Who needs whom in the Second United Nations Development Decade (1970-1980?
- / -
Reprinted from International Associations, 1969, 10 [PDF version]
[UIA Study Papers INF/1]
An earlier version was distributed the title :
"Need for a world management information network to assist initiation and coordination
of global development programmes".
[together with appendices exploring the practical problems and implications
of the proposed information system]
A criticism of the manner in which the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies
have defined their management problems in the light of their global programme
objectives and their frequently stressed dependence on national and international
non-governmental organizations. A new approach using a computer-based management
information system is suggested.
Scope of management problem
Interaction between UN and non-UN networks
Problems currently treated on an ad hoc basis
Implications of the distinction between management techniques
and administrative techniques
Implications of the distinction between documentation and management
Economical solution to the global management information problem
Advantages of a network file organization
What sort of information do organizations need to prepare
for the increasingly complex and inter-related problems of the future ? Using
'apartheid' (meaning separate development) as a metaphor, it highlights
some of the gaps in the  conception of the United Nations information
problem and the consequences for non-U.N. bodies and the U.N. itself. The
fundamental cause of world inadequacy in the face of complex problems seems
to be the traditional tendency to attempt to treat each sub-problem in isolation
without developing a common framework within which subproblems could be related.
Systems analysis, a vital conceptual tool in ensuring that all 5 million Apollo
parts function harmoniously, may be the key to a more sophisticated understanding
of how the many different types of organization in the world contribute to
the success of each other's programmes.
This note has been prepared in order to stress the need for further attention
to one aspect of the plans currently under discussion within the United Nations
and the Specialized Agencies to improve global development strategy and coordination.
These have taken the form of investigations of ways to improve the operation
of individual agencies and their coordination. Detailed discussions have taken
place through many bodies including the :
- Administrative Committee on Coordination
- ACC computer users' committee
- ACC inter-agency working party on indexing and documentation
- ACC inter-agency study group on evaluation of technical cooperation
- ACC consultative committee on administrative questions.
- Ecosoc Expanded Committee for Programme and Coordination.
- U.N. General Assembly Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary
- Individual agency :
- management committees
- data processing committees.
- United Nations Development Programme.
- United Nations Institute for Training and Research.
This note suggests that agencies face an information and coordination problem
which is an integral part of that of other international and national organizations
and that the only effective long-term solution is one based on an assessment
of the management information requirements of all organizations in the face
of global problems.
2. Current Situation (1969)
The present problems and activities of the UN and Specialized Agency committees
on coordination and the use of computers have been briefly surnmarized in a
proposal by Walter M. Kotschnig (United States Member of the United Nations
Ecosoc Enlarged Committee for Programme and Coordination) entitled " Development
of modern management techniques and use of computers " (E/AC.5l/GR/L.9, 7 October
1968). The note cites the following problems :
'... it has become more and more difficult for any individual, whether in
government service or in an international secretariat, to be aware of the
totality of the United Nations family programme and activities. This in turn
complicates the process of coordination, makes over-lapping and duplication
more likely... "
'... the lack of an adequate and carefully organized system of presentation
of a myriad of relevant data and determinants renders highly problematical,
if not impossible, the establishment of overall programme priorities... "
To improve the situation, the note suggests that the UN system organizations
should " work in the directions of more intensified use of modern management
techniques " and should " review the existing and presently foreseen uses of
computers and other recent advances in data retrieval and presentation by United
Nations organizations " in order to prepare for larger programmes of action
on a " more coordinated basis under the global strategy for development. " The
note points out that solutions to the serious coordination and information problems
are being sought by a variety of UN agency bodies.
3. Scope of Management Problem
In terms of the management problems involved, it is important to recognize
- the attempts to coordinate the UN system programmes represent the most
general attempt at global development coordination in existence or envisaged
- these coordination attempts are not the only areas of programme coordination
within the world system. Much coordination has been achieved and is planned
at the local, national and international level which is only indirectly linked
to UN activity ;
- these other networks of coordination and information processing are however
designed to cope with problem areas with which the UN is vitally concerned.
In many cases, the UN is forced to work through these networks, whether they
are international associations of specialists, world youth movements or the
distribution system of a group of multinational business enterprises ;
- unless the analysis of the global situation which the UN (and non-UN) programmes
must face, is based on a management analysis of coordination and information
networks in general, rather than a management analysis of the UN system, agency
structure, or special problem areas, then the proposed solutions run the risk
of recommending organizational structures, programmes and information networks
which will duplicate one another as well as more efficient and better funded
structures outside the UN system.
A management approach to the UN system must, therefore, recognize a three level
problem of data processing, coordination and management guidance of:
- each individual U N agency, which is one part of the
- UN system, which itself is only one part of the
- world system of governmental, non-governmental and profit organizations,
the improvement of which is a fundamental objective of the UN, to the extent
that it attacks or alleviates world problems.
It is important to avoid the assumption that improvement at either of the first
two problem levels will necessarily be an effective answer (on a cost/ benefit
basis) to the problems arising outside the UN system or interacting with it.
