|MORE THAN JUST THE FAX
- based on reports by Jerry Barton, Claudio Todeschini, Ms. Wendy Bartlett, and Hans Lemmel
World Wide Web home pages, "e-mail", and databanks on the Internet all became part of the Agency's "cyberspace" world of information services over the decade. New skills and systems have been cultivated and developed to serve the growing demands for information and cost-efficiency of the Agency's governmental, public, and technical audiences. At the same time, more specialized training was needed to help staff to use computer applications productively in their work and to introduce them to the wonders of the "mouse" and frustrations of "search tools" needed to navigate the "Web". Today, almost all Agency staff have access to electronic information services from their offices. Networks are designed and planned to reach databases and systems needed for specific jobs. Administrators access electronic travel planning, procurement bids, timekeeping, and financial systems. Technical staff coordinate meetings and use electronic mail to jointly draft documents. Managers of cooperation projects and research contracts exchange status reports on-line with their national partners worldwide.
Although rooted in the 1970s, the Internet first became popularly used in this decade. Before then, the Agency had used a number of private networks for exchange of electronic mail and access to a small number of on-line databases. By 1993 the Internet was already eclipsing other networks for electronic mail. To take advantage of the power and reach of another fast-emerging Internet communications product, the World Wide Web, the Agency started its WorldAtom service in the early 1990s. Today its pages are accessed tens of thousands of times monthly by scientists, students, government officials, and journalists to obtain information from electronic publications and periodicals, official statements, legal agreements, and conference and meeting documents. All IAEA programmes now regularly publish information about their 1300 projects via the Internet, and on-line databases provide access to nuclear power status information, nuclear applications, nuclear physics, and nuclear safety information.
Internet tools also were applied to improve or develop information services restricted to staff use. One important outcome - the On-line Administrative Staff Information System (OASIS) - covers managerial guidelines, procedures, manuals, staff notices, and official records. It also links to other on-line services. They include "country files" systems that integrate nuclear-related information that the Agency's Member States report to its many databases, or are accessible from global networks integral to programmes. One recent link is the new "GovAtom" service. It provides working papers of the Board of Governors and other restricted information to authorized users in Member States. In addition to these outlets, Member States now routinely send information to the Agency via the Internet, or other electronic means.
More library services of the Vienna International Centre have also been put on-line. Increasingly, information about the Library's collections of print and audio-visual materials is available on CD-ROM or in other electronic forms to Agency staff and other users. Also strengthened is the Library's own access to electronic sources of documents. An example is the United Nations Optical Disk System, which not only speeds delivery of UN documents, but also reduces the local storage requirements.
The Agency's pioneering International Nuclear Information System (INIS) expanded its coverage in cyberspace over the decade. In 1991, the INIS scope was expanded to cover environmental and economic aspects of non-nuclear power production. By 1997, ninety-nine IAEA Member States, as well as thirty-four other countries and organizations, participated in the INIS network.
The wider use of smaller, more powerful personal computers during the past ten years has opened new avenues. In 1991, INIS started CD-ROM services, and today more users are accessing INIS data from the compact disks than in any other way. A new, more powerful and flexible computer operating platform is being developed to improve connections with users.
Other improvements take advantage of the skyrocketing amount of information becoming available electronically. A software package called FIBRE (Friendly Input of Bibliographic Records) has been developed for data to be sent more easily into the INIS database via the Internet. Now being upgraded is the INIS collection of full-text information from microfiche to electronic media for distribution on CD-ROM. Additionally, INIS and its global partners launched a Web home page in 1996 to broaden awareness of its services and of links to other nuclear information sources.
A frequently asked question is how well developing countries are served by the new electronic tools and services. Over the past decade, training and computer support services have targeted important needs. Staff working at INIS national centres are being trained in all aspects of information technology, especially as they relate to INIS operations. National infrastructures for computerized transmission and receipt of INIS information also were targeted in efforts to upgrade electronic capabilities.
Additionally, research and outreach efforts have been strengthened over the decade through the Agency's extensive global network for nuclear data services supporting a wide variety of nuclear physics and related studies. By 1997, forty-one developing and industrialized countries were using the Nuclear Data Information System on line for responding to more than four thousand requests, almost four times as many as in 1992.