Second IIT Meet : A Report

A joint Session of the Second Information Industry-Promoter-User Interaction Meet and Fourth National Meet of CD-ROM /Online Users was held under the aegis of NISSAT and organised by Bengal Library Association, Calcutta from 21-24 December 1995 at Sisir Mancha, Information Centre, Bangla Academy Complex, Calcutta.

Dr. RA Mashelkar, Secretary, Department of Scientific & Industrial Research and Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, presided over the inaugural session of the Information Today & Tomorrow Meet.

On behalf of the organizers, Dr. SM Ganguly, President, Bengal Library Association, extended a hearty welcome to the delegates and the invited guests and expressed happiness on the theme of the meet, which was very timely. He mentioned in brief about the immense possibilities of CD-ROM, particularly those of the multimedia technology, in ushering in a paperless society.

Shri Bidyut Ganguly, Honourable Minister of the State for Commerce and Industries, Government of West Bengal, delivered the Inaugural Address. He was glad that a conference of this nature was being held in Calcutta. Referring to the almost unbelievable advancement in the field of science and technology in recent years, he felt that the fruits must reach our new generation. The growing disparity and imbalance between the developed and developing countries, usually reflected in shortage of food and shelter and poor communication facilities in developing countries, can be bridged, to a great extent, by greater utilisation and application of science and technology.

The Hon'ble Minister also drew the attention of the delegates to some recent developments in West Bengal, specially, the setting up of the Electronics Complex, and the support received from the Department of Electronics, and the Department of Communications. He also made a mention of the entry of a number of foreign and multinational industrial houses and agencies in recent years in the development of business and industries in West Bengal. He assured that the Government has always been trying to get their services on mutually beneficial terms. Priority areas, like agriculture, mass communication and socio-economic development will also be kept in proper view.

The Minister believed that very soon, West Bengal will be able to lead in the application of science and technology for socio-economic development. He assured the participants that the Recommendations that would emanate from the deliberations of the conference will be welcomed by the State Government.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Abhijit Lahiri, Adviser, DSIR dwelt briefly on the recent developments in the areas of Information Technology (IT) and the Information Market. He also drew attention to the rapid strides in the development of IT and also cautioned about the concomitant high rate of obsolescence.

Advances in IT have been able to open highways and super highways but there are not many vehicles to ply on them. To correct the situation, the information industry, with its components _ hardware-software systems, facilitators and promoters, has to play an important role. Highlighting some of the characteristics of information, he described some features of the information market. He emphasized that information is no longer confined within the four walls of libraries only. Information is now available in many more places and in many forms. This change has come about mainly due to the requirements of better access and higher consumer satisfaction. In this changed scenario, the private sector information industry has to play a greater role. As the 8th Plan is due to conclude in about a years time, the recommendations of this Meet could help in the preparation of the 9th Plan.

Dr. RA Mashelkar, in his Presidential Address, appreciated the efforts of the organizers in bringing all the parties involved with the information industry on a single platform. He went on to consider information and IT from various angles and stressed that information is not an input for business alone but it is also a wealth. Indeed, the definition of wealth is changing in a global perspective. He cited the example of Japan, where intellectual property is being accepted now, along with other tangible properties, as security against bank loans.

The wealth of nations is getting knowledge-based and India has a good intellectual infrastructure for the generation of this wealth i.e.. information. In the past, we used to export raw materials to advanced countries and import the finished products from those countries at a much higher price. What we imported as finished products were actually value-added products. In the same way, we have been for a long time, users of information products, which originate in other countries. We have to change this position and become producers/suppliers of information products also. For this, we have the subject knowledge, expertise, software, and a vast internal market for venturing into such activities.

Domination of library based information services has to give place to more and more technology based information products and services. For this to happen, our mindset has to change. The change will come when we start to value information, and act prepared to share information and create networks. Similarly, the huge volume of government-held information, which is not fully utilized, has to be brought into the information market with the help of the private sector information industry. Again, this requires change in the mindset.

Dr. Mashelkar went on to point out the under-utilization of patents as source of valuable information. He appreciated the various aspects that were slated to be discussed in the ITT Meet and wished that the deliberations would help in the development of the information industry in the country.

Dr. RAMashelkar launching MAITRAYEE Version 3.0 [Photograph]

Dr. Mashelkar launched MAITRAYEE (Version 3.0) and also inaugnrated the Exhibition displaying / demonstrating various information products and services.

Dr. RAMashelkar inaugurating the exhibition [Photograph]

Shri KP Mazumdar, Secretary, BLA on behalf of the organizers, proposed a vote of thanks.

Technical Session I: Information Technology/Access Scenario

Dr.. Nandan Bhattacharya, Webel, Calcutta chaired the session.

The first presentation was on Information Market Scenario in India, by Dr. Abhijit Lahiri, NISSAT (DSIR), Delhi. Dr Lahiri charted the develop-ment of public funded information systems in India, which were dominant until the mid-seventies. He dwelt on the growth of data networks which was possible largely due to the advent of satellite communication technology and the increasing availability of microprocessors and small computers, establishment of international linkages and growth of private information enterprises.

