Is the Gateway useful?
A small survey was conducted on the usefulness
of the Gateway. It was done in the form of a simple questionnaire
which was sent out to our Gateway collaborators in the regions
and countries; to our FAO colleagues in the regional offices
and to those who have previously communicated with us in various
ways regarding the content and functions of the Gateway. Responses
came mostly from the collaborators. The results of the questionnaire
are available at the following links.
(sheet 1, 2, 3)
> questnnaire_rep2.xls (sheet 1)
Overall, there is a consensus that the Gateway
is useful for researchers, students and planners as an entry
point into a web of information on the subjects. However, it
has also been commented that the information provided by the
Gateway report may be too general to meet the needs of agricultural
resource management policy makers. Based on these questionnaire
results, a recommendation report
(rtf 37kb) was compiled. The revision of the Gateway homepage
(in March 2003) is intended to incorporate some of the suggestions
made in this report. Work to revise the template of the Gateway
based on these recommendations, will be ongoing.
Is the Gateway a good
website? How can it improve?
The success of a website should be judged according
to whether or not it achieves its aims. The Gateway website
simply aims to be a source of concise and relevant information
on the subjects and an entry point for making further contacts
and further inquiries into other materials available on the
Internet. The Gateway website and the information it contains
must, therefore, be concise and relevant, and also technically
easily accessible for all users, including those living in countries
where the information infrastructure is less developed.
The goals of the Gateway can be summarized:
1. To encourage and assist governments and
research institutions in countries with less well-developed
information systems to collect relevant information and to develop
and manage their own information systems on land and water resources
on the Internet (Capacity building; incentive giving).
2. To facilitate access to global, national and regional information
on land, water and plant nutrition resources for the general
public, particularly for policy, planning and research communities
(Facilitating access to information: raising awareness; educating).
3. To promote and coordinate networking and exchanges of experiences
of the above-mentioned tasks at regional and global levels (Coordinating
One of the ultimate aims of the Gateway is
that each country will establish its own national land and water
information systems and maintain them into the future. Naturally,
the way each country organizes and presents its information
will be different, but the essential issues which will have
to be included are similar, if not identical. The ownership
of and responsibility for the system maintenance and the quality
checking of the content of the information will rest in the
hands of the national institutions. The quality and richness
of the system will depend on the technical resources and infrastructure
available at the moment of inception, and the systems will naturally
develop according to technical innovations. The Gateway national
report should become a first incentive for those countries with
the least developed information systems to invest their budget,
time and effort in developing their own sustainable Land and
Water Information Systems. This will fulfil the Gateway's goals
of building capacity and giving incentives.
A concise report on the state of socio-economic
conditions, land, water and plant nutrition will form part of
the system as a static document similar to the current Gateway
national report. Together, it will highlight issues such as
"Hot spots" and "Challenges", preferably
in a way that will make it easy for a visitor to quickly grasp
what are the most critical issues a country is facing and what
measures are being taken. (The revision of the Gateway homepage,
in March 2003, will somewhat reflect this line of thought.)
In the future, the national information system should link to
information systems on provincial, municipal and community levels.
Links to other 'related sites' will remain
as important as the content of the report that describes the
subject matter of the Gateway. Work needs to be done to find
more related Internet sites owned and managed by local institutions
within a country. This is justifiable as the internet is rapidly
expanding and the number of relevant sites are swiftly increasing.
However, it will also be important to select only completely
relevant sites because it is extremely difficult, even using
a key word search on a search engine, to pick out the most relevant
information from the vast ocean of information sources. Directing
site users straight to the most relevant information saves their
time and energy.
What are difficulties of the
Gateway? How to solve them?
One of the biggest problems of the Gateway
is updating. Compiling a Gateway country report and putting
it on the Internet is a one-off exercise but updates have to
be carried out regularly. Currently there is no standard for
the frequency of report updates. The recommendation of updates
is usually made by FAO and executed by the collaborators themselves.
