Technology information abounds. Product brochures and techno-economic feasibility studies needed by firms and entrepreneurs are just as plentiful as the thousands of commercial technologies available. The volume of information for researchers is even more staggering. In 1970, there were almost 2 million papers on science and technology and the number jumped to 6 million by 1990 and so on. Between 1965 and 1975, chemical abstracts increased from 34,926 to 201,663, physical abstracts went up from 34,000 to 87,636, and electrical and electronics abstracts doubled from 119,500 to 244,975. The United States alone produces some 400,000 articles and 15,000 books on science and technology every year. The rate of increase is so much that papers on science and technology are expected to double every 10 years. Thus such a vast amount and source of information is available!
Just as a good technology does not automatically reach an entrepreneur who could make full use of it, a good technology information does not automatically reach the person who needs it. There is always the possibility of an entrepreneur accidentally passing by a trade fair or meeting a technology agent and thus be exposed to the technology in the same way that many technology information users come across information through friends or in magazines. Leaving the exposure to technology information through random chance, however, is not the best way of bringing ‘technology to the user. Not only would opportunities be lost but the exposure might be biased towards technologies with good advertisements but which may not necessarily be appropriate for The firm or the country.
It is, therefore, necessary that there is a systematic approach to acquiring information. The main task would be tapping the right source while there are a large number of sources from where information could be obtained, a few important ones are:
- Published literature
- Exhibitions and Conferences
- Industrial and Trade Associations
- Government organisations and departments Patents
- Experts and Consultants
- Data banks/bases
Published literature are available in the form of technical text books, manuals, encyclopaedias, periodicals and websites which are useful for references on technology aspects of a product and process. There are also many directories dealing with various issues ranging from products, processes, manufacturers, traders, exporters, corporation, experts and R&D institutions. They are reference tools for a quick scan of technologies and their sources. Some directories even provide preliminary screening of dependable companies. The exporters directory, for example, could identify manufacturers who, by virtue of being exporters, might be more reliable in terms of quality control and of meeting deadlines.
There are also technical literature and directories published by international organisations such as UNIDO, ILO and others.
Then there are magazines from where considerable information can be obtained. While there are certain magazines which are specially devoted to technology aspects, there are others of general interest which devote a section or column to technology.
EXHIBITIONS AND CONFERENCES
Exhibitions and conferences are also extremely good source of technology information. The current trend is that there are special exhibitions devoted to technology. The products and the technical descriptions are on display, giving a quick view of the technology. There are also seminars on new trends to update the audience on the new technologies. Meeting rooms are also provided to enable sources and potential users to come together to discuss possible technology transfer. A large number of exhibitions and conferences are held in India by several organisations in various technological and related fields. Trade Fair Authority of India (TFAI) is the focal agency for trade fairs/exhibitions/buyer-seller meets in India and abroad.
INDUSTRY AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS
The industry and trade associations regularly publish directories and year books which also have information on technology. The newsletters provide information of technology trends, policies and products and processes..
GOVERNMENT ORGANISATIONS (INDIAN)
These are also extremely important and useful sources of information. For instance the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research brings out technology status studies on a wide variety of subjects. These provide useful information on current status of technology, the future trend, sources of technology and many other such information. The DGTD is also a good source of information on specific technologies. Similarly there are other organisations like the Department of Electronics, Department of Environment, India Investment Centre, etc.
This is a rich source of information. A look into this can uncover inventions, including those not protected by the national patent law. It identifies which countries and companies are dominant in particular technologies. It gives an update on the state-of-the-art of patent based technologies that could guide firms and entrepreneurs as to where their business concerns could lead as well as encourage innovators to stimulate their creativeness or to rekindle old ideas. The information on patents in India could be obtained from the patent offices located at Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Madras and the centralised information centre at Nagpur.
EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS
When one is in difficulty in understanding technical details, in finding the source of information or in solving a technical problem, one may resort to the use of technical consultants. Technical consultants could provide from “band-aid” to “major surgery” assistance.
The list of consultants is available from various sources such as the Consultancy Development Centre, National Association of Consulting Engineers, Association of Consulting Engineers and others. The list is arranged subject wise. In case of the required expertise is not available locally, one could approach foreign consultants.
These are one of the most important sources of information. These are store houses of information on a wide variety of subjects. Their main objective is to provide the relevant information from a number of sources that are available today. The data bases have developed very rapidly with the advancement in electronics and communication field. Everyday, a large volume of information is being generated in different forms, all over the world. It is difficult physically, for any individual. Or single organisation to keep track and store all such information. The development in computers and communications has made it possible.. In fact a large number of data bases provide information all over the world. The on-line retrieval has made it possible to get the desired information in a matter of few minutes, if not seconds. In connection with this source of information, one normally comes across two terms Data banks and Data bases. It is necessary to understand the difference between the two, The data banks contain information which can be directly used, for example, information which is of a statistical or financial nature or which provides lists of products or names or addresses of companies etc. Data bases, on the other hand, contain bibliographical information with abstracts and indexing and refer to original documents which may be journal articles, books, reports, conference papers and others. These are also, at times, referred to as textual data bases. Most data bases have their roots in printed indexes and abstract journals and are the computed version of abstract journals. Full text data bases which contain full texts and documents are also now in operation.
