Robert D. Hart
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530 USA
v: (215) 683-6383
f: (215) 683-8548
Research, academic; Research, government; Economic development
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Technology transfer
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
INFORUM: An International Forum for the Development of Sustainable Land Use
Just as the construction of the global transportation system led to a revolution in the travel industry, the dramatic expansion of the telecommunication highways will lead to analogous changes in the communications industry. Like the early days of highway construction when small motels and “mom and pop” diners were built almost overnight to accommodate the traveling public, thousands of electronic bulletin boards have been set up for casual electronic travelers that want to meet people with similar interests on their electronic journeys.
Perhaps people are less aware of the fact that expanded telecommunication highways have also made it possible to set up venues for business travelers, scientists, etc. INFORUM is such a venue. INFORUM is a global forum for information exchange in support of the development of sustainable land use systems. Commissioned at a Symposium sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture, the Rodale Institute, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi, India in 1990, it was incorporated in as a non-profit organization in 1991. INFORUM’s 6-member board of directors includes people from Brazil, Kenya, India, the Philippines, Russia, and the United States.
INFORUM has been set up using the metaphor of an electronic campus. The “buildings” on the campus represent general services such as conferencing, a library, etc. The buildings have “rooms” that include a “bulletin board” for short messages, a “table” for discussion, and a “file cabinet” for longer documents. Rooms are rented for short term conferences in the Conference Building or they can be rented on a long term basis by organizations or networks that want to use INFORUM to share information or cooperate with others. Institutions can also lease their own building on the campus.
INFORUM is accessible directly from both the INTERNET and from commercial telecommunication networks. Since many people around the world do not have direct on-line access to telecommunications networks but are able to periodically send and receive electronic mail, users also have the option of sending electronic mail to a topic or a conference moderator can periodically forward information to conferees by electronic mail.
An electronic conference on the role of livestock in sustainable land use systems is currently underway in the Conference Building. The conference was organized by Winrock International in Arkansas, the Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC), and INFORUM. This conference will be completed March 31, 1993, but to date more than 35 people form 25 countries have shared more than 1000 pages of information.
Another INFORUM initiative is funded by the US Agency for International Development. Currently, 8 agricultural development institutions in China, Chile, Kenya, Philippines, Senegal, UK, US, and Zimbabwe are working together to set up a global information exchange process. The process includes a shared database, conferences on specific sustainable land topics, and a process to download this electronic information and disseminating it in newsletters published by the participating institutions.
Like most types of travel, the first step in an electronic journey is usually the most difficult. INFORUM will actively work with local organization in different countries to help people learn how to connect their computers to global telecommunication networks, and to use these networks to reach electronic venues like INFORUM. The potential of an electronic initiative like INFORUM is almost without parallel. Today INFORUM may be unique in its effort to provide an independent electronic venue for people interested in sustainable land use, but in the future as electronic highways expand, many similar venues will likely be developed as people learn to think differently about electronic travel.