Pan African Development Information System [PADIS]

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

  About PADIS

The Pan African Development Information System (PADIS) is a co-operative regional development information system created in January 1980 under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia.

What are its Objectives?

The overall objective of PADIS is the promotion of development information management in the Africa region. Central to this objective is the operation of a regional information system in Africa which will serve as a conduit for information and data for development, centered around national, subregional and regional networks to which all members will voluntarily contribute information and share their information management techniques.

The immediate objectives of PADIS are the following: *To assist African states, subregional and regional organizations in building capacities for collection, storage and utilization of data on development through advisory services, training and user services;

* To promote the improvement of information infrastructure in African member States, especially through the adoption of information technology in Africa as a tool for improvement information management and exchange on behalf of development;

* To promote the creation of databases in fields of importance to development in the region; * To promote the utilization of common norms and standards of information handling in the Region in order to ensure compatibility and to facilitate information exchange;

* To establish a system which will improve access to both published and unpublished documents produced in Africa on questions relating to scientific and technological aspects, economic, and social aspects of development;

* To train information specialists at national, subregional and regional levels in order to upgrade skills and introduce improved methods of information handling. What are its activities? PADIS undertakes the following activities:

* Delivery of advisory services to African States and institutions on aspects of development of information and documentation systems, e.g. needs assessment, formulation of information plans and policies, design of national/sectoral information systems, choice of information technologies and strengthening of information centres;

* Training staff of national, subregional and institutional participating centres as well as information policy makers and other system users through workshops, seminars and short courses in information system methodologies, computerized documentation techniques, information systems policy and management and statistical data base management and utilization;

* Creation and maintenance of bibliographic, referral and numerical data bases;

* Provision of user services, including printed outputs from data bases, newsletters, selective dissemination of information, current awareness profiles and retrospective searches, question/answer service, hardcopy and microfiche document delivery, data bases on magnetic media and consolidating and repackaging of information.

How is PADIS Structured?

PADIS is part of the United Nations System. It presently receives financial and/or technical support from the United Nations regular budget for the ECA, from African member States of the ECA, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Governments of Germany and the Netherlands. The head of PADIS reports to the Executive Secretary of the ECA. The Regional Technical Committee for PADIS, which was established by resolution 498 of the ECA Conference of Ministers (1984), is responsible for establishing overall policy for PADIS as well as overseeing all aspects of its implementation. It reports biennially to the ECA Conference of Ministers Responsible for Planning and Development. Members of the Committee are the Executive Secretary of the ECA (who serves as chairman ex-officio), five high-level experts in telecommunications, documentation, library, information or computer science from the five ECA subregions who represent their respective subregions; representatives of OAU, UNESCO and UNDP and up to three other specialists from disciplines relative to the programme. Subregional Technical Committees monitor the implementation of the project within their respective subregions.

PADIS' Areas of Emphasis

Since 1990 PADIS has been placing increasing emphasis on the following two areas:

* Electronic networking as a tool to link information services in Africa From 1990-1993 PADIS implemented a pilot project in electronic networking in Africa, linking some 18 African institutions in a FIDOnet-based network. It also set up a bulletin board on networking and African development and an electronic conference on information technology in Africa. As a result of its success with this pilot project, it is now beginning the implementation of a much larger three-year project funded by International Development Research Centre entitled, "Building Capacities for Electronic Communication in Africa." Through this project, it hopes to install electronic networks in 24 African countries.

* Informatics Policies Among its activities in these areas have been the promotion of the adoption of informatics policies by African States. It introduced this issue to the ECA Conference of Ministers responsible for Planning and Economic Development in 1992 and secured a resolution (732, XXVII) on this topic calling for African States to adopt policies related to the acquisition and utilization of appropriate information technology. In 1988 it held a Regional Seminar on informatics policies, and in 1993 it is conducting in-depth studies of the informatics policy instruments in place in 10 African countries. It has worked closely with the ECA Strategic Programme for African Management on its Agenda for Improving Public Administration in Africa, to secure the exclusion of a chapter on information technology there.

