The Third Meeting of the Information Today & Tomorrow organized under the aegis of NISSAT by the National Information Centre on Chemicals & Chemical Technology (NICHEM) from 7-10 January, 1997 at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pashan Road, Pune was marked by active interaction between the information experts and users of the infotech.

The Seminar was attended by two hundred and odd participants, representing Govt. departments, universities, IITs, research institutions, private sector and freelance professionals. Exhibits from various public and private organisations as well as hands-on training in Internet usage offered an insight into the present and future in this field.

The participants were welcomed by Dr.P. Ratnasamy, Director, NCL. He was of the opinion that in the early days in addition to money, muscle power was considered to be the real one. But recently raw material and access to it in the context of trade and business has become significant. After the Second World War production became the real power. Japan, Korea and some other developing countries have become lead nations due to this change. At the end of the cold war, mobility and technical know-how became key factors.

Dr. A. Lahiri, Adviser, NISSAT gave a detailed account of the objective and structure of the meet. He cautioned the info professionals not to be dragged in the discussion on software and hardware but be concerned with processing of the contents and their quick delivery to the users. Information facilitators should not forget that they are the bridge between info generators and info users and, therefore, play their role in a responsible way.

Inaugurating the meet, Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Secretary DSIR and DG-CSIR highlighted the urgent need of scientists and technologists for a good knowledge of information technology. He felt the necessity of creating physical infrastructure. NISSAT has zeal to provide infrastructure for information technology and mentioned about the success in this field. Dr Mashelkar highlighted the importance of connectivity, productivity and availability of IT professionals for global access to information. He exhorted the knowledge workers in India to become a database producers rather than mere database users so that we may create information balance despite being poor in resources. He emphasized that global access to information and export promotion should be enhanced on war-footing.

Dr RA Mashelkar delivering the Inaugural Address; sitting on the dias (from L to R) are
Dr P Ratnasamy, Mr Ajai Chowdhry and Dr A Lahiri.

He highlighted the importance of information and mentioned that computer-oriented information activity including Internet have now taken firm roots in the country. Internet is now essential for enchancing productivity and marketing information. He advised the participants to take advantage of Internet to the extent possible. Otherwise India will miss the information bus.

He further emphasized that the private sector should play a major role in producing value added competitive information products. Apart from capital, the only thing required is a change in the mind set for creating information power. Information has to be shared and there is an urgent need to achieve a cultural change for sharing information

He informed that NISSAT would soon be establishing an Indian S&T website server. It will be established on a bureau basis to help those individuals and institutions who cannot arrange such facilities with their own meagre resources.

He mentioned that CSIR has a chain of 40 labs and thus has a vast resource of information, which should be used in a creative way. CSIR would establish a Centre on Information Products in Pune to meet the information requirements of CSIR laboratories. He also emphasized that Pune has all the capabilities and facilities for providing information infrastructure though systematic planning for development is needed. Pune will be able to lead the country in the application of information technology like Bangalore if a commercial approach in all the activities of product/ service development is followed.

Mr. Ajay Chowdhry, President and Chief Executive Officer, HCL-HP gave a thought provoking keynote address on "The Shifting Paradigm in Information Technology".

He discussed at length various aspects of Infotech in India at present and the paradigm shift this subject has undergone. In this information age, he emphasized that Internet would influence our lives tremendously and was, therefore, necessary to make its maximal use. It would reduce time lag in transactions or any other activity including product development, production and marketing.

He gave a detailed account of emergence of information technology and significance of technological empowerment for strengthening the base of national economy. He informed that social, political and geographical limitations are collapsing; changes are taking place in economic and political relationships between countries; insulated and protected markets are disappearing; global teleconferencing networks are energizing the metabolism of world commercialisation and new era of competition is emerging throughout the world. Organisations are moving from cost cutting to improving organisational effectiveness by gaining knowledge information.

Dr P Ratnasamy inaugurating the Exbition on Internet. [Photgraph]

In the context of the changes mentioned above the new paradigm consists of new geo-political order; open, competitive and dynamic business environment; information-based enterprises; and user-centred and networked information technology help in setting new goals and roles for information dissemination.

