broad and general manner. While many examples are used, the solutions are not oriented toward any specific problem in a library or country.

In addition, the applications are not presented in any technical detail—the chapter is not intended as guide for actually integrating components and building packet radio library applications. Development work will be required for many applications; packet radio has not developed to the point where many off-the-shelf solutions are available. Even some so-called "off-the-shelf" components for packet radio often require additional development work to allow their integration into a packet radio network (Yuill, 1993). Implemetors of packet radio networks for library applications in developing countries must perform a needs assessment into the specific problem under consideration, choose the proper components, and engage in the necessary development work.

4.1 Appropriate design and use of packet radio in developing country libraries

The basic capabilities of packet radio networks meet or exceed the requirements of networks that support library applications because packet radio technology has evolved largely to meet the requirements of tactical military computer communications. For example, in a tactical communications network, the network nodes are highly mobile, whereas in a library network, the network nodes are generally fixed in location (with the exception of bookmobiles). Thus, the static nature of a library network's topology greatly simplifies the connectivity and routing requirements of the network. As well, data security related requirements such as resistance to jamming, spoofing, detection, and direction finding are not needed in library networks.

Researchers at the University of California Division of Library Automation have investigated packet radio technology specifically for use in library applications, examining various aspects of packet radio network design, such as network architecture, suitable frequencies, topological issues, and node configuration and function. They conclude that, while some development work is required, packet radio can provide for the telecommunications needs of libraries. A thorough account of these investigations is available in Lynch and Brownrigg (1987).

Yet, the suitability of packet radio for library applications—in general—is not sufficient to make it suitable for these purposes in developing countries. To be suitable for use in developing countries, packet technology must be transferred in a manner that is sensitive to the attributes and requirements of the local environment. To help ensure appropriate use of technology, "the specific conditions of the LDC must be considered in all phases of design and transfer" (Eres, 1981:99). The primary tool in appropriate design and transfer is the needs assessment. This section discusses these concepts in detail.

4.1.1 Appropriate technology and applications

When proposing the use of information technology in developing countries, it is important to ensure that the technology is appropriate—that is, it is "suited to the skills of its users as well as to the needs of clientele [and is] adapted to the environment in which it is to be used" (Akhtar, 1990b:92). All too often, projects insensitive to these issues have failed, with systems setup by donor agencies falling into disuse once the tenure of the program has ended (Davies, 1985). More seriously, cultural and social changes and other negative side effects have resulted from the ill-considered introduction of technology.

Subramanyam (1983), based on work done by Eres (1981), presents a set of seven criteria that an information technology must satisfy to be successfully transferred to developing countries. To be appropriate, a technology must:

  • use locally available personnel and other resources.

  • utilize, and be compatible with, the existing information infrastructure.

  • have output that is useful to users in the recipient country.

  • be sensitive to and compatible with local practices, attitudes, and traditions.

  • stimulate indigenous activities.

  • be economically and technically feasible to the recipient nation.

  • be responsive to the needs of diferent levels of users.

Packet radio as an appropriate technology

A properly designed packet radio network can fulfill all of the above criteria, and thus can be shown to be an appropriate technology suitable for use in developing countries. The following discussion presents the manner in which packet radio can meet each criterion. Table 1 provides a summary of this analysis.

  1. A technology must use locally available personnel and other resources.

    Librarians and information workers employed locally can be easily trained to use packet radio. Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA), for example, an organization that has implemented a number of packet radio networks throughout the developing world, routinely trains local personnel to operate the many packet radio systems it has set up in developing countries. Operator training, for instance, can be provided to anyone with experience with microcomputer operating systems (e.g., DOS) in a matter of hours. More technical "systems engineer" training requires several weeks (Garriott, 1991b).

    With regard to existing local resources, packet radio can provide the "glue" to bring equipment such as two-way radios, microcomputer equipment, and databases, into an information system that has greater functionality. This can provide greater return on investments already made in information technology.

    Table 1 (2.5 K)

  2. It should utilize, and be compatible with, the existing information infrastructure.

    Building on an existing information infrastructure is one way of increasing the probability that the transfer of information technology will succeed. Broadbent suggests that it is "more important to begin with a modest system and expand rather than attempt to build in a large unworkable, unrealistic system from the beginning" (1990a:214). Thus, an appropriate applications of packet radio technology would be, for example, to create small-scale networks, or links to larger existing networks, that can supplement or be integrated with existing information systems.

    Thus, the overall goal for the use of packet radio (and the approach taken in this paper) should be to provide increased functionality and wider access to existing information systems. For example, it can be used to extend previously existing information systems, such as agricultural networks and union cataloging building initiatives, by providing remote links.

  3. Its output should be useful to users in the recipient country

    In an attempt to make information technology more useful to individuals in a recipient country, there has been a general shift in information development from providing information through large, centralized international organizations toward an emphasis on local projects (Heitzman, 1990), also known as the "grass-roots" approach (Gassol de Horowitz, 1988). The focus on local projects "is an attempt to overcome the cultural biases inherent in imported technology and to support information resources that will survive because they meet users' needs" (Heitzman 1990:499). A method of supporting the grass-roots approach is to adapt "portable or small-scale micro electronics technology to village or town environments where it reaches relatively small audiences but contains messages of relevance" (Heitzman 1990:499).

    Packet radio is an enabling technology for such "grass-roots" information projects because it can provide access to remote information systems from rural areas where information may be needed most. The defining characteristic of packet radio is that it can provide connectivity wherever a need exists—regardless of the state of the local telecommunications infrastructure or power supplies—and can do so using relatively low-cost, portable equipment.

    Once installed, a packet radio station is potentially a "doorway" to any type of information that the users themselves deem to be relevant—information on any topic and in any form, whether it is personal communication, citations, or actual documents.

  4. It should be sensitive to, and compatible with, local practices, attitudes, and traditions.

    While no technology is neutral, packet radio can provide additional functionality for many information technologies that have become widespread in developing countries—voice radio networks, computer networks devoted to development (e.g., CGIAR's CGNET), database systems (e.g., MINISIS) and CD-ROM systems. Packet radio can supplement and augment pre-existing information infrastructures.

  5. It should stimulate indigenous activities.

    As discussed in Section 1, information is recognized as one of the main prerequisites for economic and social development. Packet radio can provide access to information that is considered essential for the development of social, economic and technical infrastructures in developing countries.

  6. It should be economically and technically feasible to the recipient nation

    Poor economic conditions and severe operating environments in developing countries require any introduced information technology to be both affordable and robust. Because packet radio systems can be based on inexpensive and durable microcomputer and radio equipment, it is especially suitable for use in developing countries.

    The components used by a packet radio system can be acquired at relatively low cost. Microcomputer equipment is now sufficiently affordable and powerful to support library functions. Laptop computers, in particular, are well suited to the demands of use in developing countries because they have been designed specifically to be robust, portable, and resistant to a wide variety of environmental conditions. Moreover, they have very low power consumption, making them ideal for use in areas where power supplies are unreliable, or where a complete lack of power requires solar arrays and/or battery power. (VITA, for example, uses laptops and solar arrays as part of their packet radio systems). If microcomputer and radio equipment are currently in use for other purposes, it can be inexpensively modified to connect with a packet radio network.

    Of the packet radio technology available from the military, civilian research institutions, the commercial market, and radio amateurs, the technologies from radio amateurs and the commercial market are the least expensive1. Military packet radio equipment is very costly due to the many military-specific capability, performance and environmental requirements it must meet. It is typically not practical for civilian applications due to its high cost.

    An amateur packet radio protocol software package, KA9Q, is free for noncommercial use and runs on IBM PC compatible machines as well as on many other computer platforms.

  7. It should be responsive to the needs of different levels of users

    Information needs vary widely from person to person. Scientists require scientific and technical information for research and development; economists and business people need economic and company information; extension workers, community action groups, and individuals need medical, health, agricultural information. Packet radio, as a doorway to many forms of information, can satisfy the information needs of all levels of users engaged in a wide variety of activities.

4.1.2 The needs assessment

The type of network that should be implemented in a developing country, and the library applications it should support, depend entirely upon local conditions and the particular needs of the library or information centre in question. Thus, when designing a network, all factors present in the local environment must be taken into consideration. The primary tool for such appropriate design is the needs assessment. Though different writers in the development field vary in how they define and segment this process, all agree that an overall analysis of the local environment is a necessary prerequisite for the successful design and implementation any information technology.

Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) views the needs assessment (or needs analysis) as the first of an eight part system analysis process for building a packet radio network. Though these stages have not been formulated with library applications specifically in mind, they can be applied in a library context. The eight stages include (from VITA, 1991):

    needs analysis. Define and prioritize the applications to be supported by the packet radio transmission network in the next five years. Estimate the amount and frequency of data transmission.

    synthesis of options. Based on the needs analysis, generate network design options to meet the needs. Evaluate the options to select cost-effective approaches.

    preliminary design review. Review the proposed network design. Determine requirements for further tests or design modifications, if necessary, to assure meeting the users' needs.

    detailed design. Segment the network implementation into logical, manageable phases. Prepare detailed, time-phased plans. Develop specific acceptance test requirements for each segment.

    critical design review. Review the detailed final design and time-phased implementation plans. Make modifications if required and approve moving to network implementation.

    implementation. Implement the network segment by segment. Perform acceptance tests. Conduct readiness reviews before beginning each segment.

    operation and support. Manage the transition of the network to the customer.

