Abstract

Constraints to knowledge generation and dissemination are particularly acute in developing countries. Access to relevant sources of information for effective planning is often poor, and dissemination from research activities is weak. Indigenous research from developing countries rarely enters the global knowledge base, a situation which tends to further isolate these countries from current dynamic international debate on development research. In turn, this reduces the demand for, and thus the potential role of, national research programmes in helping define national and broader international policies on sustainable development, and on effective measures to achieve livelihood and food security targets.

oneFish (http://www.onefish.org) is a Web based knowledge management system that contributes towards addressing this problem. oneFish draws together a broad cross section of stakeholders within the fisheries and aquatic research community. The primary aim of oneFish is to raise the profile of fisheries and aquatic research and reinforce its impact on responsible fisheries development.

oneFish represents a fundamental advance in devolved management information systems. It responds to long sought-after information, communication and networking needs of many organisations engaged in promoting more responsive fisheries as well as aquatic resources research and development. The design of oneFish has been demand-led in that it integrates many of the communication ideas and needs articulated by these organisations into one interactive system.

oneFish allows users to contribute information in electronic form to specific subject areas, and to search for and retrieve information, files and other linkages from the whole oneFish domain. Institutions and special interest groups are able to use oneFish to develop discussion groups and create virtual offices. Subject-specialist topic editors assist in the administration of specialised topics by editing and adding information submitted to them.

The software underlying oneFish has been developed by Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Since early 2000, a series of prototypes have been undergoing intensive testing with the co-operation of a small group of fisheries specialists. Version 1.0 of oneFish was released to the public in February/March 2001.

The need to improve communication, information flow and networking in the field of fisheries and aquatic research and development has been widely recognised for a considerable time, and has been highlighted in all recent major international policy instruments related to fisheries development. It is recognised that the problem is particularly acute in developing countries where access to information relevant to effective research planning is often poor, and where dissemination from research activities is weak.

Indigenous developing country research rarely enters the global knowledge base, a situation which tends to isolate these groups further from current dynamic international debate on development research. This in turn reduces the potential for effective collaboration and co-operation. Prerequisites for fisheries research achieving useful impact on sustainable development are active participation in debate and congruence between the knowledge systems of ‘North’ and ‘South’. This enables both sides to recognise, learn and benefit from each other's rich knowledge.

The relatively recent advent of Internet technologies offers a new opportunity to overcome this problem. In fact, the Internet has been rapidly assimilated in the ‘North’ rather than the ‘South’. This has led to growing concern about its potential for widening the information gap- the so-called ‘digital divide’. The problem is made even more difficult by the fact that infrastructures and abilities required are often inaccessible to the vast majority of people in developing countries.

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