Minutes of the 4th AARINENA-ICT Steering Committee Meeting

10 November 2006
New Delhi, India


Opening of the meeting

1. The meeting has been held, on 10 November 2006, during the GFAR 2006 Conference , in New Delhi ,India.
2. The representatives of the five sub-regions, except the Mashreq Region, were presented in the meeting.
3. Upon the request of Dr. Hamdan, All Regional and Inter-Regional Network Coordinators participated in the meeting to allow them gain understanding on how to link and publish the outputs and up date information of their networks into AARINENA website.
4. Dr. Sallam, the chairman of The Steering Committee, started by welcoming all participants and wished them a successful meeting...
5. Dr. Kheder from IPGRI, Syria, has been introduced as new member of the Steering Committee as agreed earlier through correspondence.

Approval of the meeting agenda

6. Dr. Sallam has presented the tentative Agenda which has been submitted earlier to all SC members. The participants adopted the following Agenda:
• Opening and welcoming by the chairman
• Discuss the establishment of focal units in AARINENA member countries and possibilities of improving NAIS and RAIS.
• Discuss on TORs of the intended focal units
• Discuss on the 2007-2009 ICT-RAIS work plan with the required support to implement the plan.
• Any emerging issues raised by participating members
• Closing the meeting

Proceedings of the meeting
7. Dr. Rafea asked if it is possible that the Steering Committee accept new members ,because based on the rules, all SC members should be elected by voting during the AARINENA-ICT General Assembly meeting. But Dr. Hamdan clarified that all Regional and International Organizations , as support agencies and co-sponsors of AARINENA may participate in the Steering Committee.

8. Related to the 2nd item of the Agenda which is the identification of the Focal Units in ICT-RAIS member countries, Dr. Sallam mentioned that official letters has already been sent to all NARS leaders of the member countries (except those whom email address was not present like Saudi Arabia) to encourage them establish their own focal units. He said that weakness of national agricultural information systems can affect RAIS and without a strong NAIS we cannot build proper RAIS. Here, it was agreed that a follow up is needed for those leaders who didn't reply to official letter. Also Dr. Sallam was asked again to follow up NARS leaders to nominate as soon as possible the Focal Units.

9. When the draft TORs for the focal units were discussed, some modifications were made as follows: the 2nd item, has been changed as "to assist in the development of NAIS and RAIS in AARINENA member countries". The 3rd and 4th items were merged together as: "to collect , organize, monitor and update information and make them accessible to AARINENA-RAIS. "The 5th item has been removed. The approved final TORs are as follows:
• To assist in the identification of respective NARS information needs
• To assist in the in the development of NAIS and RAIS in AARINENA member countries.
• To collect, organize, monitor and update information and make them accessible to AARINENA-RAIS.
• To assist in the improvement of national research and ICT policies and strategies within the scope of AARINENA-RAIS mission.
• To share skills, knowledge and experiences in the handling and management of information among national focal units.
• To represent the respective NARS in the AARINENA General Assembly meetings and relevant ICT/M national and regional events.

10. With regards to kinds of support to be given to the regional networks, Mrs. Ebrahimi indicated that some pages on the AARINENA web site were specially designed for these networks. For example Medicinal plants network has a page on AARINENA web site which includes all information related to their activities. The only problem is that a mechanism should be identified for updating information directly by the coordinators. The network coordinators were then encouraged to send their data to be incorporated. Mrs. Ebrahimi then concluded that a system like Infosys which was provided for FARA is needed to allow the users to upload information directly from their countries. After some discussions some important suggestions came out such as making use of the results of the collaborative program implemented with ZADI to help upload all files and reports, and encouraging NARS leaders to support such activity. Dr. Hamdan has concluded that Regional Networks are one of the main activities of AARINENA and we want to help them to improve their information systems, for the short run, until networks can develop their systems. Mrs Ebrahimi, the AARINENA web manager, could continue interacting with networks to publish their information on the web. AARINENA web site should act as a portal in the future so all networks members can upload their data directly on the web from their countries.

11. A tentative draft of the ICT-RAIS work plan (2007-2009) that was prepared by Dr. Sallam and sent to all members by email was discussed in the meeting. The eight priorities that were confirmed during the AARINENA-ICT meeting in Amman, Jordan, formed the main themes of the plan. All these items were divided into sub-activities. Objectives, expected outputs, tentative budget, and required support were incorporated in the plan. After a thorough discussion, it was agreed that the budged is to be revised with focus on the priority issues including NARIMS for which budget was already secured. Dr. Durah Kheder, from IPGRI, showed interest to re-organize the work plan within a planning matrix used in his organization. Dr. Durah also mentioned that support would be secured by IPGRI to cover some of the activities of the work plan such as training of focal points.