Weaknesses in coordination and information systems, critical to the functioning
of the UN and its programmes outside the UN system may not be detected unless
the overall coordination problem is clearly determined in advance.
4. Interaction between UN and non-UN Networks
Agencies within the UN system constantly face the problem of effective interaction
with other organizations, programmes and information processing systems, whether
national or international. The UN system needs to mesh effectively with these
other systems in implementing its programmes and in ensuring the generation
of new programmes. The need for public awareness, acceptance, support and involvement
has been stressed in many UN reports as vital to effective programme implementation.
For example, the UN General Assembly resolved that the Office of Public Information
" should primarily assist and rely upon the co-operation of the established
governmental and non-governmental agencies of information to provide the public
with information about the United Nations " (Resolution 13(l) 1946). In 1968,
the Secretary General stated '... it is more important than ever to do
everything within our power to help create that receptivity to United Nations
objectives and policies which is as yet so seriously lacking. " (Press release
ECOSOC/ 252SG/M65). Many UN recommendations call for action by non-UN inter-governmental.
and nongovernmental organizations.
Data: United Nations (1), UN Agencies (27), Intergovernmental
Organization (201), Multinational Corporations (2819), International Nonprofit
Associations (2577), National and Local Organizations (No data or estimates)
Detailed annual estimates of world population economic characteristics
are available, but no systematic world survey of the local and national
bodies (which canalize and stimulate individual activity) appears to have
been made or proposed. Author's 'guestimate' is 0.5-2.0 million
formal, non-business bodies, i.e. the number in a metropolitan telephone
directory. Numbers and definitions of international organizations from
the Yearbook of International Organizations (1968-1969).
From currently available reports on the coordination and information processing
problem, it appears that most effort is being concentrated on the first level
problems (e.g. " the main effort of the United Nations and its agencies has
been naturally to ensure the dissemination of project information to their own
inter-governmental body, committees, experts and substantive services... ",
(E/4886/Add. 1, 19 April 1968)). Some effort has been made on the second level
problem (e.g. the existence of the Enlarged Committee on Programme and Coordination
and the creation of such bodies as the InterAgency Working Party on Indexing
and Documentation ; also '... some arrangements have been made to make... (project
information) ... available to other members of the United Nations family as
well as to member countries. " (F/4486/Add. 1, 19 April 1968).
The third level problem does not seem to have been adequately defined as vital
to any management or data processing proposals made for the UN system. Some
global programmes have been undertaken, but only for specialized and
therefore non-interacting problem areas (e.g. Unesco-ICSU contacts on
the world scientific information -network for document location; tentative proposals
for moves towards planetary environmental management at the, September 1968
Unesco expert conference on the biosphere; classification of national science
policy throughout the world.) No general systematic study of the interaction
and control of problem areas in terms of all the existing and planned organizational
structures and management information requirements appears to have been made
or even suggested. The approach to each special problem area has been elaborated
without any systematic consideration of interaction with other problem areas
and the type of information required to guide such interaction. Without a framework
in which problem area interaction is automatically considered, no coordinated
global approach to development strategy is possible.
In order to achieve its objectives, the UN needs .to consider :
- solutions to its own administrative, data processing and programme problems
in the context of the equivalent management problems of the world system as
a whole ;
- means by which flexible guidelines and facilities can be established for
other bodies within the world system to aid them in the solution of their
management problems. This would ensure that their activities and contacts
can easily link together to enhance the overall approach to the solution of
Increased coordination and effectiveness of the activities of organizations
unconnected with the UN system is a guarantee that the problems with which these
bodies are independently concerned, will be dealt with effectively and not become
a critical problem which the UN is forced to handle with its own limited funds
and administrative resources. The solution to UN internal administrative problems
is, therefore, closely linked to non-UN organization effectiveness and UN external
For a proposed solution to be effective, the management problem should be analysed
in terms of achieved and planned coordination, effectiveness of organizations
and programmes, of whatever type, and the role, the UN organizations can play
in interacting with other organizations to strengthen the weaker areas of the
world system. An ad hoc approach does not permit any sophisticated planning
or control of the situation.
5. Problems Currently Treated on an ad hoc Basis
There is a range of problems within the world system bearing directly on the
facilitation of global development strategy which is treated on a piecemeal,
patchwork basis. These include :
(a) information on bodies generating and implementing programmes and using
Few countries or international agencies have attempted to build up a comprehensive
systematic list of bodies which affect or are affected by their programmes.
For example, in the UN system " Most of the organizations have not up to the
present handled the project information in a systematic way in a central location...
" (E/4486/Add. 1, 19 April 1968), although it is recognized that '... much
staff time and money could be saved by a pooling of data and an automatic exchange
of new material. The material could be of particular usefulness at the stage
when identification of needs was under study " (E/4486/Add. 1, 19 April 1968).
Such a central data pool is important because the juxtaposition of programme
and contact information is vital to the avoidance of any duplication of research
and publications and to any overall analysis of programme priorities (problems
raised by Walter Kotschnig). Such contacts are also vital to any awareness of, and
utilization by, organizations outside the UN system of the work already done.
These are general problems faced by the UN and Agency Offices of Public Information.