Technical Session in progress : Dr. Nandan Bhattacharya (3rd from left) chairing the session.  [Photograph]

Dr. Lahiri also drew attention to the transformation that the Indian book trade was going through. There have been a number of Indian collaborations with foreign principals and setting up new enterprises. Keeping in line with the global trends, the business and financial information sector is now getting more prominence than S&T information.

Citing examples of recent tie-ups with large foreign companies, he highlighted several cases of splits, takeovers, liquidations and mergers which further changed the Indian scenario.

According to Dr. Lahiri, a significant change has been brought in by the newspaper-houses and news agencies which have organized and equipped themselves to play an active role in the information business. To give an indication of the change, several Indian database ventures, databases on CD-ROMs, and even multimedia systems were mentioned. Similarly, online services are now available in India both in the bibliographic and non-bibliographic sectors. The question of commercialisation of public supported activities was also discussed.

Dr. Lahiri proposed several points as strategies for information market development and advocated the setting up of a regular mechanism for following the trends in the development of IT; analysing the information market potential; and formulation and analysis of policies relating to the generation, processing and dissemination of information.

The second presentation was by Mr. S Subba Rao, CLRI, Madras on the Trends in Optical Technologies—Indian and World Scenario.

Mr. Subba Rao traced the growth of CD-ROM technology, special features of optical storage devices, the status of CD-ROM products, and some Indian ventures for development of CD-ROM products. According to Mr. Subba Rao, over 9500 CD-ROM products including multimedia are presently available in the global marketplace covering about 270 subject categories. There are over 1400 publishers from 43 countries producing these databases which contain bibliographic, full text, and factual and graphic information.

On the development of CD-ROM products in India, it was mentioned that the CD-ROM industry in India is broadening its base with an anticipated growth of 100-200% during 1995 as against 5-10% growth in 1994. He also mentioned about the vast expansion of facilities in the use of such products and some of the recent ventures undertaken by Indian manufacturers, such as TAEXPERT, Kirloskar multimedia products, interactive CDs on `Palace on Wheels', and multimedia CDs on heart and ECG.

Reviewing the role of the Government agencies in encouraging the use/production of CD-ROM databases, it was stressed that the acquisition of such databases should be rationalised to avoid unnecessary duplication and CD-ROM database generation activity needs proper encouragement and support. The customs duty structure on the import of CD-ROM products also need rethinking and rationalisation. To promote the use of CD-ROM based products in the provision of information services, the issue of copyright protection may also have to be reviewed.

In conclusion, Mr. Subba Rao pointed out that there is a vast scope for CD-ROM database production in India_both for internal use and for export consumption.

The third presentation of the session was made by Mr. MG Waicker of the Knight-Ridder Information Inc., Bombay on the theme of Online Trends, Forecasts & Cost Analysis.

Mr. Waicker observed that the importance of online information services was perceived by NISSAT, way back in 1985 which led to the establishment of several National Access Centres for International Databases (NACIDs). The users, information products, and information carriers constitute the three important components of any on line service. In the 1980s, scientists and researchers were the users; the information products were databases available both in the print media and machine readable forms; and the carrier was the dial-up mode telephone lines. In the 1990s, the user population is a mix of scientists / technologists / researchers and the business people; the information products have more specialised databases; and the carriers are satellite networks and Internet.

Mr. Waicker stated further that the online database usage of commercial information the world over is mainly restricted to patent and technical information, business information, commercial information, etc. Presently, the overall growth rate of online database usage lies between 40 to 60% per annum. He said that the increased connectivity, wide range of databases, and flexibility of usage have made the reach of online information services global. Commenting on the role of Internet in online information services, Mr. Waicker said that in November 1995, 63 databases, including the Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, US Patent Abstracts, and Physics Reprints, were available on Internet. Mr. Waicker announced that the Knight-Ridder has 600 databases at present that are globally accessed and with the cooperation of Indian networks, it hopes to provide commercial online services in India shortly.

The fourth presentation was made jointly by Ms. K Thulasi and Ms Aparna Simha, from the National Centre for Science Information (NCSI), Bangalore. Ms. Thulasi traced the history of the development of NCSI and the various on line and CD-ROM based information services they offer. NCSI provides current awareness and SDI services using on line databases of Data Star and Knight-Ridder ( Dialog ). The objective of NCSI is to provide exhaustive and up-to-date information services to teachers and researchers in the academic and research institutions.

Ms Simha reviewed, in brief, the latest trends in the provision of online information services and observed that the annual growth rate in this area is about 9 to 10%. She mentioned that basically there are three modes of access to international databases - dial-up access; internet connectivity through ERNET; and internet connectivity through VSNL. NCSI uses VSNL's dial-up access to search international databases. It was observed that VSNL dial-up facility is faster, costlier but more reliable, whereas internet connectivity is comparatively slow, slightly less expensive and less reliable. She also gave an overview of the various CD-ROM databases that are subscribed by NCSI to provide information services to the clients.

Further, Ms Simha talked about the document delivery services through Internet and distribution of online search results to the users by e-Mail. The pricing structure for online services using STN/Dialog and searching on different types of databases was also discussed.

Technical Session I : (continued)

The second part of the 1st Technical Session on the same theme was chaired by Mr. Aloke Bhattacharya, CMC Ltd., Calcutta. There were two presentations made in this session.

