International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001




Users of Information Centers and the New Era of Knowledge Management

In this new century, due to necessarily strong links between information consumers, specialists and producers, researchers who generate information have demonstrated an increased interest in, and valid concerns about, the pressing need to train information users. It is safe to say that, in the past, the role of information centers (IC) was essentially non-proactive and traditional, centered on the customer as an agent of consumption. His or her information needs were met only upon their request, and they were not encouraged to consult other information products or sources.
However, with the development of a new approach intended to develop systematized processes and create information products and tools to meet their needs, there has been significant changes that clearly benefit information users.

Progress in the field of information technologies1 has altered the role of contemporary ICs. Consumers now collaborate as participating agents, while information centers not only anticipate their customers' information needs, but also, upon receiving a request -which is interpreted, analyzed and addressed-, take measures to meet their requirements and offer value-added services.

The interpretation of consumer information requests mentioned earlier considers various issues relevant to the subject under examination: its evolution, progress, contradictions and existing gaps in the information emanating from planners and researchers. This is why current ICs can make a significant difference in the lives of their customers, through the provision of accurate, scientific, timely, updated and complete information.


In this way, consumers of today's ICs contribute to the continuous strengthening of information management processes. Currently, a typical task of any ICs is to understand who its customers are, their information habits, the type of information that they seek, and so forth. To this end, they must develop increasingly interactive communication channels between information producers and consumers. In addition to their names and addresses, it is important for ICs to record other customer information, such as their education level, occupation, age, gender, and their links to the services provided by these centers, as well as their interests, frequently examined issues and areas, and the sources consulted.

In the specific case of risk reduction management -an area where ICs provide specialized information associated with the various disciplines and academic fields involved- it is important that the centers currently participating in the Central American Network for Disaster and Health Information (CANDHI)2 are able to access this comprehensive knowledge. It is also essential to take into account the pressing need to disseminate this information at regional, national and local levels.

  The pool of information available in this field is constantly growing. The centers established within many organiza-tions such as civil protection units, universities and emergency commissions, among others, must forge strong relationships between their users and their needs,


For additional information, please contact:
María Teresa Casas
Coordinator, Regional Disaster Information Center (CRID)
(with contributions by Raquel Morales, CRID Administrator)

1 Information technologies are not only technological resources linked to computer programs, but also to information itself.
2 For further information about CANDHI, please visit http://www.crid.or.cr/crid/Echo/proyectos_CRID.html.