The first two stages in the development process—the needs analysis and synthesis of options—are the most important in creating a successful network. As VITA personnel state "the design of subsequent stages depend on the complete and accurate answers obtained in these first two stages" (1991:1). The needs analysis and synthesis of options are described in greater detail below.

The needs analysis

The definition and quantification of communications needs takes place during the needs analysis. In the case of libraries, these needs may be, for example, to support information retrieval, shared cataloguing, document delivery, or other library applications. In this stage, designers must (VITA, 1991:2):

  • describe the communications needs, type of data, and the timeliness of the communication.

  • provide a topographical map identifying potential communications sites.

  • identify technical and administrative points of contact.

  • provide a history of communications of the given type of data within the given region.

  • describe the growth potential for networks.

  • describe the level of radio communication activity in the region.

  • describe the organizational structure which will administer the system. Identify the communications manager.

Weatherby, Pasqariella, and Fenn (1990) suggest that the needs assessment also gather information such as the target institution's objectives, characteristics and capabilities, the educational level of its clientele, the type of local services currently supported, financial support available, personnel skills and training needs, as well as any restriction imposed by donor agencies or governments.

Synthesis of options

Based on the results of the needs analysis, designers must go on to identify the set of options available for network design. Additional information required at this stage includes (VITA, 1991):

  • local availability of electronic equipment and parts.

  • customs requirements if equipment must be imported.

  • frequency allocations and methods of obtaining new allocations, if required.

  • equipment currently available for the project.

  • existence and level of reliability of available power sources at each proposed site, and identify alternate power sources.

  • current communications methods and quality.

  • identify other restrictions, both physical and political, on the use of radios and computers for communications in the region.

The needs assessment, though not a guarantee of success, is necessary to ensure the appropriate application of packet radio technology to the problems in developing country libraries. Some possible library applications of packet radio are dealt with in the next section. Workers in this area, however, must go beyond this overview by performing a needs assessment of the specific problem and the local environment under consideration.

4.2 Library applications of packet radio

In the industrialized world, libraries have become reliant upon computer and telecommunications technology to support their activities. These technologies have revolutionized all aspects of library work, from the provision of services to end-users (i.e., information retrieval, interlibrary loan, and document delivery) to technical services (i.e., cataloguing and acquisitions). Libraries use a variety of systems to support these tasks, such as public access catalogues, public data networks, bibliographic utilities, and library networks. More recently, the Internet has brought data communications and information exchange among libraries in industrialized nations to a new level, providing libraries with the means to access a wide variety of databases and information repositories throughout the world.

Some of the benefits of library networking can be extended to developing country libraries through the use of packet radio technology. While packet radio may support many library applications, this section focuses on those applications that: a) enhance resource sharing and information exchange among libraries and users within a developing country or across a number of developing countries; and b) provide remote access to information and documents originating in industrialized nations.

The approach taken in selecting example library applications is to build upon and extend, where possible, existing information resources and systems. Thus, packet radio solutions are described that:

  • provide access to information or library data located at a central site.

  • supplement existing networks, by providing remote extensions to networks such as the Internet.

  • support pre-established decentralized activities.

The remainder of the chapter describes packet radio solutions for information retrieval, document supply, cataloguing, and professional development.

4.2.1 Information retrieval

Information retrieval has become an indispensable tool for libraries in providing fast and efficient access to information. Since the development of early online information systems in the 1970's, systems supporting information retrieval have proliferated (Arms, 1989). Such systems include, for example, online public-access catalogues, remote online databases, locally mounted databases, database systems developed inhouse, and CD-ROM systems. In industrialized nations, the connection of these systems into computer networks has allowed even greater efficiencies to be achieved, providing simultaneous access to multiple, remotely-located users. Examples include the development of campus-wide networks, networked CD-ROMs, and the Internet, which now provides access to hundreds of systems, including those that have been traditionally available only through private networks (e.g., OCLC).

Such ubiquitous assess to information retrieval systems, however, is extremely limited or non-existent in developing countries. In addition to the many other problems that plague developing countries, access to information retrieval systems and the development of networked information is hampered by expensive or inadequate telecommunications (Samarajiva, 1989; Harris, 1990; Moll, 1983). For example, online databases in industrialized countries are often out of the reach of developing country libraries because of exorbitant international telecommunications charges and unreliable local lines (Brito, 1989).

Packet radio technology has the potential to bridge these telecommunication gaps, and provide more wide spread and economical access to information retrieval systems. Examples of the manner in which packet radio can provide increased access to online databases, CD-ROM workstations, locally developed databases, and development and international networks are described below. Access to remote online databases in the industrialized world
Although writers have criticized databases originating in the industrialized world as inappropriate for use in developing countries (e.g., Davies, 1985; Cano, 1985), the need to access the information they contain remains (Dubey, 1986; Eres, 1981; Samarajiva, 1989). A study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) indicated that librarians and information workers in developing countries regard access to online databases as useful for "very recent materials and databases that were infrequently used at their institutions" (Beaumont and Balson, 1988). Such information includes, for example, time-sensitive scientific, technical, medical, and patent information.

Obstacles to online access

One of the methods of accessing databases in the industrialized world is through the use of a modem and telephone system. Using this method in developing countries, however, has a number of problems associated with it, the most salient of which is the expensive and undependable nature of the local telecommunications system. While many developing nations have made linkages to international communications systems, connecting to those nodes from within the country is often extremely difficult (Baark, 1985). As Brito states, "in the developing countries, the use of public telecommunications systems is usually very expensive in comparison to the local cost of living. Furthermore, few of these systems offer reasonable quality. The unreliability of the public telecommunications systems, frequently interrupting a call, may turn a simple remote database search into an expensive nightmare of repeated unsuccessful attempts" (1989:221). Thus, libraries are largely cut off from databases in the industrialized world.

Use of packet radio for online

Where international telecommunication nodes do exist, packet radio can be used to establish links between a rural library and the nearest node. From this node, connections to databases in industrialized countries can then be made. Thus, data communication lines will be used from the capital of a developing country to an industrialized country, and packet radio links will extend to the remote users.

This solution, however, is not ideal. While a packet radio link may provide economical links to major capital cities, it does not alleviate international telecommunication charges. In fact, for low-cost packet radio stations derived from the amateur radio sphere, charges could be prohibitively expensive because of the very low data rates supported by these systems. A packet radio link, running at 300 bps for example, would be a bottleneck that would drive up both database and international telecommunication costs. Better alternatives for access to information retrieval systems are those that do not involve direct telecommunications charges, such as remote access to CD-ROM workstations and links through international computer networks, discussed later in this chapter. Remote access to CD-ROM
Faced with the telecommunications problems associated with online databases, many development agencies and libraries in developing countries have turned to CD-ROM as an alternative for information access. CD-ROMs have a number of distinct advantages over online for developing countries that include (Nicholls and Majid, 1989):

    massive storage. A single CD-ROM can store 600 MB of data (e.g., 1000 books).

    onsite location, thus avoiding problems and costs of creating telecommunications links with remote databases.

    no connect-time fees. Once the CD-ROM system is purchased, individual searches on CD-ROM do not incur additional charges.

    durability and portability.

    unrestricted access to information.

    suitable for semi-trained users. Users do not have to be highly-trained searchers because time is not a factor in costs. For this reason it also supports end-user searching.

    microcomputer-based. Micro computer technology is robust, portable, and inexpensive.

    multimedia capability. CD-ROMs can store many types of data including bibliographic information, sound, images, and full-text. Its ability to store massive amounts of full text make it especially suitable for delivering primary information, such as articles, to developing country users.

The suitability of CD-ROM technology for use in developing countries has spawned many initiatives and field tests in these countries. For example, the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI) tested CD-ROM technology in Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, Trinidad, and Zimbabwe (Metcalfe and Jones, 1987). In an evaluation of a portion of the CABI test sites, Beaumont and Balson conclude that CD-ROM provides the potential "to greatly improve the capability of remote information centers to deliver a wider range of information and services" (1988:250).

Source disks

Another factor in the suitability of this technology to developing countries is the range of information available on CD-ROM that is of specific interest to developing country libraries. Butler (1990:274) provides a list of CD-ROM titles useful in developing countries:

  • Agricola.
  • AGRIS (International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology).
  • Aids Information and Education (full text).
  • Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts.
  • CAB Abstracts.
  • Energy Abstracts.
  • Food, Agriculture, and Science (full text).
  • KIT Abstracts (containing information on agriculture, environment, and geography).
  • Languages of the World (full text).
  • Popline (family planning, population, and biomedicine).
  • Selected Water Resources.
  • Sesame.

Other sources of information include:

  • The Compact International Agricultural Research Library.
  • PestBank.
  • image CD-ROMs produced by the National Agricultural Text Digitizing Project.
  • TROPAG (abstracts on tropical agriculture).
  • VITIS (Viticulture and Ecology Abstracts).

Obstacles to CD-ROM use

While the advantages of CD-ROM—its portability, durability, fixed costs, and wide range of discs—promises its acceptance as a powerful tool for information retrieval in developing country libraries, there are a number of drawbacks. Startup costs of creating a CD-ROM workstation can be high, requiring, in addition to a microcomputer and printer, a CD-ROM reader for every workstation. Subscriptions for the CD-ROM databases can also be expensive, especially if more than one database is to be acquired.

