Problems in Information Resources Development in China and Countermeasures
The aforementioned projects and their achievements lead to our discussion and analysis of some problems that hindered information resources development in China from faster advancement.
Information Need is the Decisive Factor of Information Resources Development
The stalemate of China's information resources development between the late 1980s and early 1990s was heavily due to the reformation of the country's economy. With the change of the society's information needs, products and services of information agents could no longer meet social demands. The key issue in information resources development, therefore, was understanding and satisfying new information needs of society. A project, even if supported by state finance, would very probably lead to unsatisfactory or tragic results if it were not directed to market demand. Satisfying social and market demand is a principle that should always be carefully observed in China's information resources development.
Role of the Government
The emphasis on demand-orientation does not mean the neglect of the government's roles in information resources development. Information resources development requires both the driving forces from the market and the participation by the government. The government's participation includes: (1) It should make guidelines and policies for information resources development, such as the overall layout of information resources development, the arrangement of key projects and their preferences, policies on investment, financing and taxation, and mechanism of coordination, etc. (2) The country's legislative body must set legal standards and provide judicial guarantee for information resources development projects, such as protection of intellectual property. (3) The government should take the lead in opening its information to the public and providing high-quality, non-profitable information services to organizations and citizens.
Choice of Information Resources Development Strategies
Information resources development involves huge investment and a long duration of time. Therefore, it is extremely important to choose appropriate development strategies. From past experience, we feel that the following two issues are worthy of greater attention. The first is that the government should carefully lay out the emphasis of their interference in information resources development. The state should mainly be responsible for information resources development projects for public welfare, while leaving non-public welfare projects for the market and regulating through policies. The second issue is cooperation in information resources development, including both the cooperation between different industries within the country and cooperation between China and other countries in the world. An additional issue is the protection of the state sovereign and national culture. The tendency of undue reliance on foreign information resources should be attended to.
Attention Should be Paid to Construction of Infrastructure in Information Resources Development
Collection, construction, cataloging, indexing, and abstracting work and database construction are fundamental work in information resources development. Nothing could be done without abundant high-quality information resources, and no information resource can play its role without high-quality catalogs, indexes and abstracts. Cataloging, indexing, and abstracting, as the infrastructure in information resources development, are effective tools for information users to make use of the huge pool of information resources; however, it is also an often-neglected aspect in information resources development. Therefore, we must pay special attention to it.
Digitalization and Networking are Inevitable Trends in Information Resources Development
Developing countries such as China are exploring methods of managing information resources with advanced information technologies and spreading them with digitalized and Internet technologies. Digital library and distributive information resources on the Internet are the directions of information resources development. What should be emphasized here is the correct understanding of the connotation of digital library. The construction of digital libraries not only contains the digitalization of current document resources in the libraries, but also involves digitalized management and dissemination of social information resources and cultural resources at a wider context. In the process of digitalization and networking, great attention must be paid to the protection of intellectual property and privacy. Any action eager for quick success and instant benefit may finally hinder the healthy advancement of information resources development work.
Promoting the Development of Information Service Sector to Boost Better Information Resources Development
With the development of the information service industry, more and more information resources will be needed to satisfy users' needs, which will in turn promote information resources development, opening the market for information resources, and reclaiming some capital for consistent development of information resources. On the other hand, however, the development of the information service industry requires a certain amount of information resources as its base. How to properly handle their relationship and coordinate their development is an issue worth our attention. The construction of an academic CD-ROM by Tsinghua Tongfang Co., the ChinaInfo Group's practice of "serving while constructing," and successful experiences of other information agents on information resources development and information services prove that information resources development must take the path of industrialization. Information resources development is no longer solely a public welfare course. Instead, it is an important component of the information industry. The well-known example of the competition between the Human Genome Project and Celera Company can also serve as a proof.