PADIS' Information System and Network

PADIS comprises both an information system and a network.The Information System. PADIS' information system is comprised of five in-house databases that derive from information produced in or originating from Africa. These include: The PADIS networkThe PADIS network consists of 39 national participating centres, which receive advisory services, training and PADIS data bases and input data into the system for exchange with other countries in the region, subregional and regional institutional participating centres.Four subregional centres have been or are in the process of being established. Institutional participating centres include 43 institutions specialized in particular development fields. National participating centres are government-designated institutions which perform the function of assisting national development planning by providing ready access to information required by policy makers, planners and others engaged in national socio-economic development efforts. Once operational, the subregional centres will provide on-site training for member countries, enable the sharing of expensive resources (equipment and personnel), deliver advisory services to member states and institutional participating centres, serve as subregional information clearinghouses and as links for the transfer of information between national participating centres and PADIS.

Institutional participating centres are the subject-oriented African subregional nodes in the PADIS network. Presently 44 in number, they comprise subregional and regional institutions responsible for coordination of information collection, classification and dissemination and development of tools and methodology in their special subjects of focus. These include ECA-sponsored subregional and regional institutions as well as other institutions in the region which have concluded agreements with PADIS to promote the harmonization and standardization of documentation and information systems in the Region. They include the Association of African Universities, the African Regional Organization for Standardization, the Africa Regional Centre for Technology and the Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa. Activities of the institutional participating centres are co-ordinated through the Standing Committee on the Harmonization of Documentation and Information Systems in Africa which meets annually in Addis Ababa. How to access PADIS' services There are many ways in which a user can avail themselves of PADIS services. To start with, individuals or institutions can subscribe, free of charge, to the PADIS Newsletter, issued quarterly in English, French and Arabic, to keep abreast of the activities and services of PADIS.


Under a grant from IDRC, PADIS has initiated a pilot project in information technology that will improve utilization of its data bases and facilitate communications on development information in the Africa region. Entitled PADISNET, the project will electronically link selected nodes of the PADIS network. Nodes will use modem communication to send messages, request data base searches, exchange information over bulletin boards and participate in electronic conferences on issues related to development information. PADIS will act as a gateway for the network to access external data bases and international networks. The project will also experiment with online access to PADIS data bases and will test the applicability of recent information technology, including the use of optical storage media (CD-ROM and optical erasable disks), scanners and facsimile transmission.

PADIS' Publications DEVINDEX-Africa is produced three times yearly from the PAD-DEV data base. Past volumes (15 in all) have included special national editions of materials from Botswana, Togo, Guinea and Niger. Microfiche or photocopies of all regional documents listed in DEVINDEX are available upon request at a nominal charge. Subscriptions to DEVINDEX are available upon request. The printed output of the PADIS-TCDC data base is the Directory of African Experts. Queries of the data base are invited for replies to specific information problems, e.g. if an institution or organization requires the name of possible consultants living in a specific country and specializing in a particular field. The ECA Statistical Yearbook, issued in four annual volumes corresponding to the ECA Subregions of Central, East and Southern, North and West Africa, is the printed output of the PADIS-STAT data base. Copies or subscriptions are available by writing to the ECA Statistics Division, P O Box 3001, Addis Ababa.

Selective Dissemination of Information [SDI]

PADIS operates a Selective Dissemination of Information Service (SDI) by which individuals or institutions can request to be kept regularly informed of references to written materials in their fields of interest. Regular searches are made of PAD-DEV as well as the data bases from other international and bilateral organizations available at PADIS and sent to subscribers. Enrolment in SDI is available by filling out a form available upon request from PADIS.

Question/Answer Service

PADIS will send a custom printed reply to requests for information on topics relating to African development on the basis of searches of any of the data bases, - bibliographic, statistical or referral - at its disposal. Requests may be sent to PADIS by any means available, including letter, telephone, telex, cable, facsimile or e-mail. Addresses are listed below. Information Exchange

PADIS participating centres may request the downloading of data bases, and installation where necessary, on magnetic media including tape and diskette. Files may also be sent electronically to centres with the necessary equipment.

Advisory services, training and fellowships Members of the PADIS network may request these services from PADIS in fields relating to PADIS' immediate objectives listed above. PADIS services in these areas are also available to non-governmental organizations as well as institutions outside the Africa region on a fee for service basis. Further details are available by writing to PADIS.

Further information on any aspect of the PADIS programme is available by communicating with PADIS through any of the following means: By post International postal address: Pan African Development Information Service P O Box 3001 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

<> Telephone:+251-1-511167 Telex: 21029 eca et Facsimile:(from North America) +1 (212) 963-4957 or + 251-1-51 44 16 Internet:


Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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