One of the most serious drawbacks, however, is that, once this large investment is made, a CD-ROM workstation can only be used at one location. Every centre that requires information retrieval capabilities must set up a separate CD-ROM workstation and purchase another set of CD-ROM databases. Thus, the number of people that can use a workstation is limited, especially in remote areas. As Weyers points out, "by installing a few CD-ROM systems in the capital city of a developing country we have not yet solved all our information problems... ...they have to be made accessible to those who need the information, and these users might be in rural areas. It is here that appropriate communications technology is required" (1990:222). And the appropriate communications technology to bridge this gap is packet radio.

Use of packet radio with CD-ROM

Users in outlying areas, physically removed from a central library or information centre that has a CD-ROM workstation, could be provided access to these information resources through packet radio links. This arrangement has the advantages of:

  • providing a greater number of users with information access without the need to purchase separate CD-ROM readers and database subscriptions (provided that a licensing agreement can be arranged to include multiple remote users).

  • providing extensions to pre-existing information systems, minimizing the impact on indigenous activities.

  • distributing the costs of supporting the central workstation and database subscriptions among a greater number of libraries, information centres, and users.

  • leveraging investments in equipment and subscriptions to CD-ROM databases by increasing usage.

  • allowing money that would have been invested in multiple CD-ROM readers and subscriptions to be invested in packet radio equipment.

  • allowing a packet radio link, once established, to be used for other purposes (e.g., email, links to international networks).

Three methods available for providing more wide-spread access to CD-ROM databases through packet radio include: 1) access via electronic mail; 2) assess through "yoked" terminals; and 3) access through CD-ROM networking software. The 1-hop or multihop networks depicted in Figures 2 and 3 (pages Error! Bookmark not defined. and Error! Bookmark not defined. respectively), would support these kinds of access.

Email. The simplest approach would be to use a mediated CD-ROM service, via packet radio email. Electronic mail is the service that is easiest and most commonly implemented on packet radio networks. In operation, a request could be mailed to a CD-ROM operator at a central site by email, who would then send the results—whether citations or full text—by return email.

Yoked terminals. Because most CD-ROM applications are almost exclusively designed for MS-DOS machines—therefore single user and single tasking—they are not particularly appropriate as database hosts. One solution is to yoke the remote packet radio workstation and the CD-ROM workstation together through "remote control" software. Such software makes one PC the "slave" of another; pressing a key at the controlling system results in the corresponding signal being transmitted to the slave system. Screen displays at the slave system are then echoed to the controlling system. In this way, the remote user can interact with a central CD-ROM workstation—entering queries and receiving results—as though the CD-ROM player and software were mounted locally. There are several commercially available software packages that provide this functionality. For further information about such packages, see Mitchell (1991).

There are some drawbacks to this solution, however. Due to the single-tasking nature of MS-DOS, the central CD-ROM workstation will still have to be dedicated to CD-ROM use; it cannot be used for other tasks locally while a remote user is accessing it. Further, only a single user can control the central CD-ROM workstation at any one time, so remote and local search sessions will have to be scheduled.

CD-ROM networks. A less immediately workable solution would be to network the CD-ROMs. However, CD-ROM products are typically designed for single-user workstations, such as the PC, in which the application manages the user interface and the database. To process a query, the application in the workstation accesses all necessary parts of the database file. For a complex boolean search, this may amount to several megabytes of index data.

Such CD-ROM applications work on PC LANs—the database files are maintained at a file server which is geographically removed from the PC running the application. However, the user's application must still process the index data and retrieve relevant records. In order to do this, all the necessary data must be transmitted over the LAN from the file server to the user's PC. This may represent hundreds of megabytes of data. Such an approach is feasible on wire-based LANs because of the high data transfer rates they support (2 to 10 Mbps). Clearly, it would not be feasible to use a 1200 bps packet radio link, for example, to transfer this amount of data. Even on a wire-based LAN, if there are more than a very few users accessing CD-ROMs, the effect on LAN throughput can be catastrophic. Thus, the CD-ROM networking approach via low-cost packet radio may not be feasible at this time.

In the longer-term, client/server-based CD-ROM network software may provide a solution. In this approach, a client application running on the remote workstation would interact with a server application at the node hosting the CD-ROM. The client would send queries to the server, which would access the index and other data locally on the CD-ROM and process the query. Only the result set would then be sent back to the client, reducing substantially the amount of data transmitted between workstations (Lynch and Gale, 1989). There are, however, no client-server applications for CD-ROM at present. Work on standardizing access to indexes and data on CD-ROM progresses (see Manes, 1990). Accessing locally developed databases
While CD-ROMs offer an alternative to remote online databases, they still remain sources of information from industrialized countries. Another type of database that can be made more widely available through packet radio links are locally developed databases—databases created for and by developing countries. Tools that have been used to create such databases include:

    DBMS. A DBMS is a software package that manages the storage, manipulation, and retrieval of information in a database (e.g., dBase). Such databases have received widespread use because they simplify the creation and use of a information retrieval system.

    Because of their simplicity, DBMSs have been used in a number of projects in developing countries to create local databases. Some examples include:

    • Population Data Archives Project in the Philippines which used a DBMS (dBase III+) to provide access to census data (Browne and Gavin, 1990).

    • REDATAM projects. REDATAM is a custom-build microcomputer-based DBMS which has been used to create a variety of databases in Latin America and the Caribbean (Browne and Gavin, 1990).

    MINISIS. One initiative that has driven the development of local databases is the free, worldwide distribution of IDRC's MINISIS software. Based on the mainframe package ISIS (Integrated Set of Information Systems), MINISIS is designed to run on minicomputers to "meet the need for a low-cost hardware/software package for online data entry and interactive retrieval" (Boyce, 1982:131). While it supports many types of IR applications, it was originally designed to be used in bibliographic applications in libraries. One attribute that makes MINISIS particularly useful in developing countries is its ability to support multiple languages and character sets. In fact, it can support more than one language simultaneously for multiple users. Because it is minicomputer based (the HP3000), it is both multiuser and multitasking.

    MINISIS has a base of 320 installations, 200 of which are in developing countries (Browne and Gavin, 1990). It is used in these countries as a tool to manage local information and to facilitate information exchange. Some example applications include: "project information systems, registries of correspondence, directories of consultants, inventory systems, historical and museum artifact data banks, meteorological information services, and chemical toxicology databases" (Balson, 1987a:16).

    CDS/ISIS. Like MINISIS, CDS/ISIS is based on the original ISIS mainframe package. CDS/ISIS, however, was developed by Unesco to run on a number of operating systems including MS-DOS (also known as Micro CDS/ISIS) and VAX/VMS. IDRC and Unesco have cooperated to ensure data can be exchanged between these two systems (Browne and Gavin, 1990). CDS/ISIS, too, is distributed to developing nations free of charge, and has proliferated through the developing world. Example applications of Mini-micro CDS/ISIS include:.

    • library databases. CDS/ISIS has been used to create automated library catalogues at the South Pacific Commission Library in Noumea, New Caledonia, the South Pacific Commission Plant Protection Service in Suva, Fiji (Foss, 1990), and at the University of Nairobi Library (Were, 1990).

    • APINMAP Factual Database. This is a CDS/ISIS database of the Asia Pacific Information Network for Medicinal Plants (APINMAP) containing information about medicinal plants and aromatic substances for health workers and small pharmaceutical companies.

    Obstacles to local database use

    Much of the discussion about providing remote access to CD-ROM workstations in Section 1 holds true for MS-DOS based DBMS and CDS/ISIS systems; that is, they are not multi-user and multi-tasking and thus are not well suited to a network environment.

    Use of packet radio with local databases

    The solutions discussed above for CD-ROM, specifically, mediated email requests and yoked terminals, could be support access to DOS-based databases systems through a packet radio link.

    For the minicomputer-based MINISIS, and the minicomputer versions of CDS/ISIS, remote access would be more easily accomplished because most minicomputer operating systems support multi-user terminal access. The HP3000 family of minicomputer, for example, can support time-sharing on up to 64 terminals (Boyce, 1992). Thus, multiple users could connect to these systems using TELNET via packet radio and thereby utilize any locally developed databases mounted on them.

    This model for accessing locally developed databases is discussed again briefly in Section 1 as a solution to support cooperative cataloguing.

4.2.2 Access to international computer networks

Another method of accessing databases—as well as hundreds of other information resources and services—is through international computer networks. In the industrialized world, such networks are quickly becoming important tools for information access witnessed by the explosive growth of the Internet and the development of national plans to create "information superhighways" that will provide desktop access to information (e.g., NREN, SuperJanet).

There are several benefits to providing libraries and information centres in developing countries with access to international computer networks:

  • there is a wealth of scientific, technical, health, and agricultural information available on the networks.

  • the information is free of charge in many cases (e.g., many Internet resources).

  • users can often avoid time- and volume-sensitive telecommunication charges of standard data or telephone communications.

  • extensions to international computer networks can help overcome the increasing information gap (see Section 1).

  • "development" networks that have been specifically established by development organizations to facilitate information access in developing countries can be made more widely available.

  • packet radio extensions can provide greater access to information resources that are already available on international computer networks.

General obstacles to accessing international computer networks

In many developing countries, widespread access to international computer networks is thwarted by the "last mile" problem—while a telecommunications link may exist in a large urban centre, getting the "last mile" to the user is a problem. The lack of access to these networks in developing countries, however, threatens to exacerbate the information gap that is growing between developing nations and the industrialized world (see Broadbent, 1990a). One writer has stated that developing countries must "seriously consider methods of effectively interacting with the information networks of the more advanced nations" (Eres, 1981:97).