The United Nations Ecosoc Administrative Committee on Coordination is " interested
in encouraging measures which could further facilitate the inter-agency dissemination
of project information " (E/4486/Add. 1, 19 April 1968) as a solution to one
aspect of this problem. One project envisaged is the creation of country information
files to be placed on microfilm for use throughout the UN system. This would
however be designed as an inter-agency solution only, irrespective of
the supplementary information needs or logical interface requirements of organizations
interacting with the UN system, on which the UN is dependent for the implementation
and effectiveness of its programmes. This work would, therefore, have to be
duplicated in a variety of forms outside the UN system, thus reducing the utility
of both and increasing the cost of the resultant inefficient information system.
The ACC states that " The use of reports in project and programme formulation
is mainly a matter for Governments. " (E/4486/Add.l) which apparently restricts
and simplifies the management problem, although in terms of achieving UN global
development objectives and evaluating programme effectiveness, study of the
use made -of existing programmes is a critical process in formulation of new
programmes. This is vital to a management overview of development strategy.
Current information on bodies using and supplying information to UN bodies,
whether they are within the UN system, the government system, the nongovernmental,
non-profit system, or the commercial system, appears to be split between and
within each agency and maintained under at least five entirely separate functional
- publication sales lists ;
- general information and public relations lists - expert advisor lists ;
- consultative status international organizations
- programme implementation organizations lists and directories by area or
- library card catalogues of the publications ted by such bodies (if received).
This is done for administrative convenience, even though the same body
may be listed in more than one file and in more than one agency. Because of
the ad hoc approach, there is likely to be duplication of effort in maintaining
files within and between agencies, as well as important omissions in the pattern
of contacts where bodies have not been detected by one or more agencies or departments.
Any such file organization makes an overall view impossible on a basis useful
for management and global strategy purposes, since even details on the
programme significance of individual organizations in the world system, for
the UN, are scattered though a number of departments which may not raise.
As an example, even within the United Nations (excluding the Specialized Agencies)
it appears that the only body with a fairly complete list of the hundred and
thirty General Assembly committees and sub-committees is the library. It is
difficult to get a management overview of an organization from a library card
Most UN system organizations are studying the maintenance of a central " memory
" on project information (E/4486/Add. 1, 19 April 1968). It has apparently not
yet been decided whether such memories would be computer based or what sort
of material they should contain and have exchanged between agencies (e.g. programme
contacts, programme objectives, report titles, or detailed project reports).
The current emphasis does however appear to favour an exchange of a large volume
of reports or microfilmed documents rather than small quantities of management
information. The latter could be fed into a central computer to maintain
an up to date clear and comprehensive picture of the existing operational and
research programmes and contacts which could be used to improve future programmes.
As Walter Kotschnig points out, reports analysing problem and programme relationships
contribute little to the solution of these problems. A more dynamic and highly
ordered information system is required for this purpose.
This situation is reflected outside the UN system, both in and between other
inter-governmental agencies, within the national government networks, and as
regards the information requirements of specialized non-governmental, non-profit
organizations (e.g. science, medicine, youth, education, etc.). A research student,
for example, recently spent two years on the task of locating some few hundred
subsidiary and other bodies which form the internal structure of the European
Although carefully collected figures are available each year on the estimated
population of each town, country and for the world, no such systematic information
is available on the number, nature and contact addresses of the organizations
to which individuals and other organizations belong. The data collection
focus in general has been on the problem areas rather than on the organizational
network and its resources through which solutions can be focused on a variety
of problems. There is therefore no body which is 'in a position to study,
assess and recommend the allocation of organizational resources or attempt any
form of global strategy formulation in the face of interacting problem areas.
Where such recommendations are made, they are not conceived in terms of the
overall organizational network through which the must be implemented. The only
bodies in existence or envisaged with this sort of capacity are military organizations
and the multinational business enterprises working though the world trade centres.
These will have sophisticated computer facilities to assist in the rapid allocation
of organizational resources in the face of problems and opportunities but are
not directly interested in global development (although their networks and coordination
constitute important resources in development planning).
The low degree of information availability and organization therefore :
- reduces ability to initiate and maintain contacts - leads to duplication,
wasted effort and funds ;
- leads to dilution of effort and non-optimum solutions because of lack of
interaction between bodies interested in related fields ;
- conceals important communication and coordination gaps which may be vital
to effective programme implementation.
(b) available information on organizations and programmes is structured
in such a way that it is difficult to determine through what programmes, organizations
and information networks organizations coordinate their activities and through
which effort should be channelled.
Most information on organizations and programmes is provided (whether within
or outside the UN system) in the form of specialized lists without any structure
or means of cross-referencing by programme or membership of some coordinating
body. From a management point of view, it is therefore extremely difficult to
pick out critical points in the world system where coordination is required
and can be organized with minimum effort on an optimum cost effectiveness basis.
Similarly, it is difficult to determine where coordinating points already exist
and may be used with minimum allocation of resources to ensure effective programme
implementation and information processing.
As an illustration of the sort of management problem that should be automatically
signalled once it arises, a United States National Commission for Unesco report
concluded in 1964 that " Communication is generally sporadic and uncertain between
the international NGO and its national affiliates and individual members...