The first presentation was by Mr. David W Lewis of IDRC, on Pan Asia Network (PAN). Mr. Lewis mentioned about a survey conducted by four consultants for assessing the possibilities and probable constraints for electronic networking in Asia. The survey identified the need for such a network and also found that the proposed network was required to provide specific information, cheaper and more efficient services, greater connectivity with other networks and training programmes. PAN was launched for providing these services.

The PAN programme aims to promote the development of information networking and communication technology in the Asian region, strengthen the capacities of governmental agencies, research institutions, universities, non-government organisations and the public at large to share, access and use data and information more effectively. PAN, Mr. Lewis said, will provide regional and national information as well as access to the information superhighways by strengthening and adding to the infrastructure to connect with the Internet. PAN hubs have already been established in Mongolia, Vietnam and Singapore. On the basis of demand from the countries involved, some subject areas have been identified in which initially information access will be provided. The areas identified so far are : biodiversity, natural resource management, managing social and economic changes in communities, sustainable technologies, gender issues and health care.

The second presentation was made by Dr P Ganguly, Hindustan Lever Ltd., Bombay, on IT - An Evolving Business Tool. Dr. Ganguly said that information technology helps managing businesses profitably. Through an information pyramid diagram, he explained the various information related activities. Dr. Ganguly pointed out that sharing of information is the key factor at all levels in corporate decision making and a structured and integrated networking is the backbone of an effective and dynamic decision support system.

In the HLL, IT is being used in providing connectivity, encouraging group working, providing remote access, productivity enhancement, and value-added services. The HLL group offices all over the world, in 110 countries, are linked in a mixed mode manner using the terrestrial and extraterrestrial links such as satellite communications and LAN, WAN, etc. The group is using LOTUS NOTE Software in database development, updation and information sharing. The international carrier being used is SPRINT Network with the main hub for India in Bombay and all the 20 offices are linked to it. The database updation activity on all the nodes in the network takes only 3 to 8 hours time.

Dr Ganguly concluded by saying that IT the evolving tool will play more and more important role in corporate business environment in the days to come.

Technical session II : Factual Databases

Dr. GP Phondke, PID, New Delhi was in the Chair.

The first presentation was by Ms. Nandita Kapila of NIC, New Delhi, entitled Factual Databases in Biomedicine. She mentioned briefly about developments in the generation and dissemination of information in the field of biosciences in general and bio-medicine in particular. The distinguishing features of bibliographic, non-bibliographic and full text databases were briefly mentioned and the some details about the available factual databases were given. Some of the factual databases are for textbooks, yearbooks, newsbases, lectures, etc. There are such databases for professionals, organisations, products, etc. There are some sequence databases, e.g. on-going dental researches. The computerised clinical information system (CCIS) from Micromedia is a very widely used database. Another useful database is the PDQ, which is an expert system and queried by both medical professionals and lay persons.

The next presentation was by Mr. MG Waicker, Knight-Ridder on Competitive Intelligence, which he said could alternatively be stated as competitive information. The need for competitive information is much more pressing today mainly due to globalisation. Most of the business houses are affected by globalisation and they have to be well informed technology research, joint ventures, new product features, patents, and mergers/acquisitions. It has also been realised that competitive information must have the following qualities: time-bound, comprehensiveness and dependability. For a company, such quality and competitive information provides its leading edge.

The third presentation was made by Mr. S Biswas from TIFAC, who spoke on Business & Financial Databases. This type of databases have a bigger market share as compared to databases in S&T information, because financial managers are capable of paying for information. Mr. Biswas went on to describe the features and availability of a number of databases and services, especially the following :

Mr. Biswas also mentioned that there are indications that recent developments in the field of artificial intelligence will help to predict share prices more accurately.

Technical Session III: Commercial Presentations

Dr Dilip Bose, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Government of West Bengal chaired the session.

The first presentation was made by Dr GP Phondke on AHEAD, which stands for Asian Health, Environmental and Allied Databases. AHEAD is an international consortium sponsored and supported by IDRC. The participants are the AIT, Bangkok; APROTECH Asia; PDI, Indonesia; APINMAP; and the NUS (National University of Singapore).

The main objectives of AHEAD are to provide effective access to the resources of information relating to health, environment and wealth of Asia, and facilitate greater usage of information for research and decision making. AHEAD is available in 3 independent CD-ROM disks. Disk-1 is on Environment Asia, Disk-2 is on the Wealth Asia, and the Disk-3 is on Health Asia. Disk-1 is already in the market and the other two will be coming out by March, 1996. All the disks are planned to be updated. Each disk contains both bibliographical and full text databases. The search and retrieval software, called COPUB for full text and CCFIND for bibliographic database search, are in-built in each disk.

Hypertext link is a powerful feature included in the database and allows to link the referred documents. There is an annotation feature which allows addition of notes and comments to any particular document in the database stored in the hard disk, and are recalled when the next reader reads the same document. The minimum software requirement is MS-DOS. AHEAD databases annual subscription rates are US $ 400, $ 700 and $ 1000 for each disk, two disks and three disks respectively with 50% discount to subscribers from the developing countries.