A solution to this problem would be to provide wireless extensions to international computer networks with packet radio technology. Packet radio stations can be "interconnected with inexpensive 'landline' (telephone) networks, such as FIDOnet, and BITNET or the Internet" (Garriott, 1991b:7). Thus, packet radio, through links to local ground nodes or orbital satellites, can provide access to international computer networks in rural areas where it otherwise might not exist.

The remainder of this section describes the major networks and their services available in developing countries. These networks include: 1) the Internet, and networks gatewayed to the Internet (such as BITNET, UUCP, and FIDOnet); and 2) "development" networks (such as CGNET), that are created by development agencies as part of specific development projects. The Internet
The precursor to the Internet was originally created in the U.S. in the late 1960's as an experiment in computer connectivity. It was a project sponsored by U.S. Defence Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). This early network—called ARPANET—was a wide-area, packet-switching network that initially connected just a handful of computers at a few sites around the U.S. (Krol, 1992).

During the 1970's, this infrastructure slowly grew, splitting into two networks—ARPANET and MILNET. Throughout this period, TCP/IP, the set of telecommunications protocols that has come to define the Internet, was developed.

In the mid-1980's, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a network based on TCP/IP called NSFnet—a large coast-to-coast network that interconnected many smaller networks and provided researchers with access to resources such as supercomputers and specialized software. With the involvement and funding of NSF, the network slowly began to connect more and more networks and computers located at research institutions, universities and colleges, government departments, and research-oriented private industry.

The Internet is currently a vast network that connects tens thousands of computer networks and almost two million computers worldwide. It is a "metanetwork" that:

  • physically interconnects separately administered TCP/IP-based networks, many of which have hundreds of separately administered component networks.

  • provides email gateways to other non-TCP/IP networks, such as BITNET (including networks such as EARN and NetNorth), UUCP, FIDONET, and many other networks (e.g., CompuServ, AT&TMAIL, and MCIMAIL).

Since about 1985, the Internet has been growing at an extremely rapid rate. In 1981, for example, there were just 213 hosts connected, and by the end of 1993 there were well over 2,000,000 (Lottor, 1993). The Internet now connects millions of computers and is beginning to reach out beyond its traditional research and education community to local communities, individuals, and private businesses.

Thus, the Internet has evolved from an experimental network, to a network serving the research and academic communities, and to an open, global network that provides access to thousands of diverse information resources and services. It has become a valuable tool for information access and professional communication and, as such, is a primary candidate for packet radio extensions to isolated developing country institutions and users. Internet resources and services
The international community has enthusiastically seized the opportunities provided by the Internet and has connected hundreds of information services and resources to the networks. Internet offers access to a wealth of information that includes library catalogues, citation databases, electronic conferences, electronic journals and newsletters, satellite images, full text articles, anonymous FTP sites containing archives of text, images and software, and a growing number of sophisticated resource discovery tools such as WAIS, Archie, Gopher and World Wide Web. Examples of these information resources, and the network services that support them include:

    electronic mail. Electronic mail involves sending messages from one computer to another in a store-and-forward manner, where the message is relayed from computer to computer. Once at its destination, the message awaits the addressee until he or she has time to read it. Electronic mail is the most commonly supported service across the diverse set of networks that are connected or gatewayed to the Internet. Where electronic mail crosses a boundary between networks using different protocols, a gateway translates the message into the appropriate format.

    Electronic mail supports a number of information-related services which include:

    • personal communication. One-to-one email supports personal communication and information exchange among colleagues.

    • electronic conferences. A popular application of electronic mail are electronic conferences, also known as discussion lists. Supported by LISTSERV and mailserver software, electronic conferences have become powerful tools for information exchange, professional communication and development. There are discussion lists available on the Internet on hundreds of topics. More information about discussion lists is presented in Section 1.

    • electronic publishing. LISTSERVs can also be used to support electronic publishing and document access. A growing number of electronic journals and newsletters have appeared on the Internet in recent years.

    • ILL messaging. Electronic mail is also used to send information regarding the loan of books between institutions (discussed in Section 1).

    • email-based FTP. Electronic mail FTP servers are available at some locations on the Internet that allow anonymous FTP requests (see below) to be filled through electronic mail, thus eliminating the need for an interactive connection.

    file transfer (FTP). File transfer service, supported by FTP (File Transfer Protocol) on the Internet, involves the exchange of computer files between computers. FTP supports the transmission of both binary and ASCII files. Thus it can be used to send, for example, bitmapped images, documents formatted with word processors, executable programmes, spreadsheets, as well as plain text.

    • anonymous FTP. An application of FTP, called "anonymous" FTP, has become very common on the Internet and represents a valuable method of accessing and distributing information. Under normal circumstances, to transfer files a user would be required to login to a remote machine with a unique username and password. However, many computer administrators have set aside areas on their computers which can be accessed anonymously—that is, without an account on the machine. Such "anonymous" FTP allows anyone on the Internet to login to, browse, and download files. Literally hundreds of anonymous FTP sites, or "servers", exist on the Internet containing files of every description.

    • electronic document delivery. FTP is also used for electronic document delivery. The Research Libraries Group's Ariel Document Imaging Workstation, for example, uses FTP to send journal articles in bitmapped form (AT/L, 1991). Electronic document delivery is discussed further in Section 1.

    remote login (TELNET). Supported by TELNET within the TCP/IP protocol suite, remote login service allows a user to connect to a remote computer and interact with it as though his or her local computer were a terminal of that remote machine. TELNET provides users with the capability of connecting to any system on the Internet, however, security and authentication strategies generally prevent open access to all machines. Typically, a user must have an account, a user id, and a password to connect to the remote machine.

    There are a variety of information systems available on the Internet that can be accessed via TELNET, both with and without passwords. These include, for example:

    • online public access catalogues of college and university libraries. There are currently hundreds of such systems connected to the Internet. These systems can be openly accessed are generally free of charge. Some public library OPACs have also begun appearing on the Internet.

    • citation databases, such as OCLC's EPIC Service, or DIALOG. These systems require an account and a usage fee.

    • Campus Wide Information Systems. These are campus-based systems that provide information about a wide-range of topics such as course calenders, the weather, campus events, library OPACs, and are free of charge.

    • Archie, WAIS and Gopher clients. While the client portions of these systems typically reside locally, some client software is also available for use on remote hosts. Typically, one TELNET's to the remote host and uses the client software residing there to access servers located elsewhere on the Internet. For example, a WAIS client is available by TELNETting to quake.think.com and logging in as "wais".

    USENET news. The USENET news service, supported by NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) on the Internet, provides access to a large number of electronic conferences and news.

    Archie. The Archie system, developed at the University of McGill in Montreal, was created to overcome the problem finding the burgeoning number of files in anonymous FTP sites. Originally, to find a particular file, a user needed to know, first, that it existed, then the address of the host and the directory where it resided, and finally its filename. Archie sites store a regularly updated index of files on FTP servers, which users can search using keywords. Archie responds with a list of FTP sites that contain possibly relevant files (Deutsch, 1992).

    WAIS. Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) is client-server software developed by Thinking Machines Corporation that assists users in discovering electronic documents without regard to where they actually might reside on the network. In operation, the user enters a natural language query, and then selects a set of WAIS-formatted databases to be searched. WAIS checks each of the databases for relevant files, and produces a list of "hits" that can be viewed at, or downloaded to, the user's workstation (Kahle, et al, 1992).

    Internet Gopher. Gopher is a simple, but powerful system that provides easy, menu-driven access to many network resources. A client-server system, gophers provide access to diverse Internet resources including:.

    • the gophers of other institutions.
    • anonymous FTP sites.
    • electronic directories (e.g., WHOIS).
    • interactive systems (e.g., library OPACs).
    • Archie systems.
    • WAIS systems.
    • LISTSERV archives.

    Using gopher, users are freed from having to know machine addresses or what type of service is being used (e.g., TELNET or FTP). There are currently thousands of gophers in existence, making it one of the primary "resource discovery tools" in use on the Internet today.

    A useful component of the Internet gopher is Veronica, a system that allows keyword searching of menus of all registered gophers around the world. Veronica provides an efficient method of finding information in gophers on specific topics.

    World Wide Web. Like the Internet gopher, World Wide Web (WWW) provides an easy-to-use interface to a number of Internet resources. WWW, however, uses a combination of hypertext and text retrieval to provide access to these resources. Developed at CERN, WWW lets users jump from document to document through hypertext links. The documents themselves are distributed on WWW servers throughout the worldwide Internet, both locally as personal documents and externally as electronically published documents (Berners-Lee, et al, 1992).

    A specific interface for World Wide Web, called Mosaic, is the latest Internet tool to become popular. It allows users to browse through hypertext, multimedia documents that are located throughout the Internet. Documents are written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), a language for defining hypertext, multimedia documents based on Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). The protocol used to transfer HTML documents is HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

Interactive and non-interactive services

Many of the Internet information resources and services outlined above rely on full IP connectivity. The fact that the Internet consists of fully connected IP networks as well as gateways to non-TCP/IP networks means that not all services will be available to all users. Specifically, those without full IP connectivity will not be able to use interactive services, such as TELNET, FTP, Archie, WAIS, Gopher, WWW, and Mosaic.

