Workshop on Data Processing for CDROM

Asian Health, Environmental & Allied Databases (AHEAD) is an international consortium of eight leading Asian organizations, sponsored and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. The objective of the consortium is to produce and market CD-ROMs (compact disk read-only memory) containing environment-, health- and natural resources-related information.

Genesis of The AHEAD Project

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada approached PID and some other Asian organizations engaged in dissemination of information in environment-, health- and natural resoruces-related areas with a view to further catalysing information dissemination activity in the Asian region through a medium which is much more powerful and fast compared to the traditional print medium. Improved access to health- and environment-related information of the Asian region by researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and R&D professionals was expected to aid the developmental activity in the region, especially in the areas considered critical to the Agenda 21 programme.

A preparatory meeting of the organizations contacted by IDRC was held at New Delhi during 20-24 September 1993 in which it was decided to form a consortium of the information generating and disseminating organizations which would cooperate to produce a series of CD-ROMs to be marketed globally. IDRC offered to provide funds for a period of six years, after which the project was expected to become self-sustaining. It was also decided that the overall responsibilities of production and marketing of CD-ROM disks be assigned to one of the participating organizations in the consortium to be called the "Lead Organization".

On the basis of the infrastructural facilities and expertise already available at PID, after open bidding by different participating organizations, PID was selected as the Lead Organization for the project by IDRC.

Major Objectives

The major objectives of the project are to establish an eventually self-sustaining consortium of major Asian information centres, to transfer CD-ROM publishing technology to participating organizations through the provision of training as well as hardware and software, and to build capacities in managing institutional cooperation and global marketing.

Present Status

AHEAD has been registered as a society at New Delhi. It has the following organizations as members:

  1. Publications & Information Directorate (PID), New Delhi, India (Lead Organization)

  2. Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand (Participating Organization)

  3. Asian Alliance of Appropriate Technology Practitioners (APPROTECH ASIA), Manila, Philippines (Participating Organization)

  4. Asian Pacific Information Network on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (APINMAP), Laguna, Philippines (Participating Organization)

  5. The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore (Participating Organization)

  6. International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh (ICDDRB), Dhaka, Bangladesh (Participating Organization)

  7. SEAMEAO - TROPMED, Regional Centre for Tropical Medicine (TROPMED), Bangkok, Thailand (Participating Organization)

  8. CABI Regional Centre for Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Participating Organization)

It was decided to bring out three series of CDROMs entitled "Environment Asia", "Wealth Asia" and "Health Asia", to be updated every six months. The project started functioning in August 1994 and the first Governing Board meeting was held at Singapore during 15-17 August in which major policy decisions regarding technical operations, schedules of CD-ROM production and marketing were decided. It was also decided that various participating organizations will send their data to PID for collation and mastering operations prior to the production of CDs. The second Governing Board meeting was held at Bangkok during 15-17 August 1995 at which progress of the project was reviewed. The first disk containing environment-related information (Environment Asia) had already been produced. The second disk in the series (Wealth Asia) is to be commercially released in January 1996.

Training in Dataprocessing

One of the objectives of this IDRC-sponsored cooperative venture is to transfer the futuristic CD-ROM publishing technology to the participating organizations through the provisions of training in data processing. PID, the Lead Organization, has been entrusted with this responsibility.

Inaugural Session [Photograph]

A workshop on data processing for CD-ROM publishing was organized at the Publications & Information Directorate (PID), Dr. K.S. Krishnan Marg, New Delhi during 28 August 1995 - 4 September 1995 for the representatives of participating organizations in the international consortium, Asian Health, Environment & Allied Databases (AHEAD). The workshop was attended by 13 participants and was supervised by Ms. Leah Polishchuk of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS), Hamilton, Canada.

The workshop was inaugurated by Dr.R.A.Mashelkar, Director General, Council of Scientific&Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. Welcoming Dr. Mashelkar, other guests and the participants in the workshop, Dr. G.P. Phondke, Director of PID and Executive Director of AHEAD, outlined briefly the genesis of the project and its main objectives. He hoped that the workshop would catalyse further cooperation among the organizations participating in the CD-ROM project.

Dr. Mashelkar welcomed the initiative taken by PID in forging close links with other Asian Organizations and acquring expertise in the futuristic CD-ROM technology. He expressed satisfaction that PID was chosen as the Lead Organization of the international consortium after open bidding by different participating organizations. Dr. Aung Gyi, Regional Representative of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) at New Delhi also welcomed the participants to the workshop and underlined IDRC's interest in promoting dissemination of environment- and helath-related information in the Asian region.

The workshop was conducted to provide training in database building and allied aspects essential to CD-ROM publishing. Apart from a few lectures on basic concepts, the major focus of the workshop was on hands-on exercises using the data brought by different participants from the respective organizations. The topics covered included "Word Perfect", "SGML Coding", "PC-Write, "CC-PUB", "CC-BUILD" and "CC-FIND".

The workshop ended with the valedictory function on 4 September 1995. Dr. P.P. Gupta, Member, Governing Body of the CSIR was the Chief Guest at the Valedictory Function. Miss. A.H. Rillo of APINMAP, Philippines speaking on behalf of the participants thanked the hosts, PID, for making very good arrangements for the workshop and suggested that another workshop should be held to consolidate the gains made by the participants in the workshop. Ms. Leah Polishchuk the chief resource person gave her impressions of the progress made by the participants.

Valedictory Session [Photograph]

In his valedictory address Dr. P.P. Gupta exhorted the participants to actively promote the marketing of the CD-ROM products since their efforts in getting together the information would become successful only if the disks reach the target groups for whom these have been produced. He distributed the certificates to the participants.