The second presentation was made by Mr. Kallol Palit, DC Information Systems (DCIS). He brought out the salient features of DCIS Library Management Software. The system takes care of total library operations, has GUI, and permits an open back end database allowing linking with other databases. With good security features, LMS is ready for installation on any system, and is parameter driven. The software handles different subsystems of library operations namely acquisition, catalogue, circulation, membership, binding, serials control and bibliographic searching. Each of the subsystems is independent. The speaker presented the details of some of subsystems.

The third and final presentation of this session was from Mr. B Sudershan of CMTI, Bangalore. He gave an account of the activities of NICMAP, a centre set up under NISSAT. The centre deals with different aspects of machine tools, metal working, etc. through bibliographic and non-bibliographic databases. Bibliographic database has presently about 80,000 records and is used for providing retrospective searches as well as SDI services. The non-bibliographic variety includes Product Database (product details, specifications, manufacturers' addresses, agents' addresses, etc.) and Statistics Database (production, export/import consumption, etc.) The centre also provides translation services. NICMAP has plans to mount these databases on a CD-ROM network. There is also a plan to provide value-added patent information service (VAPIS) in the engineering sector.

Technical Session IV: Access to Information

The session was presided over by Mr. Harsha Bhatkal of VISL, Bombay and had only two presentations.

The first presentation was made by Prof B Guha, on behalf of the Institute of Social Analysis and Communications (ISAC), New Delhi. The paper was based on a study supported by NISSAT and was a sequel to a recommendation adopted at the last Information Today & Tomorrow Meet.

The study Government-held Tradeable Information was a pilot study covering about 31 government departments/units in New Delhi. The design, methodology, and the concept of value-addition were explained with examples. A complete list of databases/information files available in the various departments was presented. The mechanism for collection of data/information and also the nature of information files were explained. The information files, it was observed, were mainly of the following categories:

a) Directory type
b) Repackaged information
c) Project reports, deputation reports, etc.
d) Scientific data, experimental and observation data, and
e) Processed aggregated data/information.

It was also pointed out that quite a few departments, especially those in the science and technology sector, were willing to collaborate with private sector information industry, if that helps in the production of value-added new information products/services.

The second speaker was Mr. GR Narayanan from Corporate & Economic Research Centre (CERC), Bangalore, on Government/Private Agency Collaborations in Dissemination of Data. Mr. Narayanan mentioned at the outset that his experience with government departments was quite different from what the previous, speaker had said, and cautioned that his presentation might sound, as an anti-thesis of what Prof Guha had said.

The speaker said that collaboration is certainly needed in the present day context when most of the users are not interested in figures only but in accurate and expeditious information. Of the three possible areas of collaboration, namely, collection, collation and dissemination. Mr. Narayanan's views were as follows: In the area of collection of data, some departments might be willing to collaborate, but that cannot happen without a change in the statutes. In the area of collation, government departments usually take considerable time and the same old method of collation continues. We should think on the question of better dissemination. Already there are a number of agencies in the country who have developed the expertise to disseminate information, both nationally and internationally in an effective manner. Thus, in this area collaboration between government and private agencies could be fruitful.

The Chairman pointed out that if the government is not self-sufficient then they should join hands with private sector because access to information is a fundamental right of the citizen.

Technical Session V : Panel Discussion on Industry-Government Interaction

In view of the inputs required for the 9th Plan proposals, NISSAT/DSIR felt it important to have the views of the indivividuals, professionals, experts, institutions and the industry on the subject. The session was initiated with a presentation by Ms S Ravindran, NISSAT/DSIR. The panel discussion was chaired by Dr. CN Raghu of Wockhardt & NCI, Bombay.

Dr. A Lahiri felt that with the changing information scenario, the Government needs to hold hands with the industry. It thus becomes necessary to identify and consider areas of activities, the people who should be taking up these activities, how long and with what magnitude the governmental support is required and when it is required and so on.

In private sector, institutions and their investments on information are small but, they still help create the information market. Therefore a market study of the size, pattern of services and data compared with international services was felt useful to the IT Industry. In this regard, NISSAT has supported a Survey on the Government held Tradeable Information and another study is in progress in the information resources in industrial units.

The Panel strongly held the view that the private sector does not need funds to operate their services and even it is not healthy for the growth of the industry. Notwithstanding the Government attempts to do everything, bearing risk is part of the private sector. The government could help the information industry in venture capital and investment risk possibilities. Government aid_ soft loans, risk coverage, equity plans, venture capital and so on would go a long way in the nucleation and development of the information industry.

Further, the panel suggested that funding should be for the inputs/exports but not for imports. Thrust areas of information need to be identified and duplication of efforts must be avoided. Information exists with the government but it is not accessible to the users and many government organisation are shy of providing information to even accredited information providers. A wetting agency to facilitate access to information, channel of vending and avoid misuse of information could be appropriate (perhaps NISSAT can do this).

Mode of dissemination _ once the government leases its tradeable information to the private sector, the private sector should do the value addition. And the mode of information delivery could thus be through VSNL, DOT and INTERNET passward holders.

The Government has to consider specific issues where private sector can definitely collaborate and various information streams should be identified for such collaborative activities. India should recognize that information technology products and information products are distinct and open up liberalization.

One area of concern is the telecommuncations access_ which forms the last mile bottleneck (no carrier). The licencing for instance of INTERNET is difficult (25 lakh for private operators). The forum could minimize the intervention by VSNL/DOT and persuade the use of telecom technology to exploit these facilities.