Dr. S. Krishnan, NCL, Pune proposed a vote of thanks.

In the Inaugural Session Dr. Mashelkar launched the INDAB database, an inventory of Indexing and Abstracting Services developed by NISSAT and the Institute of Social Analysis & Communication, New Delhi. Dr. P Ratnasamy, Director, NCL inaugurated the Exhibition displaying and demonstrating various information products and services. The exhibition attracted a large number of participants. An interesting feature of the four-day meeting was free access to cybercafe which provided a good feast for cyber-surfing delegates.

The Ice Breaker Session, following the inaugural, offered a good overview of the emergence of Infotech in India as a significant national activity. Prof. S.C. Mahajan was the chairman of the session.

In a joint presentation by Dr A Lahiri and B G Sunder Singh, Dr Lahiri briefly touched on the emergence of information society in India. Dr. Lahiri described how the use of information and communication help in improving the quality of life. He pointed out that information networks are being established in different walks of life such as health care, transportation and distance learning. Presenting comparable statistics of South Asian countries on the population and information facilities, he pointed out that in India the information access facilities have not been developed to the extent required. He also discussed the special conditions prevailing in India like size of the population, illiteracy percentage, division between urban and rural population, divisions based on economic conditions — rich, middle, poor, extremely poor and so on. He also spoke on wealth creation and distribution in India and discussed various related aspects such as information sharing, psyche of the individuals, their willingness to pay for information, information security, confidentiality, privacy, intellectual property rights and information regulations. He felt that inspite of the claims made the status of India compared to the present world scenario, leaves much to be desired for being a major player in the information field. Quick and effective measures were suggested to take IT revolution to the teeming millions.

While concluding, Dr Lahiri emphasized on the need to promote the concept of "Information Society" in India in which private sector, government, NGOs and individuals are expected to play an important role.

This session set the tone for rest of the deliberation which was divided into company presentations and six technical sessions on:

(i) Emerging Trends in Information Technology
(ii) Internet
(iii) Internet Publishing
(iv) Information Resources
(v) CD-ROM Technologies
(vi) Impact of Technology on Libraries

Technical Session I : Emerging Trends in Information Technology

Prof. S.R. Ganpule, Bombay University, Bombay chaired the session.

The first presentation was on "Information Access and Delivery Alternatives - Industry Perspectives" by Mr. N.V. Sathyanarayana, Informatics (India) Pvt Ltd. He covered many important aspects such as information and information industry, information delivery media and options, and pricing, emerging changes, etc. The three important delivery media today are online, CD-ROM and Internet; and the delivery options are fixed-fee subscriptions, transaction-based pricing, FTP deliveries and site licensing. He also mentioned that full text databases are becoming more popular and as a result traditional online hosts are competing to add more full text. Further more full text CD-ROM databases are being planned by the publishers and websites offering current magazines and newspapers are mushrooming. Academic Press has launched its current journals on Internet and Silver-Platter has launched a new technology which links bibliographic database records to full text.

Shri Sathyanarayana also mentioned that digital library and CD-ROM technology are playing an important role in the information field. He informed that the final report - TULIP recommends staged approach to digital library. The CD-ROM drive population in USA homes exceeds home usages of Internet. At the beginning of 1996, 6-x drives were launched. Before the year ended 12-x fast speed drives were delivered. DVD are in and the first bibliographic database in DVD has already been released.

The Internet strategy has become integral to information delivery activities. Cost of information is no more looked at as purchase cost but as cost per usage. Advertisement based commercial model will soon be available for web based publications.

He also mentioned that web based access is the highlight of 1996. If one is not using web for scientific and technical reference at this point, loss could be enormous. He felt that knowledge is not power but access to knowledge is power.

The second speaker Mr. Dharum Shukla from C-DAC spoke on "Digital Imaging & Workflow Automation."