Individual American members, for example, appear to know very little about what
their international NGO is doing. In some cases, this includes even the executive
secretary of the American affiliate. Much the same situation is believed 'to
apply in other countries ". A report on the 1968 Freedom from Hunger Conference
for National Committees in Asia and the
Far East indicated a " seeming lack of understanding " how the governmental
and non-governmental organizations represented could help one another. Non-governmental
organizations were reported as often not knowing what other national organizations
in the same country were doing. A 1968 FAO brochure states that " In some cases
even the member governments of the Organization are not fully aware of the variety
and scope of information readily obtainable through the FAO. "
It is probable that communication between many inter-governmental agencies
and organizations, national government departments and national organizations
is equally ineffective in many sectors. The degree and extent of ineffectiveness
and its consequences are almost impossible to determine with present procedures.
As a further indication of the seriousness of the problem for the Second UN
Development Decade, one European government commissioned a special research
programme to locate all international bodies and/or their subsidiary organs
or commissions concerned with the Decade (due to their mandate, their experience,
or because of the need to adapt their programmes), in order to formulate an
overall policy. Because they were then unable to determine easily which departments
within their own government structure were responsible for contact with the
three hundred bodies located, the committee gave up the attempt to formulate
an overall development policy and restricted its attention to thirty of them.
The current procedure with regard to problem management appears to be to wait
until a situation becomes critical and sufficient pressure is exerted through
an ad hoc network of bodies (which may or may not be adequately funded despite
the responsibility tacitly placed upon it by society). When funds are finally
obtained for the needed programme, information is then gradually built up on
the organizations through which the programme should be implemented. This information
may then be published in directory form, but not necessarily with any provision
for regular updating or crossreference to other directories in preparation for
the next problem.
This is management by crisis with a long reaction time. It can only produce
temporary solutions to specific problems. The procedure does not facilitate
coordination of existing programmes either within a given subject or geographical
area or where several problem areas interact across discipline and geographical
boundaries. This is particularly important in environmental problems as is illustrated
by the following quote : " Rational environmental planning cannot be done by
acting under the pressure of emergency as is now the general practice... In
fact, most environmental programmes emerge as empirical adaptive responses to
acute crises and usually take the form of disconnected palliative measures designed
to minimize social unrest or the depletion of a few natural resources. " (Unesco
Courier, January 1969).
Lack of information on coordination increases the problem of fund allocation
by organizations within and outside the UN system because it is difficult to
pinpoint quickly and with certainty which bodies constitute the channels for
effective fund allocation with respect to a particular problem area..
It is also difficult for the governmental and private bodies with funds to
allocate, to know which problems are becoming critical in the face of the requests
by all organizations. In a comprehensive information system, this would be indicated
by the increase in the number of meetings and organizations in a sensitive problem
and/or geographical area together with indicators developed from prior analysis
of survey data where available. These should be automatically signalled as an
indication of the growing points in the world system to which additional aid
needs to be channelled.
The lack of any information on the structural relationship between organizations
also hinders the process of evaluation. Detection of the points to which project
information is channelled through non-UN organizations, must be done on a lengthy
ad hoc basis, programme by programme, to check on the utility of each, if such
an evaluation is undertaken.
Linked to the problem of evaluation is the difficulty under present circumstances
of rapidly detecting and initiating corrective programmes to combat new primary
problems (e.g., natural disasters, etc.) and new secondary problems (e.g. organization
ineffectiveness, inefficiency or communication and coordination breakdown in
particular parts of the world system). Global development cannot be effectively
undertaken on a continuing basis, but is dependent on intermittent action by
ad hoc pressure groups whether within or outside government circles. Many problems
within the world system are dealt with on a continuing basis through non-UN
and non-governmental organizations, information systems, agreements, programmes
and meetings. Any information system must be structured to assist and integrate
the activities of such non-UN organizations and programmes. A UN or agency focussed
information system does not improve the cost' effectiveness of the global information
system by making full use of other information systems wherever possible
and facilitating the use of any such system by other bodies.
The consequent duplication does not contribute to the solution of issues identified
by the Enlarged Committee for Programme and Coordination and annotated by the
Secretary-General (E/AC.51/GR/15, 7 October 1968), namely : an optimum concentration
of resources ; a reduction in the burden on the administrative resources
of Member States and of members of the United Nations family of organizations
; a flexible, prompt and effective response to specific needs ; the evolution
of an integrated system of long-term planning on a programme basis; and the
institution of systematic procedures for. evaluating the effectiveness of operational
and research activities.
The UN organizations need to be aware of what is being done and not done, by
whom, and how effectively, in order to check that problems are dealt with either
through UN or non-UN programmes before they become critical. This awareness
needs to be on a week by week basis and not subject to the lengthy delays required
to locate retrieve, check and order information generated in all parts of the
world. Current and envisaged plans do not, however, appear to be converging
or cross-linking sufficiently to lead to systematic global problem management
using management and date processing techniques, which would be considered essential
in, for example, any global commercial enterprise or military organization.
