On Information Analysis: A Supply and Demand Approach

By Samad, Syed Abdus | Journal of Development Communication, June 2009 | Go to article overview

On Information Analysis: A Supply and Demand Approach


Samad, Syed Abdus, Journal of Development Communication


The astounding progress in the area of information and communications technology that we have witnessed in the late 1990s and the present time has improved our understanding of the concepts for social sciences information in particular, but still there are large gaps in researchers' comprehension of a very rapidly growing market for development or social sciences information. Large areas of development and social sciences research overlap and hence we have used the terms interchangeably.

Two major initiatives undertaken in the Asia-Pacific region for scientifically assessing the needs (demands) for this type of information were: a) International Development Information Network (IDIN), an on going project of the global network Interregional Coordinating Committee of Development Associations (ICCDA), and b) Development Research Reference Services (DRRS) of Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the now defunct UN Asia & Pacific Development Centre (APDC) which was based in Malaysia. Detailed surveys carried under the initiative of both ( in the 1990s) resulted in the creation of databases of social science research, social science institutions and social science experts in the five region of the world covered by ICCDA--Africa, Asia-Pacific, Arab World, Europe and Latin America. The global database is located in Tilburg University of the Netherlands, coordinated by the European Association of Development Institutes (EADI), one of the five founding members of IDIN. Information professionals have been given training on information database management, and research on value added information products in highly differentiated information markets.

Obviously, the entire approach has been supply-led, and the researchers encountered quite a few intractable difficulties in identifying effective demand for the products and services of the databases. These initiatives were promotional and not an attempt to create a market for profits even though in early 2000s there were serious discussions and debates on commercially marketing some of these products, rather than providing them for free as had been the case in the 1990s. The drying up of generous foreign aid flows in the late '90s was a major reason for this approach. We may recall that there was a qualitative change in international aid philosophy following the collapse of Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall (1991).

The providers of these goods and services however are not profit maximisers, but development agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). They were providing the information with their own and donor funding which began to drop drastically following political developments of global dimensions. As a result, there was perhaps a situation of excess supply of information services. My own records show that these databases remained largely under-used for the following probable reasons:

(a) Poor dissemination of information and their availability, and modes of use.

(b) A mismatch between supply and demand.

On going reviews and evaluations by its sponsors underscored the needs for better information sharing and a more refined understanding of demand for information. The development center of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), based in Paris, acts as the technical arm of IDIN, ICCDA, and helps them finalise strategies for better access and use. Any goods or services can become useless if not used by the target clientele.

I have used the traditional supply-demand framework for analysing information markets. Information has been clearly defined, and its supply and demand situations, as they obtain in the Asia-Pacific region at the present time, is described in the next sections. I feel that the past attempt of a development NGO, International center for the Dissemination of Social Sciences Documents (ICSSD), based in the Netherlands, provided a better understanding of supply, demand and need for social science information in a differentiated market (i. …

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