About GAIA GAIA Case Studies Global GIS Agenda 21 Country Data Model Database


The GAIA INCO-DC Project is a collaboration of ESS-ACA with partner institutions in the UK, Italy, Argentina, China, Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

ESS-ACA is the lead contractor and coordinator in GAIA , a project in the Scientific and Technological Cooperation with Developing Countries (INCO) Programme.

Designed for a 30 months duration, and funded at a level of 700,000 ECU the project falls under two sectors of the INCO Work Programme, Information and Communication Technologies, and Sustainable Management of Renewable Natural Resources; GAIA is an inter- and multi-disciplinary, as well as cross-sectoral project.

Overall, it aims to provide innovative tools and methods to promote the conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources, compatible with long-term equitable economic growth and enhancement of productive capacity which is environmentally acceptable. At the same time, and through the methodology used to address the first objective, it aims to integrate developing countries, in particular those which have attained a higher level of development, into the global information society; to combine research skills established in developing countries institutions with their EU counterparts and to facilitate the growth of an information and communications area allowing developing countries to participate in solving their regional problems with regard to development.

In particular, its objectives are:

  1. To improve the management of natural resources and the environment through better management and training tools, based on modern multi-media methods and wide-area networking information technology.

  2. To develop an information network of collaborating institutions, linking European institutions with partners in a number of developing countries that have traditional or emerging ties with European countries.

  3. To develop and disseminate, together with the partners in the DCs, a multi-media training tool with illustrative case study applications for natural resources and environmental management.

  4. To help develop the institutional capabilities in the developing countries, both with regards to the methods, tools, and approaches used in natural resources management and the teaching of these methods, as well as with the information and networking technology required to access and disseminate resource management information.

Specific Objectives

  • To develop, in collaboration with the partners from seven developing countries, a multi-media framework and set of demonstration cases at a regional or local scale, addressing regional priority problems

    To implement this system at the participating institutions for both educational use and project activities, and obtain practical classroom and project experience in its application, as the basis of further, local developments.

  • To provide wider access, and possibilities for active contribution, to the system through a wide-area network (Internet) World Wide Web implementation.

State of knowledge, approach, and innovation

Modern information technology, and in particular, multi-media methods integrated with geographical information systems (GIS), simulation models, and expert systems, implemented and accessible via wide-area networks provide powerful tools for resource management. They can also support the training in resource management at institutions of higher and continuing education, and NGOs with an educational mission. With the rapidly developing communication infrastructure and the ever more affordable computer and communications technology, also in developing countries, environmental information systems will provide opportunities for global integration and cooperation for researchers, educators, planners and managers in developing countries and their European counterparts.

Concentrating initially on a number of centers of excellence and primarily educational institutions in countries that have already achieved a higher level of technological development, the project hopes to achieve a multiplier effect through regional diffusion of results and the underlying technology in the medium term. A larger number of informally associated partners and users is expected to access the system trough the Internet, provide feedback, and continue to contribute case study examples, as a contribution towards the development of a global information society.

The Basic Innovation

Multi-media system, in general, provide an interactive interface to textual and pictorial, and video/audio information, based on a network (hypertext) structure of linked components. This proposals is based on the integration of more complex tools of assessment and analysis such as simulation models, expert systems, and geographical information systems. This adds a new dimension to the interactive access, since now also the contents of the system itself and not only the navigation through the (fixed) contents are under the interactive control of the users. In addition to browsing through static information, users can now introduce and assess their own assumptions, experience, and judgement to evaluate specific environmental and resource management problems.

Work Content

The project foresees the joint development and implementation of a multi-media software system for natural resources management and environmental education in a number of key institutions in developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Merging multi-media and networking technology with methods and tools such as geographical information systems (GIS), simulation models, and expert systems, will result in a new generation of effective tools initially for environmental education and management training, but ultimately for natural resources and environmental planning and management.

The general information system framework provides a hierarchical structure, starting at a global geographical scale to provide context and a basis for comparative analysis at a regional and local scale; it is based on a logical framework of Issues and Indicators, with their underlying data, derived from Agenda 21 . Within this geographical and conceptual framework, individual regional and local case studies, concentrating on specific priority issues, can be embedded. They use detailed regional and local data, as well as specific models to address specific priority issues of local and regional concern, linked to the global framework of Agenda 21.

Participants in the project will use the overall framework to design and implement their specific case studies. Through the exchange of this material, compatible through the common framework, a rich repertoire of examples will be developed.

The case studies use hypertext descriptions with extensive imagery, including maps, satellite imagery, photographic and video material. The same multi-media interface is also used to access and exercise specific simulation models that simulate resource management WHAT-IF scenarios and a rule-based expert system for assessment and evaluation tasks, linking dynamic models into the multi-media system seamlessly.

Case studies are again structured in term of Issues (related to the Agenda 21 framework) and Indicators, linked and evaluated through the expert system and derived from underlying data bases, models, and user specifications. Using the common approach, framework and tools of the GAIA system, the project participants in the developing countries will,

  • contribute to the joint technological development of the multi-media system and its embedded models in their specific areas of expertise;

  • apply the system in specific regional and local case studies, contributing multi-media content and material to the overall system;

  • test and evaluate the system in actual teaching, planning and management (training) situations;

  • support the dissemination and further exploitation through local installations.

The system will be implemented on the Internet, which also allows for the near real-time communication of the development partners through the same medium. This will make the the coordination and synchronization of these distributed developments into one consistent product with a common architecture feasible.

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