KAINeT initiative opening up access to agricultural research information in Kenya

Background

Kenya Agricultural Information Network (KAINet) is a response to demand from the national and international community to promote information exchange and access among stakeholders in the agricultural sector.  Accessing agricultural content in Africa has not always been easy for most researchers and other stakeholders in agriculture hence the need to implement policies and strategies that would enable sharing and exchange of information and data. Initiated in April 2006, its stakeholders developed KAINet strategy and with it, an open access repository, which was to be available to its researchers, extension staff and farmers. The main purpose was to support decision-making, promote innovation in agriculture and improve livelihoods.

KAINet has evolved from the on-going Kenya Pilot AGRIS (International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology) Project, which aimed at building capacities in information management, dissemination and exchange in network members in Kenya. The project’s objectives include establishing institutional repositories of agricultural information, facilitating the development of institutional and national Information and Communication Management (ICM) strategies and policies as frameworks for addressing issues that are critical to content development and information exchange, and supporting development of human capacity in ICM through training programs for information managers.

Policies and strategies

The Kenya government strategy for revitalising agriculture (SRA) aims at achieving a reduction in unemployment and poverty through application of among other things, new technologies and information as the basis for a thriving agricultural system. Policies and strategies both at National and institutional level are key in ensuring the three AAA”s (Availability, Accessibility and Applicability) of information/data and at the national level,  KAINeT is response to delivering on recommendation to build a Kenyan national agricultural science and technology information system. The SRA also identifies linking the national research system with international information systems and establishing agricultural technology dissemination system linked to extension. KAINeT responds therefore to the calls for a need to have coherence in the management of agricultural information in order to enhance information exchange and access.

In the case of Kenya, the government has placed a lot of emphasis on using ICT to improve the livelihoods of Kenyans. To this end, a number of documents have been put in place for example the Government Strategy and National Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Policy paving the way for institutes like KARI to develop policies that meets its specific needs. Unfortunately at Institutional level (for example the KAINeT Partners) little has been done to implement policies or strategies to foster sharing of scientific information/data. In cognizance of this KAINeT’s institutional partners, developed of ICM strategies for each partner institution was done they still have to get formally endorsed by senior management.

Implementation

To facilitate agricultural related content accessibility and visibility in Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in collaboration with DFID made available to Kenya financial and technical contribution in support of the establishment of the Kenya Agricultural Information Network (KAINet). This was to build a common and freely accessible information system for the generation, collection, processing archival and dissemination of agricultural information.

The KAINet initiative aided the developed institutional repositories at KARI-HQ, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), with the national repository (KAINet) harvesting from them. A KAINet website was then developed using Drupal for the purpose of enhancing web visibility to KAINet. A web-based repository developed using WebAGRIS with a search engine that makes the repository accessible and visibility was then integrated onto the site making KAINet website a one stop platform of both the web presence and online repository.

KAINet adopted AGRIS methodologies and tools with Agridrupal as its platform to implement partner institutional and national repositories. KAINet member institutions are now migrating to the Agridrupal and AgriOcean Dspace to enhance further accessibility and visibility of local metadata. These tools are complete, multilingual web-based systems used for processing and dissemination of agricultural bibliographic information.

KAINet repository accessible through http://www.kainet.or.ke includes both research literature and local agricultural knowledge with more than 38,000 records and 1,500 full text documents.  The scope of content ranges from climate change, forestry research literature, agricultural related literature, water use, and simple brochures/leaflets of which is mostly metadata with 0.5% of the it is full text attachments. Strategies are being formulated to increase the number of full-text documents in the KAINet repository.

Interoperability

To ensure KAINet partners and other stakeholders are able to exchange data amongst themselves we adopted systems that meet specific architectural and functional requirements for information exchange. This was achieved by using AgriDruapl and AgriOcean Dspace that have integrated the AGRIS Application Profile (AGRIS AP). The AGRIS AP is a standard created specifically to enhance the description, exchange and subsequent retrieval of agricultural Document-Like Information Objects (DLIOs). It is a format that allows sharing of information across dispersed bibliographic systems and is based on well-known and accepted metadata standards. Some partners within the KAINet family have implemented other tools that promote interoperability using the Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OA-PMH), internal and external RSS Feeds.

Interoperability within KAINet has increased the accessibility of the information/data and has resulted in partner institutions harvesting metadata from the FAO AGRIS database and vice versa. For example, KEFRI increased its metadata in the repository from 236 records to 1,156 by importing its previous contributions to the AGRIS database. Access of real time news and events, using RSS Feeds, from other agricultural related sources like AgriFeeds and e-Agriculture has improved the information/data on KAINet.

Visibility has been enhanced with the KAINet repository being registered with the CIARD Ring and the KARI repository being among the few repositories from Africa being listed and accessed through the OPENDOAR (http://www.opendoar.org).Statistics obtained from Goggle Analytics show that the access hits have grown from to almost 5,000 since last year June for KARI to almost 40,000.

To ensure further interoperability, members of the KAINet need to copy KARI example and implement Web 2.0 tools, i.e.  a simple RSS feeds that ease exchange and sharing of information. As we look at improving sharing in the near future we need to implement RDF (Resource Description Framework) that would enable exchange of richer metadata that can easily be re-processed and re-packaged as new information/data. A long term solution is conduct research into the possibilities of making data sets available and accessible.

Challenges

The first challenge is the development of the institutional repositories, design and set up of platforms that promote sharing and exchange of data. This is occasioned by the lack or limited capacity and skills in the new emerging web 2.0 tools that foster exchange. The second challenge is the lack of proper institutional policies and strategies that support the use of open access software’s added to the lack of awareness on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) issues by content generators. The IPR issue to some extent has hindered the collection of metadata from the content generators. The third challenge is the poor mechanisms and infrastructure for sharing and exchanging agriculture knowledge generated from research at national and regional levels continue to bedevil the conceived goals. Many research activities are repeated due to the lack of such mechanisms and infrastructure at the national level.

There have been several lessons learnt one of which is to do with, system comparability. Most government-based institutions largely depend on proprietary software systems that limit them in sharing and disseminating information. In addition there is a need to choose the right tools for the different member institutions based on a sound requirements analysis. However we have to realize that unless these lessons provoke change, they won’t have been necessary learnt.

Agridrupal (KAINet Repository)

AgriOcean Dspace (KARI Repository)