Several country reports have been updated after their first
compilation - those of Bangladesh, Egypt, China and Lithuania
for example. Close communication between FAO and collaborators
is essential. A central question is how to arouse the collaborators'
interest in keeping the reports up-to-date so that the initiative
for on-going up-dates will come from them. The ultimate goal
of the Gateway, as discussed above, offers a solution to this
problem - that the report should be hosted locally and updated
whenever a new set of information becomes available.
The second problem is the quality control.
Who is responsible for maintaining the appropriate quality of
the country reports? What mechanism can be used to set such
a quality standard? How can the standard itself be upgraded
over time? Currently, there is no set standard of quality for
the reports. We informally acknowledge that there are some exemplary
country reports that are already available on-line: China,
and Tobago, Nepal,
Syria, and Fiji,
to name only a few. They are not perfect - most reports lack
information for some sections - however, the rigor with which
these reports are compiled and the attention paid to the facility
of the information is noticeable. These reports should be referred
to widely by the newly participating countries. They should
also be shared and reviewed amongst themselves as points of
reference and a source of stimuli for upgrading.
The third problem is regarding the difficulty
of reconciling the conformity of the system with the freedom
of the individual countries in organizing their information.
The report and/or information system developed and maintained
by each country will be unique as each country has its own demands,
availability and presentation mode for information. Supposing
that the Gateway remains as an international coordinator and
facilitator of land and water information, its central role
will be providing well-defined guidelines for the discussion
of land and water information, presented and shared by international
community. Therefore, the continual revision and critical appraisal
of the content of the guidelines will become even more important.
A critical look into the content of the existing Guidelines
should be at the top of the "to-do" list.
Who links to us?
External web sites that make a link to our
Gateway are still very few. One site is: Stockholms
universitetsbibliotek SUB (University of Stockholms
Geo library - Branch Library for Earth Sciences and Geography).
The more external sites that link to the Gateway,
the more the raison d'être of the Gateway will be justified
and the more chances there will be that many more external sites
will link to the Gateway. To this end, it is necessary to send
out more PR notices to raise awareness amongst the external
audience, as the Gateway is still hidden in the Internet. That
the Gateway is a global asset, no matter how modest, needs to
What information do vistors to the Gateway
The Gateway uses a keyword search system provided
by Freefind ("Search
Box" on the homepage). This keyword search operates across
the homepage and all the files stored in the sub-directories
of the Gateway. The key words typed in by visitors in the Search
Box are all recorded, along with the time/date when the search
This log of the keywords entered has been recorded
since May 2000 and can be viewed in segments of six months as
follows (starting with the most recent):
2003 (txt 2kb)
> July-December 2002 (txt
> January-June 2002 (txt
> July-Dec. 2001 (txt
> January-June 2001 (txt
> July-Dec. 2000 (txt
> Before June 2000 (txt
It should be remembered that not all the visitors
use the keyword function of the Gateway. That is, the results
do not indicate the number of 'hits'. However, we can make some
observations about what kind of information visitors to the
Gateway are looking for, based on the most common searches.
The most frequently entered keywords include:
soil, -sols, water, plant nutrients, fertilizer, crop (cotton,
cassava, tobacco etc.), yield, agriculture, rainfall, irrigation,
drainage, salinization (salinity) etc. Other keywords include
general technical terms such as: classification, analysis, mapping,
remote sensing, information, evaluation, land use, land cover,
etc. The most frequently used country names are: Egypt, Bangladesh,
Brazil, China, Romania, Djibouti, Malaysia, the Philippines
and Yemen, all of whose country reports are available on the
Gateway. Country names entered whose reports are not available
on the Gateway include: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Sudan,
Portugal, Eritrea, Angola, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Mali,
Italy, Sri Lanka, Greece, Ukraine, Chad, Canada, Iraq, Liberia,
Rwanda, Somalia, Ecuador, Honduras and Equatorial guinea. Other
keywords include FAO's land-water information systems such as
AEZ, Sdbm and FAO soil taxonomy. Though English is the primary
language of the Gateway, a substantial number of keywords are
written in Spanish.