He emphasized that within an organization there is continuous flow of information which is to be processed for easy assimilation and storage and retrieval at a future date. With the help of OCR, the workflow of information data including images, drawings, text, etc. at a particular point of time can be processed. The scanned sheets can also be preserved as archival measure.

The second part the first technical section was a quiz program (Preliminary round) organised by Informatics (India) Private Ltd., Bangalore. This program was sponsored by Allied Publishers Private Ltd., Institute for Scientific Information, USA and ADONIS, The Netherlands. The program got spontaneous and overwhelming response from the participants.

Mr Ajai Chowdhry delivering the keynote address. [Photgraph]

An interesting session of the day was "An Evening with Internet - Business Information and Business Opportunities" by Mr. Makarand Waikar. Narrating in a simple way, what is Internet, Mr. Waikar gave a vivid account of how Internet is being used in medicine, trade, business, patents, etc. He took the participants to various sites on Internet. He mentioned that career placement sites are very popular to locate talent as well as to find jobs. The business planning sites provide information on business norms, business and industrial policies, country reports, etc.

Mr. Waikar demonstrated how a virtual hospital could be organized on Internet. From the site one can get information on drugs, consult experts, understand diseases, evaluate treatment, etc.

Major Indian newspapers like Business Line, The Hindu, The Economic Times and international newspapers make their editions available on Internet. Some of the popular sites of internet today are those on music and films. One can have a preview before mailing purchase decisions. One can listen to the news broadcast anytime as radio stations like All India Radio are now making their programmes available on internet.

Technical Session II : Internet

Shri M.S. Srikantiah CMTI, Bangalore was in Chair.

Mr. V. Mohan from C-DAC, Pune spoke about" Search Engines and Surfing of WWW" and mentioned about tremendous increase in the Internet host computers and websites.

Introducing the subject, Mr. Mohan described how, all the computers of the world were connected through local area networks and wide area networks, the software used and various home pages. Regarding the size of the internet, he gave an account how the internet has grown from 7 lakhs in 1992 to 94 lakhs in 1994 and has reduced 13,000 users per server to 94 users per server in 1996. He talked about brow-sing, searching, infor-mation location tools, search engines.

Dr. T.B. Rajashekar, NCSI, Indian Institute of Science spoke on "Internet and Infor-mation Professional". In this presentation he discussed in detail the scholarly information available on Internet. The net provides a global networked environment for seamless publishing and access to information. He explored the implications of these developments for the library and information professionals. The key features of networked information include easy publication and access, information delivery at user's desktop, multi-media integration and hypertext navigation. The immediate implication of the development is that the information professional has to become network information professional.

Mr. Srinivasa Nayapathi, In-Touch India, Pune spoke on "Internet Fundamentals." Starting with the development and history of Internet, he gave a detailed account of Internet development partners TCP-IP protocols and application protocols, TCP-IP layers, firewalls, Internet Service Protocols (ISP) components, Internet and Intranet concepts, etc.

Mr. Navin Nagiah, Internet Securities gave a presentation on "Information Dissemination on the Internet" Explaining the advantages in using the Internet for information dissemination, he informed that it is an open global network. It has a phenomenal rate of growth to-date and is very easy to use and/or operate. While touching on the pitfalls of Internet, he mentioned about traffic congestion. The WWW would be called as World Wide Wait instead of World Wide Web. He stressed that the current rate of increase in traffic cannot continue for ever. Many companies are working on the ways and means of managing the traffic on the Internet.

While concluding his speech, Mr. Navin Nagiah commented that the corporate Intranet will survive without major changes; high subs-cription fee-based information services will survive with very minor changes; and Internet business based on the Webvertizing model will have to change tracks at least for some time till the infras-tructure catches up.

After these academic discussions, two companies Soft-ware Services Support & Education Centre, Bangalore and Wipro Infotech Bangalore gave lively presen-tations of their products.

Technical Session III : Internet Publishing

Dr. S. Arunachalam, MSSFRC, Madras was the Chairman.

