Need for a World Management Information Network
to assist initiation and coordination of global developmenbt programmes
- / -
Summary: 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, particularly through
the Enlarged Committee for Programme and Coordination, 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.
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. An economical solution using a central computer is
0. Summary of argument
2. Current situation
3. Scope of management problem
4. Interaction between UN and non-UN Networks
5. Problems currently treated on an ad hoc basis
*** Lack of information on organizations
*** Lack of integrated information on organizations and programmes
6. Implications of the distinction between management techniques
and administrative techniques
7. Implications of the distinction between documentation and management
8. Economical solution to the global management information problem
9. Advantage of a network file organization
0. Summary of argument
The UN problems of global programme coordination and strategy are an integral
part of similar problems in other types of organization with the same programme
objectives as the UN.
The UN recognizes its dependence on these organizations.
3. Current plans to solve the UN problems aim at a UN inter-agency
solution only, with an emphasis on the exchange of coded or microfilmed documentary
material as the key to coordination.
The resultant high-volume flow of information will not facilitate the
task of the programme decision-maker since the system will not be designed to pin-point
communication gaps or areas of need. The system will not assist the non-UN
organizations on which the UN depends.
5. The emphasis on the increased flow of documents is due to the lack of
distinction between management information and programme administration documents.
Critical management information is diluted by the mass of documentary material.
6. The discussions on the use of computers emphasize either administrative
uses, document exchange or indexing, or statistical research. None of these
systems take full advantage of the computer as a management tool.
Information on the existence, location and programme activities of
organizations within the world system is either non-existent or poorly
distributed (because of the cost) and therefore only available after a complex
series of search operations.
8. Information on currently active bodies and programmes is critical to
adequate global programme coordination and planning, analysis of needs, fund
allocation, programme evaluation, programme implementation, and document distribution.
The difficulty in obtaining such information hinders organized reaction by
all types of organization and department to new and overlapping problem areas.
9. An information system is described which could act both as a contact list
for normal administrative purposes and also as a powerful management tool,
for the UN agencies and for non-UN bodies. The use of the system by
non-UN organizations would in itself improve programme coordination.
The system does not appear to require finance or computer hardware which is
not already available or planned, nor does it appear to conflict with any
detailed existing proposals. The proposed system does however represent a
change of emphasis towards an integration of isolated parts of the present
static information system in a dynamic computer environment. The design requirements
of an integrated system should be used as guidelines if current policies will
only permit the use of agency-focussed information systems for the present.
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 partly on indexing and documentation
- ACC inter-agency study group on evaluation of technical cooperation
- ACC consultative committee on administrative questions.
Expanded Committee for Programme and Coordination 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
The present problems and activites of the UN and Specialized Agency committees
on coordination and the use of computers have been briefly summarized in a
proposal by Walter M. Kotschnig (United States Member of the United Nations
Ecosoc Enlarged Committee for Programme and Co-ordination) entitled 'Development
of modern management techniques and use of computers' (E/AC .51/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
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 UN 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
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 (I) 1946) .
In 1968, the Secretary General stated ' .. .it is more important
than ever to do everything within our power to help create that receptively to
United Nations objectives and policies which is as yet so seriously
lacking.' (Press release
ECOSOC/252 SG/M/65) . Many UN
recommendations call for action by non-UN inter-governmental and
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/4486/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 Inter-Agency 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.'
(E/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 projects effort 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. 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 world problems.
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 programme objectives.
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 are treated on a piecemeal,
patchwork basis. These include:
5a. Lack of information on organizations: Information
on bodies generating and implementing programmes and using project reports.
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.l, 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 Mr Kotschnig). Such contacts are also vital to any awareness
of, and utilization by, organizatons outside the UN system of the work already
done. These are general problems faced by the UN and Agency Offices of Public
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
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 organization lists and directories by area or programme.
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 through a number of departments which may not liaise.
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 Mr 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 nongovernmental, non-profit
organizations (e.g. science, medicine, youth, education, etc.). 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 focussed on a variety
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 they must be implemented.
The only bodies in existence or envisaged with this sort of capacity are the
multinational business enterprises working through the world trade centres.
These 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.
5b. Lack of integrated information on organizations
and programmes: 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. An 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
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
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 them) . 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 cross-reference 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.
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
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. This 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
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.
ineffectiveness, inefficiency or 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
Programmes 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 longterm 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 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 data process 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
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.).
Management techniques are problem oriented. They are required: to evaluate on a continuous 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 guide their implementation of programmes; to initiate or recommend new programmes and long-term plans in
the face of new 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 determing 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
internation 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 global development:
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.)
7. Implications of the distinction between documentation
and management information
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 area.
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 document. 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 can no longer afford the time to wait for libraries and information
centres to locate and retrieve relevant documents containing management
information which are dispersed throughout the documentation system. They no longer have time to read and
absorb detail from a wide variety of relevant sources. Information must be summarized, structured and presented to highlight
priority problem areas, resources and alternative courses of action in order to
facilitate discussion, planning and decision-making, particularly in
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, etc.).
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 direct-access 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
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 coneptual
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 exist.
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 which 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 activites,
or of which they need to observe the consequences.
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
distribution 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 surveying 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 in-fluenced
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; environmental/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 inquiries
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
organi= zations 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 modal could have social and educational consequences
of considerable value to the stability of the economic and social system.
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. 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 (inter-governmental,
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
Any such central bank of
information, as envisaged by Mr Kotschnig,
would be responsible for maintaining and updating files. Depending on economic factors, the
relevant sections 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
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 volme 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 Mr 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. 'Evidence is mounting that the environmentwhich 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 force-fed 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 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'