Electronic mail, on the other hand, is relayed throughout all Internet-connected networks, including BITNET, UUCP, and FIDONET. Thus, users on these networks can access to LISTSERV discussion groups and archives, as well as email access to FTP (known as BITFTP or FTPMAIL). Developing country-oriented Internet information resources
There is a wide range of information available on the Internet, much of which may be of value to libraries and information workers in developing countries. Such topics include, for example, low-cost networking, agriculture, technology, medicine, health, disease information, and weather forecasts. A far from exhaustive sampling of Internet resources that may be of interest to developing countries includes:

    special library collections. Many libraries have extensive collections of agriculture, and other information of relevance to developing countries. These bibliographies can be accessed through library OPACs. Drew (1992) provides a list of these databases.

    discussion lists. There are a variety of electronic conferences on development and topics that may be of interest in developing countries. See Section 2 for more information.

    WAIS databases. A example of a WAIS server that could be useful in developing countries is agricultural-market-news.src at nostromo.oes.orst.edu.

    gophers. Gopher servers are often devoted to specific topics. Such topics of interest to developing countries are ecology, agriculture, computer networking, science and technology. A few example gophers include:.

    • Ecogopher. [ecosys.drdr.virginia.edu]. EcoGopher, operated by the Division of Recoverable and Disposable Resources (DRDR) at the University of Virginia, was created to facilitate access to the environmental information that many environmental agencies hold in electronic form.

    • Envirogopher. [envirolink.hss.cmu.edu]. Like Ecogopher, Envirogopher provides centralized access to electronic information about the environment.

    • Australian Environmental Resources Network (ERIN) [kaos.erin.gov.au] provides information about biodiversity, protected areas, terrestrial/ marine environments, environment protection legislation, international agreements, and reports of environmental workshops, conferences and papers.

    • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease [gopher.niuid.nih.gov] provides research and reference tools on infectious diseases, including a directory of AID/HIV related information.

    • PSGnet/RAINnet: Low-cost and International Networking [gopher.psg.com] focuses on information about networking in the developing world, low-cost networking tools, and general computer networking. It also includes a section on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

    ATI-Net. (Advanced Technology Information Network), is an Internet bulletin board sponsored by the California Agricultural Technology Institute and The California Department Of Food And Agriculture containing information about agriculture, biotechnology, markets, weather information, trade information, and agricultural safety information.

    PENpages, a database containing a wide range of agricultural-related information such as agricultural news, food and nutrition information, markets, and weather (see Shaffer and Hussey, 1992).

    CUFAN. (Clemson University Forestry and Agricultural Network), a bulletin board contain information about weather, economics, plants, animals, engineering, food and health.

    GNET archive. GNET is an archive documents concerning networking in developing countries. (FTP to dhvx20.csudh.edu in the /global_net directory). International access
As the Internet has expanded in the number of hosts connected, it has also extended its global reach. With the recent addition of Antarctica, it now has nodes on every continent. However, this does not mean that every country has access. An examination of Larry Landweber's (1993a) Internet connectivity map, shown in Figure 6, reveals that true IP connectivity to the Internet is still concentrated largely in the industrialized nations, while non-TCP/IP networks gatewayed to the Internet have slightly wider coverage. Areas of no connectivity include sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and South America. Although there is no Internet connectivity in these countries at this time, connectivity is constantly improving. Some developing countries also have access to development networks, such as CGnet (discussed further in Section 1).
Figure 6: Larry Landweber's (1993a) map of Internet connectivity. (11K)

Developing countries with Internet nodes

A number of developing countries have one or more Internet, or Internet-connected network nodes in operation. A brief listing of these countries, and the networks nodes they possess, follows below. This list is derived largely from Landweber's (1993b) table of international connectivity, although other sources are used, where noted. The selection of developing countries is based roughly on the United Nations Country Classifications (United Nations, 1990).

    IP INTERNET. The "IP" Internet includes networks that have full IP connectivity, allowing the use of electronic mail, and interactive services such as TELNET, FTP, WAIS, Gopher, Archie, and WWW. Developing countries with direct IP connections include: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Fiji, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, Tunisia, and Venezuela.

    BITNET, or "Because It's Time Network", is a global network that supports primarily electronic mail (Quarterman, 1990). Developing countries with BITNET connections include: Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Guadeloupe, India, Iran, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama and Tunisia. Morales (1992) reports that Peru and Uruguay also have one BITNET node each.

    UUCP is a network of Unix machines that began in the U.S., but has since spread throughout the world. Electronic mail is the only service provided worldwide (Quarterman, 1990). Developing countries with UUCP connections include: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Re'union, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

    FIDOnet, initiated in 1983, is a network based on telephone connections linking PCs running DOS, though other types of machines have been connected (Quarterman, 1990). FIDONET supports electronic mail. Developing countries with FIDOnet connections include: Argentina, Aruba, Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Guam, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Virgin Islands, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Landweber (1993b) also notes that connections to some form of electronic mail network have been reported in Algeria, Angola, Gambia, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, and Vietnam, though he does not include them in his table because they are unverified or unstable. Use of packet radio to link to the Internet
Packet radio has the potential to provide access to the wealth of information available on the Internet in areas that lack adequate land-based telecommunications. There are several types of links that can be created through packet radio: 1) a terrestrial packet radio link to a ground-based TCP/IP node; 2) a terrestrial packet radio link to a ground-based email network (i.e. BITNET, UUCP, FIDONET); or 3) via a packet satellite link. The packet radio networks depicted in Figures 4 and 5 (pages Error! Bookmark not defined. and Error! Bookmark not defined. respectively) are examples of these types of connections. The particular services a developing country library would have access to is dependent upon the type of link established.

Link to a ground-based IP node

The method providing the greatest functionality would be a terrestrial packet radio link to a


Packet radio has the potential to alleviate problems libraries and information centres in developing countries encounter as a result of a lack of a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, referred to in Chapter 2 as the problem of isolation. The present chapter discusses this potential in greater depth, assessing packet radio's suitability for library applications and its appropriateness as a technology Packet radio has the potential to alleviate problems libraries and information centres in developing countries encounter as a result of a lack of a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, referred to in Chapter 2 as the problem of isolation. The present chapter discusses this potential in greater depth, assessing packet radio's suitability for library applications and its appropriateness as a technology for use in

Link to a ground-based email network

Terrestrial packet radio links to a ground-based electronic mail network node, such as BITNET or FIDONET, could provide access to resources that are supported by email. Interactive services would not be available.

Links to networks via LEOs

Where ground nodes do not exist, another option is to access the Internet and other networks via satellite, such as geosynchronous satellites, non-geosynchronous low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites, and arrays of LEOs. Geosynchronous satellites are very expensive, and thus may have limited applicability in developing countries for some time. Non-geosynchronous satellites are more affordable, however, because single LEOs are only in contact with an earth station during brief periods, twice a day, access to the networks is in non-real time (Marek, 1992). Thus, the information services available will be those based on store and forward systems, such as electronic mail and FTPMAIL. With arrays of non-geosynchronous satellites, real-time communication becomes possible. See Frieden (1993) for more information about satellite arrays. Development networks
Another category of network that may benefit from packet radio extensions are computer networks specifically created to facilitate electronic communication and information access in developing countries, termed here as "development networks". These networks are distinct from the many non-automated, organizational or administrative "networks" that have been created for the purpose of strengthening developing country information infrastructures (see for example, Akhtar, 1990a; Amarasuriya, 1987). Development networks, instead, are actual data networks that have been created through specific projects sponsored by international development agencies for a variety of purposes. These include the support of computer mediated communications among colleagues both within and outside developing countries and, more germane to this study, information access and resource sharing.

Example networks

Some major development networks, which have been designed to facilitate of information access or the provide information services, include:

    CGNET. CGNET is an international computer network established by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). CGIAR is an international organization sponsored by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the purpose of improving agriculture in developing countries (Hailu, 1992). CGNET is the result of studies conducted in the 1970's to investigate the feasibility of creating a low-cost telecommunications network for the CGIAR agricultural research centres. Following a pilot project sponsored by IDRC in 1984, CGNET was fully implemented in 1985. CGNET is now a commercial international data network run by CGNET Services Inc. It has nodes in 56 countries (Hailu, 1992).

    CGNET uses primarily public switch data networks (PSDN) as the basis of the network. A human email operator makes a local call to an X.25 network where one is available locally, or an international call to the nearest X.25 network, if one is not. In some cases, leased lines or satellites are used to connect to the PSDNs. Email gateways exist to Internet, and thus to BITNET, JANET in the UK, and JUNET in Japan (Hailu, 1992). There are currently no terrestrial packet radio links to CGNET (Novak, 1993).

    PADISNET. PADISNET is a project of the Pan African Documentation Centre (PADIS) to exchange information and share access to databases. PADIS, itself, was created by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) "to assist African countries in strengthening their national capacities for collection, storage, and utilization of data on development, and to promote information exchange in Africa" (Adam and Hafkin, 1992:25). PADISNET is one of the largest networking projects in Africa and is based, like many other development networks, on FIDO technology. It supports access to a local BBS that allows users to "share information, exchange electronic messages among institutions, request PADIS information products, and transfer files" and to request searches of PADIS databases (Adam and Hafkin, 1992:26). It also provides access to FIDOnet conferences, as well as on-line database access. This latter service involves dialing up to a minicomputer where PADIS databases are mounted. PADISNET currently links 34 countries (Jensen, 1992).

