Communications & Information - 1993 Global Forum
International Synergy Institute - Preliminary Draft, July 1992

1. Overview Communications and access to information have historically played a critical role in the work of non-government organizations. The growing scale and importance of international networks of NGOs have highlighted the need for effective, timely, accessible and cost-effective communications. Recent developments in information technology have allowed for quantum shifts in the manner in which non-government organizations can compile and exchange information. The design of communications and access to information for the 1993 Global Forum needs to make effective use of the available information and communication technology, with a dual goal of optimizing the management of communications and information access for the Forum, and of providing support for training and capacity building for the NGOs participating in the Forum.

2. Information and Communication Integration Central to an effective strategy for communication and information for a large conference such as the Global Forum -- as well as for most conferences -- is the effective integration of information and communication dynamics into the overall conference process. An "information ecology" conceptual framework would be used in developing a structure that supports optimal access to needed information, while avoiding the pitfalls of information overload. By looking at a conference information ecosystem in the context of related ongoing information ecosystems, a well-designed information and communications strategy can play a critical role in supporting effective follow up results from a conference.

3. Da Zi Bao The Da Zi Bao interactive bulletin received widespread support in Rio, and recognition for the role that such a process can play in facilitating effective conference dynamics. The effectiveness of the Da Zi Bao process in supporting the conference process, as well as in generating a form of grassroots conference proceedings, can be significantly strengthened by incorporating interactive conferencing design elements into the overall conference process and into the plenary and workshop sessions.

4. Database/Directory A well designed directory/database of the participants in any conference -- especially when indexed by areas of interest and expertise -- is an invaluable resource to support ongoing communication among participants after the conference. A directory of Global Forum participants should be made readily available -- in diskette format as well as in conventional printed format.

5. Electronic Conferences The value of electronic conferences as a means of communication, access to information, and planning among NGOs was firmly established during the UNCED preparations. Throughout the preparatory process, there was a steady increase in the use of networks such as GreenNet, EcoNet, Alternex and GeoNet for these purposes, and a growing understanding of the power of the technology. However, the limitations of a reliance on electronic networks were also clear, pointing to the need for developing a structure of focal points, for an improved integration of print and electronic media, and for greater attention to the needs of organizations in areas characterized by marginal communication resources.

6. Documents A wealth of information in documents from a conference such as the Global Forum is easily lost in heavy, unwieldy piles collected by participants; meanwhile, other valuable documents can often not be readily found. By establishing a document clearinghouse process that seeks to compile and make available conference-related documents in electronic format as well as in print, greatly improved access to documents can be offered, and in a format that is both convenient and ecologically sound.

7. Language The critical importance of language was evident at the '92 Global Forum, both in the form of simultaneous interpretation, and for translation of documents. Provision for multilingual participation in the process is essential if the event is to be a truly global forum. Strategic use of multilingual translation software could play an important role in overcoming language barriers, and in drawing attention to the availability of an emerging technology.

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