6. Implications of the Distinction between Management Techniques
and Administrative Techniques
There is some confusion and overlap associated with the distinction between
" management " and " administrative " techniques. Management techniques are
sometimes considered to be only applicable to business management as
developed through the schools of business administration. Schools of public
administration and governments emphasize the use of administrative techniques
in discussing government departments. Management techniques have, however,
been developed to the point where they can be applied irrespective of the type
of organization (business, government, private, military) or its objectives
(profit, non-profit, etc.). This last point has been made by Sir Robert Jackson,
who has been entrusted with a " capacity study " of the United Nations development
programme. He has noted the increasingly complex character of the United
Nations system - " new bodies were established and new administrative procedures
adopted with the result that the United Nations was now the most complex administrative
system in the world... United Nations activities could be compared to large-scale
military operations. Waging war or combating want involved mobilizing resources.
The principles to be applied were the same in both cases ; they were principles
of management. That had been demonstrated by Mr. McNamara ". (Every army attempts
to keep track of its companies, tanks, artillery, infantry and snipers.)
Management techniques are problem oriented. They are required : to evaluate
on a continuing basis the internal and external problems an organization must
face ; to organize, coordinate and balance the resources of the sub-divisions
of the organization, to deal with the problems and to ensure that the process
of management is constantly improved.
Administrative techniques are programme oriented. They are more concerned
with the techniques of implementing voted programmes as opposed to the management
problems of determining which programmes should be implemented on the basis
of the resources available and the long-term objectives of the organization.
Both techniques are required in any international organization with an ability
to initiate or recommend programmes.
The lack of compensation for the current political science bias towards governmental
organizations (despite the practical necessity to gain acceptance from and work
through other types of organization), together with the interests and low degree
of interaction of the environments in which management and administrative techniques
have been respectively developed, have had three important consequences for
- analysis of the resources available for global development has focussed
on the administrative problem of inter-governmental and national governmental
- management techniques applicable to the global development problem are
not understood and have gained little acceptance outside the business circles
in which they were mainly developed. There appears to be no channel through
which this transfer of techniques could take place
- no body analogous to the schools of business administration or public administration
exists to foster the development and application of management techniques
to all aspects of global development from an interdisciplinary and global
perspective. (For example, UNITAR is primarily concerned with the UN perspective.)
As an example, we do not possess the conceptual or administrative techniques
to handle the interaction between development programmes and their consequences
for environmental pollution and the irreversible destruction of natural resources.
7. Implications of the Distinction between Documentation and
A vital preliminary to any future management guidance (even if it is of the
loosest kind) or recommendations on the control of problem areas within the
world system, is an adequate management information system.
The necessity -for a global information system is recognized to some extent,
but solutions to the information problem as currently defined are expected to
be very costly and have, therefore, been by-passed in' favour of ad hoc measures.
The reason for the high cost estimates is that the documentation problem
of keeping track of the mass of detailed factual information is confused with
the management and communication problem of keeping track of information
on bodies controlling, evaluating, formulating and implementing programmes,
and coordinating memberships, relationships and information networks which link
them in terms of their problem areas. A management approach concentrates on
keeping track of the producers of information and their coordination
of their current and planned activities.
A documentation approach concentrates on the information produced when
it eventually appears in published form. The first is focussed on the initiating
points for present and future activity, whilst the second is focussed on the
published record, if any, of past activity. The fact that, one organization
can coordinate the production of many documents in the context of one programme,
is an indication of the difference in the volume of information in each case,
the scale of the problem in each case, and the cost of each solution. Intermediate
between these two extremes is information on sources of information (e.g. bibliographies
of bibliographies, directories of periodicals, directories of directories) which
can be incorporated in a management information system, since it represents
the key to information collection points and systems in a particular problem
No systematic attempt appears to have been made to analyse or solve the global
management information problem, which is very much simpler than the documentation
problem, because the volume of data is very much lower by many orders of magnitude
and is not increasing at the same rate. (In fact, by elaborating the network
of information channels linking bodies throughout the world system, a partial
solution to the documentation problem is achieved. This is because each such
body is equipped and motivated to detect and process documents generated within
its own special field of interest and this process would be accelerated if the
detailed global information network was known and accessible to such organizations.)
The documentation problem and management information problem should be carefully
distinguished. The first implies the retrievability within a " reasonable
" period of time, of all past relevant documents. The second implies the immediate
availability of information on all currently active bodies, programmes
and information networks at all levels of the world system. This can be built
into an integrated picture of the global situation and organizational resources.
Decision-makers faced with global problems, and those concerned with policy
formulation, increasingly find that they have less and less time to wait for
libraries and information centres to locate and retrieve relevant documents
dispersed throughout the documentation system. Having received a pile of " relevant
" material, they are no longer in a position to read and assimilate all the
information supplied. (In another field Computers have not solved the...
[documentation problem of finding what the reader wants when he wants
it]. Under present systems, a scientist or technologist may ask a specific question,
only to get in response a bibliography that would require him a lifetime to
read ". Article in Fall 1967 issue of The Johns Hopkins Magazine on the " Information
Deluge ".) Not only does the time factor come into play, but also the problem
for the decision-maker of determining the relevance of analytical results based
on the techniques, assumptions and concepts of disciplines with which he is
not familiar. If they are " foreign " to him, his inclination to use them will
be low, even if he studies the conclusions in detail. This is a major problem
in the formulation and utilization of research implications for policy.