12. Dr. Durah was given the chance to explain about his organization and the activities that IPGRI has done related to the development of Information System in the Region. He said that IPGRI Developed an effective modeling tool to capture traditional knowledge, analyze and share among National Programs namely GRIS Portal. He said that this portal allows all partners and focal points to upload the information directly without changing the document. He asked for interacting of AARINENA focal units to take part in this portal to send information. He said that this portal has a lot of services like discussion groups, collaborative groups, useful links, Directory of expertise,…. He also has mentioned that the portal is searchable and you can find the content of entire portal. He added that in order to be a member in this portal, a registration form should be completed.

13. Concerning the future use of NARIMS, Dr. Kheder showed interest to have NARIMIS linked to IPGRI Portal for integrating the research information into their system. After intensive discussions on this issue all participants agreed to strengthen collaborative activities with IPGRI in terms of :
• Supporting the focal units on implementing their information system.
• Providing support for developing NARMIS in Regional Agricultural Information Systems.
• Assisting in the development of the Portal for AARINENA-RAIS and re-engineering the AARINENA website and linking it with the GRIS portal.

14. Related to the priorities mentioned in the Work plan 2007-2009, Dr. Rafea raised the issue of time limit and difficulty in attaining all ICT-RAIS objectives based on the set of agreed priorities. He indicated that GIS is particularly not a priority issue at this time. After discussions, it was agreed that GIS to be shifted to be priority number 8, while capacity building is shifted to be priority number 2. also it was agreed that the budget of work plan must be revised to be attainable. With GIS, the possible activities could be identification of success stories in other countries to be used for our purposes in the future. The revised priorities of the three years work plan could be mentioned as follows:
• Identifying focal units in member states
• Capacity building activities
• Consolidating the preparation of ICT national strategies and policies
• Articulating outputs from the former steering committee
• Thematic linkage with RAIS
• Measure impact of ICT on agricultural development
• Advocacy issues
• Use of GIS in improving data processing and data use

15. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Sallam thanked all the participants insisting that all members should collaborate and build own initiative to promote AARINENA–RAIS future plans.

Annex 1
List of participants


Dr. Ibrahim Hamdan
AARINENA Executive Secretary Jordan Tel:+962-6-5525750
Fax: +962-6-5525930 i.hamdan@cgiar.org 

Dr. Ahmed Rafea
Prof. Egypt Tel: +202-7604727
Fax: +2027617628 rafea@claes.sci.eg

Mrs. Taraneh Ebrahimi
AARINENA-RAIS Secretary Iran Tel:+98-21-22413931
Fax: +98-21-22413931 t-ebrahimi@aarinena.org

Mr. Otman Sebbata
Head of information & documentation Unit Morocco Tel:+212-37-774459
Fax: +212-37-203660 sebbata@inra.org.ma

Mr. Hamed Al-Dhuhli
Researcher Oman Tel:+968-99204060
Fax: +968-26893097 Hamed444@yahoo.com

Dr. Mohammad Sallam
Director of Ext. Programs Yemen Tel: +967-77301426
Fax: +967-6-423914 Sallam2003@yemen.net.ye 

Dr. Khader Durah
Regional Network and Information Manager
IPGRI representative IPGRI,Syria Tel: 0096321-2231412 ext. 117
Fax: 0096321-2273681 K.DURAH@CGIAR.ORG

Dr. Boubaker Karray
Olive Network Coordinator Tunisia bkarray@yahoo.fr 

Mrs. Aisel Gharedaghli
Inter-Regional Cotton Network Coordinator Iran Gharedaghli@yahoo.com

Dr.Abdelouahhab Zaid
Date Palm Global Network Coordinator
UAE zaid@uaeu.ac.ae 

Dr. Mousa Fayyad
Medicinal Plants Network
Jordan Tel: +962-6-4726680
Fax: +962-6-4726099

Annex 2

AARINENA-ICT-RAIS Steering Committee
Plan of Work (2007-2009)

Tentative draft for discussion
By: Dr. M. Sallam


The main constraints affecting ICT/M and the building of efficient ICT-RAIS are weak national agricultural information systems in many of AARINENA members countries, inconsistency in information management, and lack of cooperation and coordination between the different member countries. This situation has affected the utilization of available resources and led to weak information exchange. Moreover, duplication and repetition of research activities in member countries affected efficiency and effectiveness of research work.

Strengthening the national agricultural information systems (NAIS) is, therefore, an important step towards strengthening regional agricultural information system (RAIS). Building an effective partnership, networking, and good governance structures at regional and international levels would accelerate the use and benefit of quality information contents available at national levels and that is incorporated with the world knowledge base.

During ICT-RAIS SC Meeting in Amman in April 2006, and the consequent discussions that followed this meeting, it was concluded that strengthening the information systems at national level is a priority issue for any further improvements at regional and international levels. During the previous years, many efforts were made to develop suite of tools to enhance the agricultural information systems. It is therefore a priority of the coming period to focus on the development of individual and institutional capacities to be able to ensure sustainability of the agricultural information systems. Within the work program of the ICT-RASIS Steering Committee for the coming period (2007-2009), there are some important activities that could be carried out in this direction.