    HealthNet. HealthNet is an electronic mail network that uses packet radio technology to connect ground stations with a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite. The purpose of HealthNet is to facilitate information exchange among health workers in developing countries and with colleagues in industrialized countries (Klein, 1992). Ground stations have been established in Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, the Congo, Malawi, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Cuba, and Brazil. HealthNet provides gateways to the Internet, BITNET, EARN, JANET, GREENET, and ADADEMNET and NGONET (more information about HealthNet is provided in Chapter 5).

    CATIENET. CATIENET is a project to develop a computer network in Central America to support email, file transfer, remote processing, and access to databases (Mata, 1987).

    ASTINFONET. ASTINFONET is a Unesco plan to create a satellite-based network for data and information exchange in the Asia-Pacific region. It will support electronic mail, document delivery, and access to databases both within and outside the region. ASTINFO (Regional Network for the Exchange of Information and Experience in Science and Technology) in an umbrella organization of Unesco to coordination information activities in the Asia-Pacific region (Amarasuriya, 1987).

    RIONET. The Reséau informatique de l'OSRSTOM (RIONET) is a network established by OSRSTOM, a French Public Institute of Scientific Research which collaborates with organizations in tropical countries (Renaud, 1992). In creating the network, ORSTOM proceeds by providing ORSTOM institutions with Unix workstations, which it subsequently connects using a variety of protocols and telecommunications links. While RIO began as a network for ORSTOM researchers, it has now become a tool used by other scientists and NGO's working in the development area. Users currently consist of 800 individuals in the French Caribbean, French Guyana, New Caledonia, French Polinesia, Vanuatu, Burkina-Faso, Senegal, Togo, Niger, Mali, Seychelles, Burkina-Faso, Congo, Cameroun, and Cote d'Ivoire (Renaud and Michaux, 1992). RIO supports electronic mail, document transmission via encoded email messages, file transfer (FTP, UUCP, and Kermit), and electronic conferences (Renaud, 1992).

    RINAF. The Regional INformatics Network for AFrica (RINAF) is a collaborative project between UNESCO and the Italian Government. The purpose of RINAF is to "contribute to electronic network interconnection among academic and research institutions within Africa, and between Africa and the international research community" (Abba, Giordano, and Trumpy, 1992:11). While a variety of protocols are being considered, the "minimal solution" will be FIDO technology. Planned services include computer conferencing, and resource sharing services such as file transfer and database access. RINAF will consider a variety of telecommunications options to create the network, including packet radio (Abba, Giordano, and Trumpy, 1992).

    AFRINET. A proposed network is AFRINET, an extension of BESTNET into Africa. BESTNET is a DEC-VAX network supported by Digital Equipment Corporation. AFRINET is intended to be a "collaborative technology project combining computer conferencing, videotext (VTX), electronic mail, and computer phone to create a distributed educational, scientific, and social development research network that networks a number of African universities and scientific research organizations with each other and with international academic and scientific institutions" (Bellman and Tindimubona, 1991). The African Academy of Sciences, BESTNET, and the California State University are collaborating on this project.

Other networks created for regional development, primarily oriented toward electronic mail and conferencing, include (Jensen, 1992):

  • ARSONET in Ethiopia, Senegal, Kenya, and Egypt.
  • ESANET in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
  • MANGO in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
  • NGOnet in Tunisia, Senegal, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
  • WEDnet in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  • WorkNet in South Africa.

Obstacles to the use of FIDOnet technology

Many of the development networks list above are based on FIDO technology that utilizes standard telephone lines (Mikelsons, 1992). While FIDO technology has many characteristics that make it attractive for use in developing countries, (see Mikelsons, 1992; IDRC, 1993) unreliable ground-based telecommunications can still be a problem. As Bennett states: "any fido network based on the local telephone system is likely to be subject to a number of problems" (1992:8). In Zambia, for example, Bennett lists FIDOnet problems as including difficulty obtaining a dedicated line, line disturbances during the rainy season, and interruptions due to "normal PTT problems, such as cable disturbance or theft" (1992:8). In other developing countries, FIDOnet technology may not be an option because of a complete absence of ground-based communications.

Use of packet radio with FIDOnet

In areas where FIDOnet may be difficult to use, packet radio links can provide extensions allowing the development network to extend into even more remote areas. As Garriott suggests, "additional networking power may be realized by linking packet radio in terrestrial and/or space environments with ordinary dial-up telephone links using FIDOnet and Fido-compatible software" (1991a:7).

While providing packet radio extensions to development networks may assist in overcoming specific "last mile" problems, their use on an ad hoc basis may not be a long term solution (Balson, 1993). This stems from the general problem of sustainablity of small networks. An IDRC proposal on electronic communications and development in Africa states that "although specialized projects are important, small and dispersed efforts will not be able to produce considerable results either in the short or long term". Instead, "the sustainability of existing network efforts and building of a new sustainable network [can] only be achieved through overall infrastructure development" (IDRC, 1993:11). Yet, packet radio can still play a role in this infrastructure-building initiative; along with copper, fiber, and packet satellite, terrestrial packet radio is one of the telecommunications options available for use, especially in areas of severe terrain and environmental conditions.

4.2.3 Document supply

Document supply is defined as "the chain of provision and supply of publications from their originators through intermediaries to their users" (Plassard and Line, 1988:1). It is a broad term used to describe a wide range of activities involving publishers, document supply centres, information brokers, and libraries, that have the end goal of delivering documents to users. The methods of obtaining documents for users include acquiring materials for local collections, as well as providing access to materials not held locally through interlibrary loan and document delivery.

Because of the information explosion, budgetary constraints, and rising costs of materials, libraries in industrialized nations have shifted from acquiring materials to simply providing access to them. Many cooperative activities have been established to support such access, including coordinated acquisitions agreements, reciprocal borrowing privileges, union catalogues, mutual purchase notification, catalogue production, and joint purchases (St. Clair, Butcher and Scott, 1990).

Libraries in the developing world suffer from similar pressures, made more severe by overall economic malaise. Yet, the resource sharing mechanisms established by industrialized country libraries to compensate for deficiencies are not as well established in developing nations. For example, acquisitions of new materials in developing country libraries is hampered by (Mabomba, 1988; Saracevic, 1980):

  • inadequate legal deposit laws.

  • few national acquisitions policies.

  • rarely practiced cooperative acquisitions, storage, disposal and conservation.

  • limited national imprints.

  • lack of funding, weak currencies and high book prices to acquire materials.

  • delays in delivery of materials from publishers (six to eight months using surface mail).

  • inadequate postal systems.

As a result of these factors, developing country libraries tend to be heavy borrowers, especially from industrialized nations (Mabomba, 1988). Unfortunately, the primary systems that support this form of document supply—interlibrary loan and document delivery—are also limited in developing countries. The following two subsections describe interlibrary loan and document delivery in greater detail, and suggest the manner in which packet radio technology can alleviate some of the problems associated with them. Interlibrary loan
Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a vital part of library resource sharing activities, supplying documents that are not available locally to users. It involves the mutual lending and borrowing of materials between libraries—from the exchange of ILL messages involved in the negotiation of the request, to the final delivery of the document. The following discussion focuses on the process by which ILL messages are exchanged. The physical delivery of the document is discussed separately in Section 2.

In the industrialized world, ILL has seen many advances over the last century, including the formal codification of ILL procedures, the establishment of reciprocal borrowing privileges between libraries, the standardization of loan forms (Kilpatrick, 1990), and the development of ILL telecommunications networks for the exchange of requests (Ra, 1990). Examples of systems supporting ILL messaging include public electronic mail systems (ON-TYME II, ALANET), subject-oriented networks, networks specific to a geographic location (ILLINET, DOCLINE), and the ILL subsystems of large bibliographic utilities (OCLC, RLIN). Internet mail, too, has begun to be used as a vehicle for the exchange of ILL messages.

Obstacles to ILL

In developing countries, ILL has not advanced at the same rate it has in industrialized countries. Many ILL problems have their basis in developing country information infrastructures as a whole, and thus cannot be solved by the application of packet radio alone. These general obstacles include (Qobose, 1990; Reddy, 1987; Samarajiva, 1989; Mabomba, 1988):

  • lack of formal ILL policies or interlending arrangements.

  • lack of recognition that ILL is an efficient means of resource sharing.

  • lack of cooperation among libraries.

  • lack of faith in system by researchers.

  • lack of union catalogues and union lists of serials for location information.

Clearly, such basic underpinnings of ILL are a prerequisite for successful resource sharing programs. However, there is another set of obstacles to ILL that can be alleviated through the use of packet radio links, primarily providing access to electronic databases and electronic messaging. This set of problems include:

    identification and verification. In developing country libraries, there are severe problems of identification and bibliographic verification, especially for materials originating in developing countries (Mabomba, 1988). National bibliographies are not issued regularly, if at all. Electronic sources of bibliographic information that do exist, such as the PADIS databases and databases from the industrialized world, are limited to those libraries with access to reliable telecommunications (discussed in 2).

    requesting. Once a citation has been verified and possible locations found, ILL messages must be exchanged between the requestor and the document source to negotiate the loan of a book or the delivery of a photocopy. As Mabomba points out, "the transmission of the request may be letter, telephone or telex" and thus developing country libraries are "at the mercy of the posts and telecommunications infrastructure" (1988:59). Alema corroborates stating that "unreliable postal and telephone systems is yet another handicap, which results in delays in the timely supply of documents" (1990:14-15).