The first presentation was by Mr. H.R. Mohan of The Hindu, Madras, entitled "Internet Publishing - The Hindu Experience". Giving a brief background of the Hindu, he pointed out the advantages of going for electronic publishing. He informed that by doing so, they could turn the national daily into a global media informing the news of the home to NRIs and Indian students abroad. The newspaper went online in 1995 hosting on a server in the US. Initially the publication started as weekly edition covering about 50 stories per day, over 350 items of news/ features for a week classified under broad subject heads. From Sept. 96 they started daily services.

`Shri Gyaneshwari' being shown on Internet [Photgraph]

The second speaker Mr. Shashank Bhatt, C-DAC Pune discussed in detail on "Internet Publishing in Indian Languages". According to him for a multilingual and multicultural country like India, the impact of the internet will really be felt when information is available in local languages. As a consequence, the internet in India will grow at a rate far exceeding today as the ever growing demand of this untapped segment is met. He recommended that the country should develop standards and softwares for document creation and browsing. The Government and service providers should also launch a major initiative in publishing in Internet in Indian languages.

The third presentation was made by Mr. A. S. Ravi, NCSI, Bangalore on "Intranet for Libraries". Internal network in an organisation that uses the internet technologies and tools for serving information across the organisation over the network is called the Intranet. He informed that the web is the most preferred and popular tool for providing information as well as for accessing the information on the network. He explained and demonstrated the components of web page and the steps to be taken for the creation of a page.

Mr S Ravi showing `Home pages' from Defence databases on Internet. {Photograph]

In the concluding remarks he informed that the internet applications are truly platform independent, deployment of applications is very easy and simple at every stage.

The sessions of the day were followed by a special lecture by Dr. S.S. Murthy and Mr. S. Ravi of DESIDOC, Delhi on "Internet for Defence Users". Dr. Murthy spoke about DESIDOC initiative in providing information to defence personnel and the issues concerning security and sensitivity in Internet use. Mr. Ravi gave a demonstration on home pages of Jane's Weapon systems, SIPRI, Compendex, Defence Technical Information Centre, NASA Kennedy Space Centre, Missile Page emphasizing on the defence applications. The session was attended by various defence officials of local defence establishments in addition to the participants of the seminar.

Panel Discussion on "Information Tomorrow"

The most unique feature of the seminar was the Panel Discussion on "Preparing for Information Tomorrow". The Panelists included two school students, one senior and the junior, a home maker, a working woman, a disabled person, a senior executive of a private company, an environmentalist, a medical practitioner and a senior citizen. The session evoked excellent participation by the audience often marked with emotional outbursts and deep sighs of frustration.

Compered by Dr. Lahiri in his characteristic lucid style, this session brought out the large gaps that exist between information required by different section of the population and the availability of such information from nodal sources. While library-based information services do not attract enough usage, the public is starving of information required in day to day living and subsistence. The young panelists strongly felt that entertainment dominated the information technology in our country. For a balanced development, however, it was considered necessary to promote more of educational and social aspects of infotech. They also wished that the environmental and career development aspects, which were largely lacking in our information menu, are given due importance at the earliest. It was suggested by the young participants that every child must be made aware of the power and user-friendliness of the PC and Internet

to ensure healthy growth of Infotech in India in future. They exhibited enormous confidence and optimism for success of our country in this field to meet the challenges in future.

The panelists representing senior citizens and homemakers posed their problems before the information professionals. Mrs Sivaram representing the homemakers emphasized the need for information on shopping, child bearing, health care of children, legal information on property disputes, women rights and information support to effectively utilize their spare time. Retired persons have different information requirement: information on places of touristic and religious importance, old homes, emergency medical care, investment alternatives, etc. They would also like to have information on NGOs and voluntary organisations, where their expertise could be utilised.

Visually disabled Mr. M. K. Rastogi's appeal to the information scientists that the vast disabled population be empowered to utilize infotech and to taste the fruits of IT revolution, took the audience in an emotional frenzy. Apart from the information required by disabled and individuals for day to day life, appropriate services are also to be generated for social workers medical and para-medical professionals, special educators and so on.