Major requirements for a management information system are, therefore, that
it should produce a highly structured output, eliminate non-significant data
in order to highlight problem areas and areas requiring decisions. It should
also relate a problem area to associated problem areas across discipline, jurisdictional
and geographical boundaries. It should indicate the location of resources and
the channels through which they could be advantageously moved. Information must
be summarized, structured and presented to highlight priority problem areas
and alternative courses of action in order to facilitate discussions, planning
and decision-making by nonspecialists, particularly in committee.
8. Economical Solution to the Global Management Information
The first essential and economical step and key to any such presentation is
information on the network of bodies and programmes currently operating in
a particular area, since it is through these bodies that information is
collected, processed and evaluated and through them that programmes are implemented
and coordinated. It is very important not to treat details on organizations
as static mailing or directory lists split between and within agencies
and departments which are in contact with such bodies for different administrative
reasons (e.g. sales, public relations, consultative relations, programme implementation,
The significance of outside contact for effective management can only become
apparent by interrelating the functions performed by each body for the agency
and for other bodies. By suitably structuring files on organizations and their
relationships as a network within a central computer memory, the network
itself can be displayed as a whole or at different levels of detail down
to a report on a single link or node. This can be printed out or displayed on
a directaccess device with a TV screen in terms of the perspective of any organization
in the network. Any such dynamic presentation has all the communication
and conceptual advantages of audio-visual aids.
The computer could be programmed to diagnose weaknesses in the organizational
network in a manner equivalent to that used for testing electrical circuits,
space systems or engineering structures. This could also be done in relation
to statistical data on the problem areas with which they are concerned. Any
such weaknesses can be printed out or appropriately highlighted on a display
screen for the benefit of the decision maker or committee members responsible
for a given area. The probable effects of alternative courses of action on the
network can also be shown with their resultant weaknesses. This would constitute.
a very powerful aid to decision-making and management at the committee stage
and is the reason why such systems are used in military and commercial organizations.
Apart from its value as a management tool, such a system constitutes
an organization of information which can be used with much greater flexibility
for administrative purposes (e.g. sales publicity, distribution lists,
programme contacts, etc.) and to improve the circulation of documentary material.
9. Advantages of a Network File Organization
Specific advantages can be summarized as :
Aid to coordination of global development strategy. The network display
would give a direct impression of the structural links within the organizational
network thus facilitating an understanding of organizational resources in a
particular problem area and the probable consequences of particular programme
decisions from a global, interdisciplinary perspective. This would be useful
for policy-making bodies, whether within the UN, the Specialized Agencies, outside
the UN system or at a national level. Such systems can be constructed so that
if an organization only wishes to make available information on certain links
within the network for which it is responsible, it may do so by authorising
the computer to give only certain levels of detail to certain categories of
organization making inquiries.
The audio-visual aid advantages of a network display could be used to inform
national governments and plenary assemblies in a rapid, clear and unambiguous
manner of the current status of global problem areas and the disposition of
organization and programme resources.
Accelerate integration. Local, national and international integration
becomes a meaningful term which -can be clearly measured and observed in terms
of the links maintained and planned between bodies throughout the world system
network. Bodies throughout the system can immediately determine with whom they
could profitably be in contact with regard to any aspect of their programmes.
Decrease emphasis on political necessities. A network display of information
links decreases the divisive emphasis on political or administrative recognition
or non-recognition of some groups of organizations by other groups of organizations.
Information links are neutral and do not necessarily imply a stronger link.
This would bring organizations into much closer relationship with the United
Nations by reducing the conceptual and communication gap between " local " "
national ", and " international " across discipline and administrative boundaries.
It would, for example, considerably facilitate the task of the UN and Specialized
Agency Offices of Public Information
Programmes: identification of needs and appraisal of requests. Reports
on problem areas can be evaluated and compared much more effectively to determine
the level of priority of each, if it is clear to what extent the reporting organization
is representative of the organizations in the particular problem area. The existence
of the network considerably facilitates the task of surveying opinions of key
organizations in a particular problem area. This would be of great assistance
to international secretariats in preparing reports.
Programmes : fund allocation. Once priorities can be established and
problem areas and organizational resources highlighted unambiguously, it becomes
much easier for fund allocating committees and foundations to pinpoint accurately
where their funds are most required in line with their own particular interests.
Such bodies can determine much more easily whether funds allocated through a
particular channel in fact result in greater integration. This should make them
more willing to allocate funds rapidly to needed programmes for which no precedent
Programmes : planning and initiation. The existence of the network would
facilitate the task of contacting and bringing together key organizations and
specialists in a particular problem area at meetings to plan and gain support
for a programme, prior to implementing it through their members and contacts.
It gives a much clearer idea of the existing channels through which communication
and coordination can take place and be scheduled, thus avoiding the cost and
inefficiency of creating and administering new duplicate channels. This would
clearly reduce the administrative burden on committees responsible for implementation
of programmes on a wide variety of subjects.