Today, on 9600 bps on the internet only bibliographic information full text and images that require high speed capability. The telcom access needs passwords to access Knight-Ridder [Diolog GPSS/VSNL]. Since providers are information providers and not telcom providers, this difference should be reflected in the plan.

Multinationals are taking advantage of India in the provision of value addition to journals to Indian market. Where royalty payment to international agencies is involved, it may be through RBI. Financnce Ministry may help change attitudes and in policy.

The panel discussion has given some insight to the broad areas that the information industry is interested in. Some of these are:

  1. Private sector is not interested in funds. Access to the store house of information and the various information mechanisms designed are what that private sector is looking for.

  2. Can private operator depend upon libraries? Libraries do not allow access to private sector. The panel recommended information access to accredited operators in value addition. Data entry must be viewed as an activity at variable levels.

  3. Forming associations of industry to handle government agencies and politicise information issues is necessary.

  4. Information users are not asking for information. It is only the consultancy firm/consultant/information broker who are interested and are prepared to accept the costs of publications. A scheme can be designed to access information globally by improving the access facilities.

  5. Access internet for sources available across several countries and scouting the sites to get the necessary information. So far, there appears to be very little access on internet for global information. Similarly, one can provide access through online public access catalogues to Indian publications.

  6. Besides the commercial emphasis on information provision, provide subsidiaries to core areas as well as basic sciences are required.

Technical Session VI : Access Mechanism

This session was chaired by Dr S Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Computer Science, Calcutta University. Four papers were presented in the session :

The first presentation was by Mr. Sanjay Grover, IIPL, on Telecom Options to Online Access. The speaker emphasized on the need for a strong telecom infrastructure in the country, as a prerequisite for providing an efficient online access. He stressed particularly on the constraints imposed on providing advanced online services like the availability of electronic journals, due to poor talcum infrastructure. A comparison with advanced countries was made to show what is to be done on a priority basis in this regard. High costs, low transmission speed, poor reliability (both of information integrity, and its linkage) and absence of direct inter-connectivity between networks in India as the major drawbacks. In order to bring about a change, it is necessary to modify the telecom policy and provide high speed link to information providers at a low cost. In the discussions that followed, the liberalisation policy of the government and its implications for the academic community were brought out.

The second presentation on Putting Indian Databases on International Data Hosts was made by Mr. MG Waicker, Knight-Ridder. He maintained that a ready market with a large scope already existed for Indian databases internationally. Directories, market surveys, newspapers, industry structure/analysis, patents, and business articles are the types of database/information with a large demand. Some of the basic requirements that a supplier of data must fulfill are: that he must be the owner of the data he supplies; the data should be in magnetic media, up-to-date, of high quality, and should be sustained for 3 years after supply of the data update. Further, Mr. Waicker elaborated on the characteristics of two types of databases that are in demand, viz. stand alone databases and subject databases. Knight-Ridder will soon market a database on industry structure and the other on full text of the newspaper the Hindu. During discussions, copyright issues, software restrictions, and demand of databases in general were highlighted.

The third presentation entitled Socio-Economic Surveys for Dissemination of Information was made by Dr S Ray on behalf of the Central Statistical Organisation. He highlighted the importance of data collection on different aspects, such as culture, source of income, employment data, social consumption, consumer expenditure, etc. for national planning. Dr Ray detailed the role of CSO their extensive coverage across the country for collection of these types of data and processing the data for facilitating decision making/policy planning.

The discussion which followed the presentation centered around the role of the journal Survekshana, brought out by CSO to highlight the results of the surveys, a national policy of data dissemination to be formulated soon and the possibilities of making the collected data at CSO available over the NICNET.

The fourth and final presentation on Experiences on CD Conversion and Publishing was made by Mr. Sanjay Grover on behalf of IIPL. First, he discussed the basic steps in CD publishing, namely, data acquisition, retrieval software, data conversion (Indexing and pre-mastering), mastering, and replication. He went on to point out the advantages and disadvantages of a CD-ROM based product. The different categories of databases_ full text, multimedia, image, and HTML (Hypertext Marking Language) used primarily in network databases, and separate retrieval techniques required for each database were explained. Mr. Grover, then, spoke about the types of publishing, search features and the development process of a CD-ROM based product.

He concluded the presentation by giving some details of the development of a CD-ROM based product, namely, IBID, on Indian business data, which is going to be made available by IIPL very soon.

Technical Session VII : Commercial Presentation

This session was chaired by Prof Amitabha Chatterjee, Jadavpur University, and three presentations were made.

The first presentation was made by Dr AK Sen Gupta of IIT, Delhi. He spoke on the Objectives and Activities of FITT (Forum for Innovation and Technology Transfer). The forum was created mainly to market the intellectual and technological facilities to the industry and thus make full use of the resources available with the IIT, Delhi. The FITT helps industries in three main areas:

Dr Sengupta elaborated on the nature of information facilities that they were able to provide to the collaborating industries. Our mindset that information should be available free has to change. In response to a question, he mentioned that the IIT Library had access to a number of databases and the FITT will be willing to help creation of new databases, if required.

The second presentation was made by Mr. Kottai, on behalf of 3SE, Bangalore. The 3SE (Software Services Support and Education Centre) mainly serves the software and IT industries. However, the presentation was mainly on the information services being provided by the3SE.