The meeting ended with a positive note for "Informationtomorrow" in India.

Technical Session IV & V : Information Resources & CD-ROM Technologies

Dr. S. Krishnan, NCL, Pune was in Chair.

The first presentation in this session was on "Information Resources for Trade Information" by Mr.Makarand Waikar, Matrix Information Services, Bombay.

Mr. Waikar highlighted the importance of information resources for a company which has to compete in business environment. He showed how a company could increase the export of its products vis-a-vis the similar products of other companies.

Mrs. Shubhada Nagarkar, Bio-Informatics Centre, Pune spoke on "Internet Resources on Biomedical Sciences". She mentioned that in the field of biology and medicine a wealth of information is available through internet. How to find the relevant items from this mass of information, various listservers, electronic databases is a tall task. She presented a few of the biomedical resources available on internet in particular, the databank on Animal viruses (AVIS) created by University of Pune.

The next presentation in this session was on "CD-ROM Technologies—a Survey" by Sanjay Grover, Informatics (India) Pvt. Ltd., Pune. He mentioned that CD-ROM was introduced into India in 1987-88. He described the various advantages of CD-ROM technology and its applications.

He also explained CD-ROM networking and how it is possible to make a CD-ROM drive a logical sharable drive in local area network by using software and hardware solutions. There are about 65 CD-ROM networking installations in the country. He informed that Digital Video Disk (DVD) has higher storage capacity and faster access and is already in the market.

Mr. V.K. Varun, NISSAT, New Delhi talking on "Resources for Patents Information" enlisted various websites offering patents informations.

The deliberations of the Session ended with the Company presentation by Vans Information and Investment Service Ltd.

Technical Session VI: Impact of Technology on Libraries

Dr. S. Krishnan, NCL, Pune was in Chair.

The first presentation was on " Towards a Digital Library" by Prof. N. Balakrishnan, IISc, Bangalore. Giving a glimpse of the future libraries, he said that the whole structure of information technology will change with synergy between computer and communication on one hand and creators, publishers and distributors of information on the other. He projected that in future we shall have global libraries through which information could be accessed and delivered to users at distant places. The users would not be required to go to libraries as is the practice today. Libraries will not have big buildings, no updating or weeding of books. They will be known not by number of books they hold but how access to information is facilitated. The sources of information will proliferate and a user would be able to access to any information available anywhere and in any form i.e. text, audio or video.

The second presentation was on " Changing Face of Library Automation" by Mr. T. S. Ramakrishnan, Aptech-CBT, Bombay. He mentioned that while there is transparency with wide variety of media, today it is possible to have local and wide area search of information and its retrieval with interactive facilities. The global library catalogues are now open to users, for searching information with tremendous speed, at less cost, 24 hours a day.

Delegates going through the programme sheet after registration [Photograph]


Considering various aspects on the development and availability of newer information products and their access mechanism, the third ITT meet made the following recommendations:

  1. `Internet Search' should form an integral part of information delivery. An Indian S & T Web Server should be established by NISSAT.

  2. NISSAT should assist scientific institutions and information professionals to set up Internet connectivity and mass-organise training courses to improve internet literacy.

  3. NISSAT may assist academic research/scientific institutions in establishing digital libraries by providing CD-ROM and online search facilities.

  4. NISSAT should organise advance level courses on application of computers in library information system on a regular basis.

  5. CSIR labs and other agencies should not remain mere consumers of information but should produce databases/digital information resources on various subjects and thus become exporters of databases.

  6. Future ITT meets should emphasise on topics like DVD technologies, multimedia, storage devices, develop-ments in Internet, etc.

  7. An information system on educational facilities, teaching aids and rehabilitation facilities available to disabled persons may be established immediately.

    Attention may also be given to develop computer systems including peripherals, suitable for use by various categories of the disabled.

  8. Efforts should be made to consolidate and disseminate information needed by the general public on topics suchas medical emergency management, new health care,etc.