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AFRIK-IT  March 1996

AFRIK-IT March 1996

Subject:

DSS Workshop - Macau

From:

Zbigniew Mikolajuk <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Fri, 29 Mar 1996 11:36:16 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (135 lines)

The Workshop "Decision Support Systems for Sustainable Development: Software
Technology for Agenda 21" has been organized by UNU/IIST (United Nations
University / International Institute for Software Technology, Macau) and IDRC
(International Development Research Centre, Canada) in Macau, 26 February - 8
March 1996. The Macau Foundation and Macau Polytechnic sponsored some events
of the Workshop.
 
Forty four scientists from 21 countries attended the Workshop. The Workshop
program included invited lectures, case study presentations, round-table
discussions and presentation of scientific papers. Good working atmosphere
and very high scientific level of most presentations were matched by
participants' involvement in discussions, hands-on laboratory sessions and
planning for future collaboration.
 
A position paper based on plenary discussions will by produced by the end of
April and published in a major journal concerning information technology in
development. The position paper will identify main issues of development and
deployment of decision support systems in developing countries to improve
decision making in such areas as social services, environmental protection,
health services, natural resources management. The paper endorsed by all
participants will discuss the role and contribution of information technology
specialists in implementation of Agenda 21.
 
The following post-workshop activities are being carried out:
 
- exchange of messages on the list server ([log in to unmask])
- preparation of the position paper (Pat Hall, e-mail: [log in to unmask],
  fax: 44-1908-552140),
- editing of a DSS book (editors: A. Yeh, G. Kersten, M. Rais); a list server
  will be made available for the correspondence regarding the book at
Carleton University;
- sample software suite for DSS development (J. G. Krishnayya e-mail:
  [log in to unmask], fax: 91-212-477902, B. Adams e-mail:
  [log in to unmask], fax: 1-604-739 7753);
  please send suggestions which free software should be included in a DSS
suite.
 
Please send your comments regarding post-workshop activities and new ideas to
the listserver, or specific activity group or to me.
 
Information, access to information, knowledge, development policy and
decision-making are imminent topics in discussions on sustainable
development.  Agenda 21 underlines the necessity to improve
decision-making concerning economic development and environmental protection
at local, national and international levels. Decisions taken by every man and
woman, municipal and provincial authorities, government departments,
multinational corporations and international organizations will determine the
realization of sustainable development. Agenda 21 calls for research programs
and implementation of information systems which  support decision-making
based on sound information and procedures. Global sharing of knowledge,
collaboration and coordination of decision-making at all levels will need
new tools and methods.
 
A practical, and in my opinion, critical issue in achieving sustainable
development is how the wide range of decisions will be made and coordinated
on local and global scales. Technical aids are essential for both information-
 and judgment-driven decision-making. Interdependence of international,
regional and national development, poses stronger than in the past,
requirements for exchange of information and sharing of knowledge and
coordination of actions. Local, as well as global factors must be taken into
consideration and available academic as well as traditional knowledge must be
applied to solve sustainable development problems. Computerized decision
support systems, well integrated with decision-making processes and valued by
decision-makers, will contribute to the implementation of objectives of
sustainable development.
 
Sustainable development implies a holistic approach to human development and
preservation of the natural environment. Decisions regarding economic,
political, or social activities should solve concrete problems, and at the
same time, all implications from the point-of-view of the paradigm of
sustainable development should be analysed. Many decision-makers are not
prepared for handling the complexity of such an analysis. DSS with built-in
knowledge concerning the analysis and capability to investigate and correlate
large amounts of data are needed.
 
Since the 1970s, DSS research has concentrated on financial (banking,
insurance) and medical systems. New application domains need to be
investigated from the viewpoint of decision-making for sustainable
development :
 
- land and water management;
- food production and distribution;
- poverty alleviation;
- primary health services;
- public services and administration;
- education;
- pollution control;
- urban planning and management;
- natural disaster recovery;
- population growth control; and
- economic planning.
 
There are many definitions of decision support systems and their functions in
decision-making processes. Some definitions are so broad that simple software
tools such as spreadsheets or database packages are labelled as DSS. They are
used in a technology driven market to "sell" a particular technology, e.g.
relational data base management, GIS, expert systems,
document management. One can develop a sophisticated DSS using a spreadsheet
or data base package, but it would be more appropriate to call these packages
DSS generators or simply software tools. A combination of different software
tools is usually needed in the case of development of DSS for sustainable
development applications.
 
A decision support system can be defined by its functional characteristics as
a system designed to support:
 
- the analysis of decision problems,
- determination and evaluation of alternative decisions,
- selection of a particular decision (or rejection in given conditions), and
- monitoring of the execution of selected decisions and suggesting corrective
actions.
 
DSS provides software for collecting and processing of data, applying encoded
domain knowledge and communicating with users. In the area of sustainable
development a DSS is designed to support decision-makers and not to replace
them as opposite to some automatic control or manufacturing systems which aim
at replacing human decision-making in industrial processes.
 
If you are interested in the area of DSS for Sustainable Development and want
to share your views with the Macau Group please subscribe to list server:
[log in to unmask] or send a message to [log in to unmask]
 
Zbigniew
 
Zbigniew Mikolajuk
Senior Program Specialist
Programs Branch
International Development Research Centre
250 Albert Street, P.O.Box 8500
Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA, K1G 3H9
Tel: (613) 236 6163 ext. 2049
Fax: (613) 567 7748
E-mail (Internet): [log in to unmask]
X.400:  N=Zbigniew Mikolajuk;C=CA;A=ATTMAIL;P=GC+IDRC

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