Both of the above problems—lack of access to bibliographic databases and poor ILL messaging channels—are due to a gap in communications. Packet radio can bridge this gap by supplying the telecommunications links needed to access bibliographic databases for identification and verification, and for transmitting ILL messages.

Use of packet radio for ILL

With packet radio links, ILL departments can gain access to the many information resources and network services discussed in preceding sections on information retrieval (Section 1) and international computer networks (Section 1). Of greatest use to ILL departments are bibliographic and citation databases and electronic mail networks.

The wide variety of databases that can be made accessible through packet radio links can alleviate problems of identification and verification of materials. These databases include bibliographic and citation databases of the industrialized world (on-line and CD-ROM), locally developed databases, and databases created through international efforts such as PADIS. Further, once national union catalogues and lists of serials are created, providing location information for documents within developing countries, these local databases can be added to the complement of networked resources.

The extensive electronic mail network supported by the Internet and networks gatewayed to the Internet, such as FIDOnet, can be used for sending and receiving ILL messages. The use of electronic mail for ILL messaging is well established in industrialized countries. In fact, a separate standard for ILL transactions, the ILL Protocol, has been approved by the International Standards Organizations (Turner, 1990). A growing number of ILL systems implementing the ILL Protocol are appearing, some of which are designed to operate in a TCP/IP environment (e.g., the Canadian AVISO system).

While many other problems of cooperation must be solved in developing countries before interlibrary loan can flourish, the obstacles caused by poor post and telecommunications can be overcome through packet radio technology. Document delivery
Document delivery is the final stage in the process of document supply involving the transfer of a document from a supplier to a requesting library or user (Boss and McQueen, 1983).

Obstacles to document delivery

As with in other domains of library work, document delivery in developing countries is hindered by many obstacles. In general, the problems surrounding document delivery in developing countries are the same as those discussed for interlibrary loan: many are political or monetary in nature and cannot be solved through technology alone. Yet, other types of problems afflicting document delivery are strictly due to isolation and the lack of good communications—whether postal or wire-based. These problems include (Dubey 1986; Mabomba, 1988; Otike, 1987; Samaha, 1987):

  • long delays in delivery caused by unreliable postal systems (up to eighteen months; Harris, 1990).

  • high cost of delivery by air.

  • inability to use fax machines because of unreliable telecommunications systems.

  • risk of lost or damaged materials.

  • the reluctance of some libraries to lend their materials outside their own organizations for fear of lost or damage of materials.

The problem of limited document delivery in developing countries is exacerbated by the growth and availability of citation databases. Such databases, though useful, increase the demand for primary documents that are difficult to obtain. Thus, the disparity between access to citations and the primary documents to which they refer is made more acute.

The disparity between access and supply is a problem not limited solely to developing countries. Even in industrialized countries, the delivery of primary documents is the least automated stage of document provision, with most documents today supplied on paper and delivered by regular postal services (Plassard, 1989). This situation stems largely from the fact that information technology has been applied primarily to the retrieval of bibliographic information, rather than to the process of delivering primary documents to users.

Electronic document delivery

In an attempt to overcome the disparity between access and supply, libraries in industrialized countries recently have begun to focus on developing methods for more rapid delivery. These methods centre on the use of electronic forms of documents and transfer media to send documents to users, known as electronic document delivery. In industrialized nations, methods for electronic document delivery include facsimile transmission, electronic mail, anonymous FTP, and other, more sophisticated, systems that send bitmapped images of articles through the Internet.

The methods of electronic document delivery developed by industrialized country libraries can also benefit libraries in the developing world. Electronic document delivery can help overcome poor communications, and shrink the large distances that separate developing country libraries from each other, and from libraries in the industrialized North. It can help avoid the loss, damage, and long delays characteristic of document delivery in the developing world. Use of packet radio for electronic document delivery
Reliable telecommunications is a prerequisite for electronic document delivery, and where poor telecommunications exist, packet radio can supply the necessary linkages. Unreliable communications has thwarted many major international initiatives to supply documents to developing countries. For example, efforts such as the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences's (AAAS) Journal Distribution Program and the Rockefeller Foundation's Selective Medical Library on Microfiche, all have been "hampered by poor communications systems" (Klein and Clements, 1990:294).

The packet radio applications discussed earlier in this chapter to provide access to bibliographic information and other information can also support the rapid delivery of documents. Specifically, the applications for providing access to centralized databases, electronic mail networks, IP networks, and development networks can also be use to supply documents electronically.

The methods of sending documents through electronic networks that packet radio can support include electronic mail, document imaging and transmission systems, and facsimile. These methods, and their use with packet radio, are discussed below.

Electronic mail

As outlined in the section on Internet mail (Section 1), electronic mail is used widely as a distribution method for electronic documents. Electronic mail is by far the simplest method for document delivery to developing countries because of its ubiquity and ease of implementation on a packet radio network. Electronic mail is the one network application that is common to all computer networks, including the Internet, BITNET, UUCP, FIDOnet, and packet radio networks.

Equipment required for document delivery via electronic mail would include a packet radio workstation, the software appropriate to link to the given electronic mail network, and a printer.

One drawback of using standard electronic mail to deliver documents is that the document formats that can be sent through electronic mail are limited. This limitation stems from the fact that most email systems in use today are based on RFC 822, and thus are limited to sending lines of text using 7-bit US-ASCII encoding. The body of the message cannot contain complex formatting or binary code. Therefore, only electronic document formatted with plain US-ASCII text can be sent directly through electronic mail. Elements such as graphics, colour, special fonts, bold, underline, and page formatting cannot be included.

There are procedures for sending more complex documents through electronic mail, however, these methods require added steps to be performed at the sending and receiving end. For example, documents can be stored as PostScript code, a page description language that can define complex documents, and sent via SMTP. However, at the receiver's end, PostScript code can only be viewed with specialized software (e.g., GhostScript), and must be printed with a PostScript printer. It is doubtful that page description languages like PostScript will be in wide use in developing countries.

Electronic documents in binary format (e.g., bitmapped images, word processing files) can be send through electronic mail if they are first translated into 7-bit US-ASCII code. Public domain software exists that will perform this function (e.g., UUencode and BinHex). The drawback, however, is that such procedures add a level of complexity to an already complex process. The encoded documents must be translated back into binary code at the receiver's end before they can be printed or used. Such complex manipulations may be a challenge for uninitiated users.

The limitations imposed by 7-bit US-ASCII encoding will eventually be eliminated as systems based on X.400 or MIME begin to appear. MIME (Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a new Internet email standard that is design to overcome the limitations of SMTP by allowing binary information to be included in the message (see Borenstein and Freed, 1992).

Document imaging and transmission systems

Another method of electronic document delivery is to use file transfer to send bitmapped images of journal articles through the networks. The advantage of this method is that it allows the transmission of existing paper documents, complete with complex layouts, graphics and photographs.

Two such systems currently in use on the Internet are Research Libraries Group's Ariel (AT/L, 1991) and the National Agricultural Library's (NAL) system created for the Digitized Document Transmission Project (André, 1989). Both systems are designed to scan and deliver the page images of documents over the TCP/IP Internet, however, they differ in the degree of automation of the scanning and transmission process. The Ariel system uses customized software and hardware that automates the entire delivery process, from digitization, to transmission and output. In operation, the system automatically captures images in Group 4 fax format, puts them into TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) format, connects to the receiving host on the Internet, and transfers the image files via FTP. The files are automatically printed upon command at the receiving host. Unfortunately, because it is completely customized, the Ariel system only supports only a limited number of platforms (Ulmschneider, 1992).

The NAL system, on the other hand, emphasizes the use of low-cost, public domain, shareware, or off-the-shelf software, and operability across diverse platforms. Unlike Ariel, the stages involved in delivering a document are not integrated, but must done manually by an operator. In operation, the documents are scanned and stored as single pages in TIFF files, then compressed into a single archive file (via Stuffit Deluxe). The archive file is then manually FTPed to the requesting site where it is uncompressed, viewed with a TIFF viewer or printed (Casorso, 1992).

Because packet radio supports TCP/IP, it is feasible it can support systems like Ariel and the NAL system to deliver documents electronically to libraries in developing countries. However, there are several limitations to using such systems in this environment.

The first limitation is that document imaging and transmission systems require expensive hardware such as laser printers and scanners. Laser printers involve not only a substantial capital expenditure for their initial acquisition, but they also use expensive consumables (e.g., toner cartridges). They also require high quality paper in order to avoid damaging paper handling mechanisms and to produce legible images. It is unlikely that in areas with poor telecommunications, the infrastructure to support regular supplies of high quality paper and laser printer consumables will exist. Similarly, support structures for maintenance and repair of this relatively delicate equipment may also be lacking. Thus, at this time, sophisticated document imaging and transmission systems may not be suitable for use in the developing world.

The second limitation of using imaging and transmission systems is that bitmapped images, even when compressed, are very large. Image files can require a very long time to be transferred (several minutes to tens of minutes) with narrow bandwidth links, such as those created with lower-cost packet radio equipment. While it is probable that higher-bandwidth, low-cost packet radio equipment will eventually emerge as the technology and markets develop, limited bandwidth packet radio links may be the norm in developing countries for some time. Yet, a document delivery system's "acceptable" transmission speed depends entirely upon the context in which it is used. Even a transmission time of several minutes to an hour for a document is arguably an improvement on receiving a document through regular post in several weeks, or months, or not at all.