Programmes : implementation. Once the programme has been planned all
the bodies in the problem area, which need to be informed and receive documentation
and with which liaison must be maintained, can be contacted immediately and
on a regular basis, due to the manner in which the files are organized in the
computer. This avoids the delays, inefficiency and communication gaps in programme
implementation. The system ensures that relevant material is sent to all interested
bodies and no others, thus reducing distribution costs. The system could be
extended to maintain information on pools of specialists within which technical
advisors and field workers must be sought for certain types of programme.
Programmes : inter-programme coordination at regional and field level. It
is not only essential to ensure inter-programme coordination at the policy level,
contacts at the field level during implementation must also be guaranteed. The
existence of the network would enable field workers from many different types
of organizations to be notified automatically of programmes in their area with
which they can integrate their activities, or of which they need to observe
Programmes and meetings : distribution of results. The reports (or report
details and cost) of meetings and programmes could be distributed accurately,
using the network, to all bodies likely to be interested in the results on the
basis of an " interest profile ". This would make lists more selective and flexible
thus reducing costs whilst at the same time increasing effectiveness. This facility
would considerably increase the degree to which bodies are informed of each
others programmes thus increasing liaison and integration of programmes and
reducing duplication, overlap and omissions. This would be of great, assistance
to the UN and Specialized Agency sales departments and distribution departments.
Meeting coordinators could also use the network- to locate and inform coordinators
of related projects of the results of their latest meetings.
Programmes : evaluation of results. The network would facilitate the
task of suveying those organizations which should have been affected by any
particular programme in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme.
Where a programme should have resulted - in greater integration and coordination
between organizations, the extent of any such development should be evident
from computer analysis of the network.
Research. The existence of the network would open a new field of research
on methods of increasing the effectiveness and integration of the world system
in the face of problem areas. In particular, techniques could be developed to
determine : the optimum degree of integration and coordination of different
sections of the network, the location of network weaknesses critical to the
functioning of the overall system, the location of key points which should be
linked in the network, the location of areas where meetings, movements or new
organizations should be encouraged, etc. The network would constitute an extremely
important source of data for testing theories of international relations, particularly
with the use of simulation techniques. Such a network would facilitate the rapid
application of research conclusions, thus increasing the sophistication of the
techniques used in global development activity. In particular, computer analysis
of the network could be gradually extended to predict automatically and signal
more complex problem areas and areas of weakness.
Static information guides. Any such network would not replace published
organization directories. The network would in fact facilitate the production
of specialized directories by country or subject area, as required by individual
programmes or for bodies which do not need to maintain contact with the central
computer through the planned international data networks of the 1970s. The organizational
network could be analysed prior to planning meetings in order to supply delegates
and participants with an up to date list of bodies and programmes active in
or influenced by the fields under discussion. This would be particularly useful
in complex organizations like the UN system where the risk of overlap with other
bodies and programmes within and outside the UN system is increased. Such lists
would constitute an important part of the distribution list for the results
of the meeting.
Relationship with other information networks. A number of specialized
information networks are planned or in operation with which the proposed network
could be designed to interact. These include the : ICSU-Unesco world scientific
data network ; environmenta/biosphere data network ; Unesco science policy-making
body data national accounts data ; social indicators data world trade centre
commercial networks ; United Nations own inter-agency documentation network.
These and similar programmes will become increasingly important with the creation
of national and international computer data links during the 1970. The optimum
design for such networks, particularly the manner in which they should interact,
cannot be effectively determined unless the basic data on the organizations
within the world system is available and can be studied in a dynamic environment.
Career incentive. Attracting sufficient qualified persons into organizations
contributing directly to the global development process is a problem for such
bodies. A widely accessible network display overcomes the communication gap
and enables individuals to pinpoint challenging problem areas where effective
action can be taken, and channel career inquires to the responsible organizations.
conceptual importance. The elaboration of such a network linking all organizations
within the world system in terms of their actual day to day pattern of contacts
would decrease the current tendency to treat organizations as relatively isolated
entities. This emphasizes friction between organizations *rather than their
operating links. The network could constitute a realistic physical model of
what has hitherto been an abstract and relatively meaningless concept, namely
" world society ". The, existence of such a model could have social and educational
consequences of considerable value to the stability of the economic and social
cost of the system. Although this system would be extremely useful, and therefore
appears costly, the amount of data involved is likely to be not greater than
that maintained on policy holders on a day to day basis by a large insurance
company. An integrated data file containing 500,000 international, national
and significant local bodies available for use by the UN, IGO's and NGOs would
constitute an important new tool for the Second Development Decade. (Such files
are small in technical and commercial terms, e.g. the credit rating of 14 million
individuals in the Western U.S.A. is currently on computer files and available
via terminals to subscribers.) Unfortunately, one feature of the ~current information
situation is that no accurate estimate of the number of bodies and programmes
which could be gradually included in such a network is available.