This work plan focuses on the main outcomes of the ICT- RAIS steering committee meeting held in Amman in April 2006. In the meeting, some important themes were identified and prioritized be the participants to form the basis of the business plan for the coming three years. The main identified themes would be converted into planned activities after identification of objectives and expected outputs. Estimated budgeting would be prepared and expected funding sources would be roughly indicated.


1- To improve ICT/M policies and strategies at national and regional levels to be the base for improving international information strategies.
2- To develop efficient and effective national and regional MIS on ARD.
3- To develop individual and institutional capacities of NARS for proper development and integration of information systems.
4- To ensure quality and demand driven information contents that is practical and reliable.
5- To improve access to and share of information for development at national, regional and international levels.
6- To develop efficient information links, research partnership, and advocacy issues that are transparent and benefit the different stakeholders at national, regional and international levels.

Expected outputs:

-Established shared med-term vision and strategy on the importance and use of information and communication technology at national, regional and international levels.
-Trained ICT/M staff of NARS in developed NAIS and gateway of improving information exchange.
-Empowered and facilitated ICT structures, and accessible management systems of research information at national levels of the respective AARINENA member countries.
-Improved quality of information at NAIS to be used to strengthen regional RAIS.

Identified priority themes:

Some important themes were identified during the Amman meeting follows:
1. Identifying focal units in member states
2. Use of GIS in improving data processing and data use
3. Consolidating the preparation of ICT national strategies and policies
4. Articulating outputs from the former steering committee
5. Thematic linkage with RAIS
6. Capacity building activities
7. Measure impact of ICT on agricultural development
8. Advocacy issues

Proposed activities:
The ICT-RAIS activities during the coming three years (2007-2009) could be identified based on the thematic areas identified during Amman meeting as follows:

1- Identifying focal units in member states:
- Nomination of national information focal units (NIFUs) by NARS leaders at all member countries.
- Preparation of Terms of Reference of the focal units
- Establishing data base and data entry systems that could help NIFUS ensure possible communication links.
- looking for ways of activating the roles of these units in terms of support in terms of personnel, hardware and software.
- Articulating successful experience in ICT/M in other countries which could easily help strengthen focal units.

2- Use of GIS in improving data processing and data use
- Exchange of experience on the improvement of GIS based on available successful case studies.
- Preparing and communicating proposals for integrating research information into GIS systems.
- Sharing ideas of GIS improvement with others through the new established focal units.

3- Consolidating the preparation of ICT national strategies and policies
- Preparation of guidelines for preparation an ICT national strategy.
- Preparation of the national agricultural information and communication strategies and policies.
- Follow up of implementation of ICT strategies and policies.
- Exchange of experience concerning application of ICT policies and strategies.

4- Articulating outputs from the former steering committee
- Collection of reports made by the previous ICT Steering Committee and summarizing the achieved outputs.
- Establishing links with the previous ICT SC chair for exchange of ideas and making use of the learned lessons.
- Follow up of using the suite of tools prepared by the concerned agencies through the previous SC.

5- Thematic linkage with RAIS
- Preparation of thematic areas that are important for improving the utilization of ICT at all levels.
- Establishing common standards of data collection, storage, and dissemination mechanisms.
- Every focal unit makes sure that all the training materials, reports, and any successful ICT/M experience should be published on the AARINENA website.

6- Capacity building activities:
- An inter-regional workshop on establishing successful ICT focal units.
- A regional on the efficient use of GIS and writing successful case studies
- A regional workshop on how to identify the needs of each country to prepare proper ICT strategies and policies.
- Training courses on building and use of proper data base for information processing and communication.
- Study tours to other countries who have successful experience of using ICT good practices.
- A training course on the set of tools developed by the current NARIMS project implemented by CLAES , ARC-Egypt
- Establish contacts with the different concerned donor agencies such as ICARDA , AOAD, FAO, and IFAD who are involved in capacity building programs.

7- Measure impact of ICT on agricultural development
- Prepare areas of impact assessment of ICT on agricultural development
- Prepare indicators of measuring progress of ICT on agricultural development
- Propose data collection methods and ways of information communication.

8- Advocacy issues:
- Establish a regional task force for creating awareness and establishing communication procedures.
- The taskforce will consist of some interested ICT SC members who have national facilities to make awareness at national and regional levels.
- The taskforce will develop information resources about the importance of the development of NAIS and RAIS.

Required country and donor support
- NARIs decision support for establishing NIFUs.
- Member countries (NARI) to be encouraged to provide budgetary allocation for building their own information systems.
- NARIs to make budget allocation for accommodating visiting information experts when proposed by focal units.
- International donor agencies to provide allowances for experts/trainers, important hardware, and funds for other capacity building activities.


Proposed budget:

Budget US$




60,000 3x 20,000

Training courses

60,000 3X20,000 Workshops 2
75,000 3X15,000 Study tours 3
30,000 5X6,000 Visiting experts 4
9000 -- Equipment , materials 5
3,000 -- Travel for officials 6
3,000 -- Operational cost 7
3,000 -- Reporting 8
30,000 2X15,000 ICT/RAIS annual meetings 9
5,000   Develop website 10
278,000   Total