3SE has been established as a public limited company by the European Commission and the Government of India. 3SE's information service is able to provide its customers timely and reliable information. 3SE has the computing resources and specialist expertise to access a wide range of information sources such as online databases, CD-ROM databases and market research reports. It can provide a broad spectrum of information on IT products companies and markets from several information sources from around the world. Further, 3SE can help its customers to evaluate acquisitions, joint ventures, competitor intelligence, to research new markets, to find out market size and share and locate information on potential customers and suppliers, and much more in the area of IT.

The third presentation of the session was made by Shri BR Mondal on behalf of INSDOC. Mr. Mondal highlighted some of the New services introduced by INSDOC using latest developments in the IT, and the usefulness of the services. the services specially mentioned were: Online/ CD-ROM search: CAKIS (Chemical Abstracts Keyword Index Service); CAPS (Contents Abstracts & Photocopies Service); Corporate Information Services which include Global Tender Watch Service, Competitor Watch Service, and Patent Watch Service.

Shri Mondal, along with Shri JC Chowdhary also answered several questions from the participants.

Sweeter moments [Photograph]

Technical Session VIII : Access to Information

The session had Col SK Soni, Project Coordinator (Computers), DVC as Chairman. While introducing the topic he referred to the information explosion which the world was passing through and the role IT could play in the situation.

The first presentation was made by Mr BG Sunder Singh, DSIR, on the Role of Directories and Yellow Pages in Dissemination of Information. He grouped the available directories into three main categories. They were : a) Trade & industry directories b) Scientific & technological information directories and c) Institutional & organisational directories. Yellow Pages (YP) usually contain derivative commercial/business information, which facilitate buying and selling of products and services. YPs provided an ideal medium of publicity for the small and medium entrepreneurs, since they were cheap and also not as ephemeral as newspaper advertisements.

Mr. Sunder Singh then went on to describe various aspects of some of the well known trade and industry directories, such as the the Assocham Business Directory, CII-DB Directory, Directories Today's C&I Guide, Exporters' Yellow-Pages-India, MTNL GETIT Yellow Pages, and Tata Press Yellow Pages. He also mentioned about KOMPASS India, the most comprehensive directory covering 56,000 Indian companies. This directory was available online on BISNET and Knight-Ridder. Directories and yellow pages were now available in various media, such as print/magnetic, CD-ROM/Multimedia and online through Internet. He mentioned that there existed now wider opportunity to project ones' products and services, both locally and internationally. In response to a question, Mr Sunder Singh said that entries in the yellow pages were normally collected through newspaper advertisements and the first entry was usually free. Besides, all registered advertisers were included in the yellow pages automatically.

The second presentation was made by Mr Sudip Bhattacharya, Regional Resident Director, EXIM Bank, Calcutta on Electronic Database & EXIM Bank's Online Data Search Facilities _ access, contents, relevance and issues. Mr Bhattacharya provided an overview of the information requirement in business financing, types of databases available both in India, and abroad and the online search service being used by the EXIM Bank. He believed that the changing economic environment and globalisation concepts were responsible for the ever increasing need for information in business financing. Therefore, globalisation is both a challenge and an opportunity for information industry.

Mr Bhattacharya emphasised that in the changing economic scenario, there is an immediate need for uptodate information both by the business financing industry and importers/exporters. Information required were mainly relating to business/trade statistics, company profiles, rules and regulations relating to business financing, etc. Elaborating on the different channels for exchange of information, Mr Bhattacharya pointed out the e-mail, electronic data inter-change, bulletin boards, and online access are being used in information exchange. He also mentioned that to aid decision support system in business financing, the accuracy of data, timeliness and upto-dateness were important issues. He further informed that Exim Bank was using online access through Dialog and Data Star.

While concluding the session, the Chairman Col SK Soni remarked that creation of databases to aid decision support system in business financing is an important activity and three factors, viz., accuracy, data validation, and upto-dateness should be taken into consideration while creating such databases.

Technical Session IX: Export-Import of Information

This session was conducted in the form of a panel discussion. Mr. TR Rustagi, Commissioner (TRU), New Delhi, conducted the proceedings as the Moderator. The Panelists were: Mr. Vimal Kumar Varun, DSIR, New Delhi, Dr.GRNarayanan, CERC, Bangalore and Mr. Harsha Bhatkal, VIISL, Bombay.

Mr. Varun initiated the discussions with a brief presentation on the existing custom duty structure and procedure, and documents required for clearance of goods through custom. He provided the summary of various notifications issued by Deptt of Revenue for import of recorded magnetic tapes, CD-ROMs and floppy diskettes, etc. He enumerated several anomalies being faced by the importers and offered some suggestions — redefining the rules to include new products like CD-ROM, optical and magnetic media for import and exclusion from duties and taxes, streamlining of the procedure for faster custom clearance, timely assessment of tapes & floppy diskettes, liberalize requirements for producing physical proof of import of information generated through electronic means and from databases.

Mr. Rustagi made some comments on the problems being faced both by the customs officials and the importers of CD-ROM. He pointed out that the deliberations of the session could provide useful input to the pre-budget exercise for elimination of certain anomalies. He requested the panelists and others to present the views on two specific points, viz. a) what should be the rate of duty on CD-ROM, and b) what should be the valuation procedure for imported CD-ROMs.