A wide variety of subjects are covered. A few typical examples are Patents etc. The local information centers for ensuring resource sharing activities like inter-library Information Systems loans, referal services and document supply services. A software research centre called National Resource Software Centre (NRSC) has been established recently at Vishakhapatnam. The centre will acquire information handling software packages from international and national organisations, among its other activities. NISSAT has also taken up the establishment of on-line search facilities on a permanent basis in the country and Five Regional Access Centres have been established: INSDOC at Delhi, National Chemical Laboratory at Pune, National Aeronautical Laboratory at Bangalore, Central Leather Research Institute Madras, and Indian Association for Cultivation of Science at Calcutta. Library Networking has also been planned., by NISSAT to ensure better utilisation of S&T information resources through resource sharing moderate functional load of information. Centre management and to take care of motivational factors to a large extent by better means of communication. In the first phase. the libraries are being networked at Calcutta and Delhi.
TECHNOLOGY INFORMATION, FORECASTING AND ASSESSMENT COUNCIL (TIFAC)
As a follow up of Technology Policy Statement (1983), TIFAC was set up under DST as an autonomous body in February 1988 with the following objectives:
a) Creation of an information system including data base/data bank
b) Conducting action oriented studies and forecasting in selected priority areas
c) Action towards publications and creation of Public Information System Base
d) Management development
e) Creation of TIFA machanisms in Ministries/Departments and develop necessary linkages as a system; and
f) Development of linkages with private sector, small industries and educational sector.
TIFAC has initiated actions to collect, analyse and disseminate technological and related information, in terms of preparation of technical ‘reports, setting up of information links with the help of NIC and other agencies.
NATIONAL INFORMATICS CENTRE (NIC)
National Informatics Centre (NIC) in the Planning Commission is now providing computer based information services to the Central and State Government departments, and district administration in the country. A computer communication network called NICNET has been established connecting the districts, central and state government departments for quick information flow through satellite. The four super computers installed at Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Pune and Hyderabad form four regional centre nodes of the network. The NIC state centres set up in the state capitals have super-mini computers (ND-550 or equivalent while the districts have AT computers with four terminals. Major network services available on NICNET include Electronic and distributed Data Base. Special projects of NIC include Tele – informatics Development Programme, Computer Aided Design Programme, General Information Service Terminal (GIST), conducting training programmes, etc.
FOREIGN DATA BANKS/BASES
There area number of data banks/bases operating abroad. ‘A number of them are very large in size. For instance, one of the systems contains more than 175 million records, These range from a directory type listing of companies, abstracts of a. journal, to the complete text of a statement, latest development trends in IT, Manufacturing, plastics and others.
NATIONAL INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (NISSAT) OF INDIA
The need for a National Information System for Science & Technology (NISSAT) was visualised in a report prepared, at the instance of Government of India, by an UNESCO consultant Dr. Peter Lazer in 1972. The high powered National Committee on Science & Technology (NCST), constituted by the Government of India for preparing a comprehensive S&T plan, which was to become an integral part of the Fifth Plan, recommended in 1973 the establishment of NISSAT under the then Department of Science & Technology (DST). However, since 1985 NISSAT has been under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). NISSAT has the following objectives:
- Provision of national information services to meet the present and future needs of generators, processors, disseminators and users of information;
- Optimum utilisation of existing information services and systems, and the development of new areas;
- Promotion of national and international cooperation and liaison for exchange of information;
- Support and active encouragement for the development of facilities for education and training in information science and technology, and in the communication of the national science information policy;
- Support and participate in research, development, and innovation in information science and communications to enhance both the efficiency of information services and quality of the information provided by these services, and
- Support and promote research, development and innovation in information technology. NISSAT has established nine sectoral information centres with the objective of creating information awareness and meeting the information needs of academicians, scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, management executives and decision makers in specific sectors. The details of these centres are given in Table-1.
Table-1: Sectoral Information Centres under NISSAT
The sectoral centres were built around the existing information resources and facilities. The services provided by these centres include document, supply, preparation of special bibliography, patent search, reprography and micrograp industrial enquiry and translation services. These centres also act as focal point of material sciences
- Chemical engineering
- Pollution control technology and many more.
The data banks/bases operate at different levels. At the unit level, the purpose is basically to meet the needs of the organisation itself. At the national/sectoral level, it is intended for the entire industry or other users. At the international level, they serve the users in various countries. Satellite communication has made the on-line linkage easier and faster.
The On-Line Information System is now a big industry in Europe, USA and other advanced countries. The entire system follows a chain:
i) The producers of data bases and data banks
ii) The distributors or vendors generally called hosts
iii) The telecommunication services
iv) The end users or brokers who search data files on behalf of end users.
Producers of on-line information can be commercial, academic or trade organisations. They process a mass of original documents or primary literature by scanning, classifying, indexing, abstracting, formatting, etc. to create data files which The host organisations are information service centres for the dissemination of information on-line. They load and update several data files, on their computers and these are accessible to the users through the hosts own information retrieval software. For example, a host offers on-line access to 130 data bases/data banks which could be searched with one command language. The information retrieval language varies from host to host. The host organisations tend to specialise in different information areas, for example, scientific and technical information, business, industry, technology, etc. and compete with each other.
The on-line information user is linked to the host computer via a telecommunications link. Each host has a ‘Network User Address’ (NUA) which allows the users to specify to the network which host they wish to be connected to. Each user needs a Network User Identifier’ (NUI) which is the network subscribers identification number and is obtained from the national Post and Telegraph Terminals (PTT).
The potential user of on-line information needs certain equipment like a modem, a software package, internet, a telephone and a password. He can then have access to the data bank/base. There are also brokers who search data files/information on behalf of the end users.