The proposed global management information system could be implemented immediately
by storing and structuring in a computer information on organizations listed
in directories and agency files. The network structure of the files stored in
computer memory could be designed to facilitate the process of gradual build
up of the system both in terms of the number and types of organizations listed
(intergovernmental, non-governmental, commercial, national, etc.) and the nature
of the links between them (membership, distribution list, collaboration on programmes,
etc.). Initially the system could be used by the United Nations and other bodies
as an effective survey, distribution, public information and contact list. As
techniques for the analysis and display of the network are perfected, it could
be used as a powerful aid to global development planning and coordination.
Any such central bank of information, as envisaged by Walter Kotschnig, would be
responsible for maintaining and updating files. Depending on economic factors,
the relevant section of these files could either be used to prepare directories
through a computer typesetting routine or copied and sent to agencies, governments
and other organizations around the world for use in their own computers. As
the cost of linking computers nationally and internationally is reduced in the
1970s, transfer and updating of relevant sections of the central and agency
computer files could be handled automatically.
In order to build towards a sophisticated system which can help to predict
weaknesses and problem areas, it is important to ensure compatibility and coordination
in the treatment of the type of management information that could be usefully
stored in a central computer. The compatibility problem is not as serious as
in the field of documentation where formats have already been frozen and the
volume of information is high. Little has been done with regard to global management
information on a computer basis. Formats and coordination are still in the planning
stage. A central body could now act to prepare the guidelines and core for the
sophisticated system which is now economically feasible. Unless action is taken,
not only will it be impossible to keep track of documentation produced in the
future, but a multitude of new organizations and programmes will be created.
They will produce documentation and information systems because of confusion
and lack of coordination, and will therefore compound the documentation problem
and further decrease the effectiveness of inter-organization communications
and global development planning.
The global strategy and coordination requirements for the larger United Nations
development programmes of the future, mentioned by Walter Kotschnig, need to be
considered carefully in the light of the following comment from the introduction
to a 1968 management conference session of the College of Management Control
Systems. (The Institute of Management Sciences) :
'Evidence is mounting that the environment which managers seek to control-
or, at least, to guide or restrain is increasing in turbulence and complexity
at a rate that far exceeds the capacity of management researchers to provide
new and improved methodologies to affect management's intentions. Faced with
the consequences of forcefed technological change, and the concomitant changes
in the social, political, psychological, and theological spheres, there is
real danger that the process by which new concepts of management control are
invented and developed may itself be out of control relative to the demands
that are likely to be imposed upon it.'
The need for a new approach and the possibility of its success is illustrated
by the following quote :
'We know much of what the future will bring in terms of problems. We
know they will be big, complex, and serious... These problems represent the
givens. We know they will be there - and we know they will overwhelm us if
we do not find the means of coping with them. What we lack, thus far, is conviction
that there is a means of getting hold of them. They seem so staggering in
their size and complexity - so far beyond the capability of any single institutional
segment of the community, public or private... And they are so interrelated
that to proceed to try to solve any one of them in isolation from the other
is often to create more problems than are solved by the effort. The dilemma
thus presented has so far frustrated most efforts to come to grips with these
problems. This condition of paralysis need not obtain. None of the... challenges
lies beyond our already existing capacity for coping with them. The tools
are already at hand ; and included in those tools are not only the technological
capabilities but experience in systems management and systems analysis as
well as proven patterns of joint public and private effort.' (K.G. Harr.,
Jr., President of Aerospace Industries Association quoted in Harvard Business
Review, March-April 1967, p. 10, emphasis added).
The proposed information system represents a step towards the solution of the
management problem at the global level. It is a valuable opportunity for the
United Nations in view of its current -discussions on the solution to closely
related issues. The cost would be relatively low since it is not a new system
which is being set up, but merely the dynamic juxtaposition of the currently
isolated parts of the existing system. Such a system should constitute a practical
channel by which local, national and international bodies could initiate and
maintain contacts. This would considerably accelerate the persuasion of public
opinion and the creation of political will, which the Secretary General of UNCTAD
has stressed as being of the highest priority " in order to avoid a second Development
Decade of even deeper frustration than the first one ". (TD/96).
The greatest danger lies in the probability that the United Nations system
public relations and public information programmes (together with those of the
national United Nations Associations) will lead the informed public and many
decision-makers to believe that the U.N. is doing all that can or need be done
and has the attack on every world problem wellcoordinated. This automatically
devalues the activities of other bodies, reduces the allocation of resources
and support to them, dampens initiative from the local and national level which
is not channelled through governmental and U.N. channels, and effectively nullifies
the type of constructive criticism which can lead to renewal of effort, new
approaches, and galvanization of the political will necessary to the accomplishment
of all international (and U.N.) programme objectives.
Finally, could there be any merit in the argument that there is a parallel
between the conceptual backing given to racial apartheid and the conceptual
system which so effectively prevents most bodies or disciplines from paying
other than lip-service to, or even considering, the complementary contributions
of different types or styles of organization to the same or related programme
objectives. In which case, should we not look for a general context to relate
differences in characteristics, resources, objectives and areas of interest
? The technical, and therefore neutral, approach suggested above, and developed
elsewhere, indicates that we still have many practical, low-cost possibilities
left to explore.