Dr. Narayanan intervened to highlight another difficulty being faced by his firm and others. Since the technology/facility for replication process of CD-ROM disks was not available within the country, databases prepared within the country had to be sent out for replication and then brought back again for distribution. At the point of re-entry, duties were being levied on the replicated disks. This was an anomalous situation as these disks were not being imported in the true sense.

At this point, Dr. A. Lahiri, Adviser, DSIR discussed in some detail the various points raised and maintained that most of the difficulties arouse because of the insistence of the customs authorities to treat modern information products like CD-ROM, magtapes, etc. differently than the conventional products like promoted books, journals, etc. They differ only in physical form and not in information content.

On protracted discussions, the participants agreed on the following points :

Technical Session X : Media/News Information

The session had Mr R Sridhar, Doordarshan, Calcutta as Chairman and Mr. HR Mohan of the Hindu, Madras, as the main speaker. Mr Sridhar in his opening remarks, mentioned that the present information system in Doordarshan was primitive. There was no proper library and there was hardly any archival system. He felt that a good information retrieval system was the need of the hour. The Akashvani was having a mine of information but there was hardly any documentation system.

Mr Mohan, then, presented an in-depth account of the extensive use of IT in the publication of the Hindu and the various services available and also planned by the 117 years old national daily. IT was being used for news gathering, production, information storage and retrieval, and distribution. the paper was being published simultaneously from 8 centres which are linked with high speed 64 kb data lines. Apart from the daily newspaper, Mr. Mohan also mentioned about the other publications of the Hindu group and special features. Reference was made to the library resources and activities also. Way back, an Index Dept. was started, which was later on merged with the Library. The Library had more than 200,000 books, 15,000 reports, 20,000 pamphlets, 400,000 clippings, and 5,000 images.

Mr Mohan also provided some information about their information storage and retrieval services, computer and reprographic facilities. Indexing activities and index databases created so far were detailed. Facility for full text storage of the city edition of Hindu was created since 1994. The Hindu online full text is now available on CWN, Knight _ Ridder, VANS, and NTIS and daily and weekly Internet services are also available for the Hindu and the BusinessLine.

Technical Session XI & XII : Legal & Judicial Information and Copyright Issues

The joint session was chaired by Prof Amit Sen, Dean, Faculty of Law, Calcutta University. There were only two presentations - one on Copyright Protection of Databases and the other on Legal and Judicial Information.

Mr VK Gupta, NISTADS, New Delhi, made the first presentation on Copyright Protection of Databases. He deliberated at some length on the issues of intellectual property protection; different legislations and conventions for copyright protection and on some key concepts and critical issues arising out of the protection provided to databases in the Copyright Act (1957) in India.

Emphasising the important role of databases in the global information scenario, Mr Gupta brought out the relevant provisions of the four legislations for the protection of intellectual property in India, namely, the Indian Patent Act, 1970; the Designs Act, 1911; the Trade and Merchandise Act 1958; and the Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended in 1994). He also mentioned the three inter-national treaties in this context, namely, WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights; Berne Convention for the Protection of Literacy and Artistic Works; and the Universal Copyright Act.

It was pointed out that there are no well established guidelines for the protection and use of databasis as such. The legal systems in various countries are developing their own responses. In general, three broad approaches are being followed in the protection of databases. They are :

  1. Steps taken to incorporate database protection in the copyright laws

  2. In addition to copyright protection additional restrictions are put on the use of databases through contracts,

  3. Legislative measures to establish a sui generis system for the protection of databases.

The Indian Copyright Act has been amended (1994) to extend more effective protection in the context of technological developments affecting the reproduction of works, which includes computer programmes as literary works and other computer generated works. Thus, the meaning of literary work includes computer programmes, tables and compilations including computer databases.

Mr Gupta pointed out that further clarifications might be necessary in respect of the following issues: Downloading of information from databases, remote access to databases through telecommunication lines, ownership of computer generated works, and protecting personal information databases.

Mrs S Ravindran, NISSAT/DSIR then presented an overview of the Indian Legal and Judicial Information System. She talked about the three levels of the judiciary, viz. the local courts, high courts, and the Supreme Court. Justice is administered usually on the basis of information on legislations enacted by the Parliament and state legislatures and also records of similar cases decided by various records of similar cases decided by various courts from time to time. Most of these information are usually available in printed form and hence, at times, it is difficult to access the relevant information. However, some private agencies and also the government are making efforts, in recent years, to have legal information available in machine readable form. She cited the example of NIC which has initiated work in the management of information relating to cases decided in the Supreme Court. Among the private sector ventures, TAEXPERT - a compressive CD-ROM database covering decisions given by various high courts on cases relating to direct tax laws; the JURIX Personal, and GRAND Jurix databases on all previous cases decided by the Supreme Court are worth mentioning.

Mrs Ravindran went on to identify several issues which are of some concern for the proper development of judicial and legal information products. These are:

Technical Session XIII : Economic & Financial Information

The session had Prof Sushil Khanna of IIM, Calcutta, as the Chairman. Prof. Khanna in his introductory remarks highlighted the importance of economic, population, livlihood and similar information/data for planners and research workers. The business sector is also demanding more and more economic and financial information. He also stated that in India it is very difficult to get production data from any industry. The problem is more acute for the unorganised sector. There is also dearth of data about buyers in India and he said that like him there are many other dissatisfied information users.