Some compromises can be made to make document imaging systems more suitable for use in a developing countries. Specifically, less expensive and more robust technologies could be employed in place of expensive, delicate components. For example, a dot-matrix printer could replace the laser printer. Though they provide inferior print quality, dot-matrix printers have a number of advantages over laser printers for use in developing countries:

  • they are inexpensive.

  • they are a highly reliable and well-proven technology.

  • they use more variable quality paper.

  • consumables are relatively inexpensive.

The choice between an integrated system like Ariel or a manual system like the NAL system would depend upon funds available and the sophistication of the operator. For example, a manual system such as NAL's could be created with inexpensive, widely available and robust components. However, as each stage in the delivery process must be handled manually, the need for a well-trained operator increases.


A more robust image transmission technology than the systems described above is facsimile. For document delivery in developing countries, fax provides several advantages over scanning and laser printing technology:

  • it is reliable, inexpensive2, and commonplace.

  • it combines scanning and printing functions in one economical machine.

  • it eliminates the need for expensive and finicky scanners and laser printers.

The difficulty with G3 fax technology is that it is designed as an all-in-one machine to transfer images over the voice telephone network, bundling together image digitization, compression, transmission, and output (Katz and Kohen, 1991). While convenient for standard fax use, this bundling does not support:

  • other forms of data transmission, such as FTP over TCP/IP networks.

  • storing of the fax image.

  • printing of the fax image on conventional printers.

To be useful as a low-cost document delivery mechanism on computer networks, the bundled functions must be separated, with the fax machine becoming simply a scanning/printing device.

The Network Fax Project has used this approach in developing a method for sending fax images over the Internet (OSU, 1993). This project was initiated by Academic and Computing Services (ACS) of the Ohio State University and funded by OARnet, CICNet, and the ACS. The system consists of a Group 3 fax machine, a microcomputer equipped with a hard drive, a fax, and an Ethernet card and ACS user interface software.

The operation of the system is as follows:

  • the fax machine scans a document and sends it to a fax card on a local PC via a phone line.

  • the fax image is stored on the local PC's hard drive.

  • the fax image is then sent from the local PC's hard drive to a remote PC's hard drive through the network via FTP.

  • for final printing at the remote site, the fax image is sent from the remote machine's fax card to a nearby fax machine (OSU, 1993).

One obvious drawback of the ACS system for use in developing countries is the need for a phone line connecting the external fax machine to the fax interface card. For printers and scanners, connection is made typically via the serial or parallel interfaces that are standard equipment on most small computers. If facsimile machines are used for input/output, then the computers will have to be equipped with modems that can establish a telephone connection with the fax machine. Such a telephone connection will have to be routed through a telephone switch, which might be a local PBX, or might be an external telephone company local office switch. Obviously, to be a workable option in developing countries, an alternative to a local telephone line connecting the PC to the fax machine must be found.

Satellite transmission

Work has also been done to develop methods of delivering electronic documents via satellite. Space-based systems, however, are beyond the scope of this paper. For information about satellite document delivery see, for example, Fjällbrant (1988), Klein and Clements, (1990), and Tuck, (1992).

4.2.4 Cooperative cataloguing

Cooperative cataloguing refers to the mutual exchange of bibliographic records among libraries thereby reducing redundant original cataloguing and related costs—a library does not need to create a cataloguing record from an original work, but can copy records that have been created at another institution.

In industrialized nations, cooperative cataloguing is well established. Historically, the sharing of cataloguing records began with the distribution of catalogue cards by the Library of Congress. During the 1960's and 1970's, these records were converted to machine-readable form based on the MARC format and stored in centralized databases. Bibliographic utilities, such as Research Libraries Group (RLG), the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and the Western Library Network (WLN), developed computer networks to provide access to these databases allowing member libraries to contribute new records and to draw others from this central store. The dominant media for record transfer has remained largely remained a combination of magnetic tape and bibliographic private networks.

Obstacles to cooperative cataloguing

In developing countries, cooperative cataloguing schemes—even non-automated ones—are scarce. Rehman, in a study of 14 Arab countries found that no library had established "a co-operative consortium at [the] national level to pool its resources for lending, shared cataloguing, or co-operative acquisition purposes" (1989:460-461). Without cooperative cataloguing arrangements, individual developing country libraries are forced to engage in original cataloguing or rely upon cataloguing in publication data (Chijoke, 1989). These efforts, however, are further hampered by (Chijoke, 1989):

  • a severe shortage of skilled cataloguers.

  • a large variance in the quality and quantity of cataloguing output across libraries.

  • a lack of consistent cataloguing standards.

Thus, developing world libraries find themselves in the peculiar situation of having growing cataloguing backlogs while acquisitions decline (Chijoke, 1989).

Use of packet radio for cataloguing

Without question, the existence of a packet radio network alone will not foster shared cataloguing projects. The solution of a number of other problems—the lack of political will, expertise, and a tradition of cooperation—are clearly pre-requisites to a successful computerized shared cataloguing scheme. Yet, where non-automated, organizational "networks" already exist to support such schemes, along with sufficient monetary and technical resources, packet radio can provide the real network to facilitate the sharing of library data.

One model for supplying cataloguing data to developing country libraries is to use packet radio to provide access to centralized cataloguing CD-ROMs. This is identical to the model discussed in Section 2 for remote access to citation and full-text CD-ROMs. Instead of citation or full text databases, however, the CD-ROMs would contain cataloguing data. There are several CD-ROM-based tools that are available to support cataloguing. These include:

    BiblioFile (Library Corporation).
    LaserQuest (General Research Corporation).
    Cataloger's Toolkit (EBSCO Electronic Information Services).
    SuperCat (Gaylord Automation).
    CAT CD450 (OCLC).
    CD-CATTS (Utlas).

Mounted at a central site, a number of libraries could share access to the cataloguing CD-ROMs through packet radio links, thereby avoiding the problems associated with original cataloguing. While CD-ROM-based cataloguing tools will be suitable for creating cataloguing records for a large percentage of materials collected by developing country libraries, original cataloguing will still have to take place. Cataloguing CD-ROMs are designed typically for use in industrialized nations, and not all materials collected in developing country libraries will be included in them. To support cooperative original cataloguing, packet radio links could be used to provide access to a local database containing cataloguing data. The network configuration would be similar to that discussed in Section 1.

4.2.5 Professional communication

The final application of packet radio discussed in this paper is the support of professional communication among librarians both within and outside developing country libraries. A fast growing tool for information exchange, professional communication and development are electronic conferences (also known as discussion lists). Electronic conferences allow individuals to engage in simultaneous discussions with a large number of widely dispersed colleagues. Participants can make comments, ask questions, request or provide information, announce new procedures or techniques, and generally keep up to date with a particular topic or field.

Electronic conferences are an extension of electronic mail. Standard electronic mail supports one-to-one communication where messages are sent between specific individuals. Discussion lists, in contrast, support one-to-many communication where one message is relayed to a large number of colleagues through a central site. This one-to-many communication is accomplished through LISTSERV or mailserver software, that maintain a list of all the names addresses of participants of a given conference.

In operation, these programs act as central distribution nodes for all conference correspondence—a message sent once to a LISTSERV or mailserver is automatically sent to all addresses on the mailing list. By receiving and replying to messages through these systems, continuous discussions are generated among members of special interest groups.

Since electronic mail is the common application across all electronic networks, packet radio links to networks such as the Internet, BITNET, FIDOnet, and other development networks can allow library professionals in developing countries to tap into this "electronic college" and the wealth of information it provides.

There are currently hundreds of discussion lists active on the Internet (and BITNET) on a wide variety of topics. There is also a large, and growing, number of discussions lists devoted to library-related topics. A sampling of discussion lists that may be of interest to librarians and information specialists in developing countries are listed below.

Library-oriented lists

AFAS-L—African American Studies and Librarianship
ALF-L—Academic Librarian's Forum
ARCHIVES—Archives and Archivists List
ARIE-L—RLG Ariel Document Transmission System
CDS-ISIS—UNESCO's CDS/ISIS Text Retrieval Software
COLLDV-L—Library Collection Development List
CONSALD—Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation
COOPCAT—Cooperative Cataloging Discussion Group
GO4LIB-L—Library Gopher Developers
ILL-L—Interlibrary Loan
MEDLIB-L—Medical and Health Sciences Libraries
PACS-L—Public-Access Computer Systems Forum
PACS-P—PACS-L publications Only

(Source: Bailey, 1993)

Developing country-oriented lists

AFRICA-L—African Continent Discussion
AFRICANA—Information Technology and Africa
CARECON—Caribbean Economy
CREAD—Latin American and Caribbean Discussion list
EGYPT-NET—Egypt Discussion and News
KCI-NET—Kenyan/East African Information Technology
RINAF-L—Regional Informatics Network for Africa
SA-DROUGH—Africa Drought discussion list
COMDEV—Communication and International Development
DEVEL-L—Technology Transfer in International Develop.
DNN-L—DevelopNet News
ECONOMY—Economies of Less Developed Nations
INTF—International Networking Task Force
PCORPS-L—Discussion for International Volunteers
RURALDEV—Community/Rural Economic Development

(Source: McGee, 1993)


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