Dr GR Narayanan of CERC, Bangalore presented his paper on the stock market and the services being provided by his centre. The stock market has become very much attractive due to various reasons, and with its information about stock market it has become crucial. There are 17 stock exchanges working at different level of efficiency. The Bombay Stock exchange is having online facilities. There is a feature called company information giving particulars about dividends, bonus offered, book closures, etc. The CERC has offices in Dubai, Colombo, Singapore, and Hongkong. He also talked about their Asia News Network and how they provide information on daily basis. He mentioned about `India Online', a 2-hour stock market information programme. CERC was also having connection with the Asian Age, Financial Express and a few more newspapers.

Dr Narayanan also talked about the forthcoming TV network, Spotlight Information, which is going to start soon. He also made a reference to the Public Service Information on health and some social issues. He agreed that the expectation of the public is very large. Some questions from the participants were also answered.

Technical Session XIV : Hospitality & Tourism Information

This last technical session was chaired by Mr David W Lewis of IDRC, Singapore. The main speaker was Dr. G Ravindran, Deputy Director General, Deptment of Tourism, Govt of India, and there were two panelists - Mr. Manoj Kutty from Tata Interactive Systems, Bombay, and Mr. M. Manchanda from the Amadeus, New Delhi, who also spoke.

Mr. David W Lewis, IDRC chairing the session [Photograph]

Dr Ravindran presented an overview of Tourism and Information Technology in India. Tourism in its present form, he said, is a post-war phenomenon developed essentially as a consequence of technological developments in the fields of automobiles, railways, ships, aircraft, computers and communication systems. The foreign exchange earning from tourism, in India, is estimated to be about Rs. 7400 crores as against Rs.7.7 crores during 1951.

Tourism industry, particularly, travel intermediaries like travel agents, tour operators, and reservation systems, require a large variety of information about tourist destinations and such information has to be produced in most attractive format. Till recent years tourist information were available in pamphlets, brochures, directories, guide books, etc. These are being replaced by online and offline information sources. The CD-ROM technology has also come in a big way in the tourism industry and in the next few years there is likely to be a rapid growth in CD titles covering every aspect of tourism.

In India the Deptt. of Tourism took the first initiative to introduce information technology in tourism in 1989, by establishing TOURNET with the technical assistance of CMC. The network consisted of 35 information nodes installed in the field offices of the Deptment of Tourism located in different parts of the country. The Deptt. is presently trying to tie-up with some of the private software development firms to produce a series of multimedia CDs covering all the tourist destinations in India.

After some discussions on the overview of the tourism industry and its information requirements, presented earlier by Dr. Ravindran, Mr. Manoj Kutty of the Tata Interactive Systems, Bombay, talked about the information support facilities that have been created by his firm for the development of tourism in Maharashtra.

The last speaker was Mr.MManchanda from the Amadeus, New Delhi. Amadeus has an important agency in the field of computerised reservation systems. Mr. Manchanda talked about the various services being provided by his firm in the development of the tourism industry and also about some new programmes they have in hand.

Prof. P Roychoudhury chairing the valedictory session [Photograph]


Having considered the various aspects of the information market, development of information technologies, availability of newer information products and services in various subject areas and in different forms, including on line/CD-ROM, and their access mechanism and marketing aspects, the ITT Meet 1995 decided, at its concluding session to make and put on record the following recommendations:

  1. A regular mechanism may be created for analyzing the trends in the development of information technologies, assess new products and services in the national and international market, and prepare periodic reports on broad and specific areas.

  2. A baseline study of the Indian information market in respect of its size and the pattern of development may be undertaken immediately.

  3. A mechanism may be set up for policy analysis, for making recommendations on new policy instruments and suggest methodologies for their implementation.

  4. The tradeable, public domain information generated and held by the government departments may be selectively released to the private sector information industry for product development, value addition, and service generation.

  5. The public funded information systems may be urged to reassess realistically their pricing policies vis-a-vis the national welfare objectives and market conditions and new approaches so that unequal market competition is discouraged and drain of tax-payers money is avoided.

  6. Apart from financial hand-holding, the Government may help in facilitating access to libraries and information centres and other information products and services of the public sector to the private industries and entrepreneurs.

  7. Resources of the cyberspace may be explored systematically, sector by sector, and disseminated to interested persons.

  8. All information industry players should get themselves organized and form an Information Industry Association of India (IIAI) for the furtherance of their interests and greater visibility.

  9. There is an immediate need for rationalization of customs duty structure for export and import of information products and services.

  10. It would be expedient to redefine book related to customs so as to include under it intellectual content of modern information products like CD-ROM, magtapes, etc.

  11. Setting up of a web site on Indian information market has become a necessity.

  12. Preparation of a comprehensive directory of Indian information products and services from public and private sectors may be undertaken.

  13. A repository collection of information products on modern media like CD-ROM may be created.

  14. Cost effective, standardized, efficient and easy-to-use methodology for database development may be evolved.

  15. A scheme to promote and support indigenous database development may be evolved.