August 2009


Last week I blogged about the 1st Training Session at FAO and it was such a success that they repeated the training session on Wikis again yesterday for those people that didn’t get the chance to register last week.

Tania Jordan, Gauri Salokhe, Romolo Tassone

Tania Jordan, Gauri Salokhe, Romolo Tassone

Usually after the training sessions, Gauri Salokhe and Romolo Tassone from the FAO Web Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building Division, perform an “After Action Review” to the participants to see what they liked the most or least, and use this feedback to improve future sessions.

It seems that many participants liked the ‘hands-on’ session last week where they had the opportunity to ‘play’ around with the tools, but participants requested  they should have more time …in other words: ‘less talk and more play‘…of course, nothing better than doing-it-yourself!

So considering last weeks feedback, yesterday’s 2-hour session was organized as to give more time to the participants for the ‘hands-on’ session.

Steve Katz

Steve Katz

Steve Katz, Chief of the Knowledge Exchange Facilitation Branch at FAO, introduced the session by saying:

FAO is a multi-disciplinary environment and we organize events such as the Sharefair and training sessions like these to introduce new knowledge sharing methods, tools and approaches to help us work more horizontally in the organization…the challenge is to see how these can be applied in your work…

 

Romolo continued by giving the participants an introduction about what makes a Wiki a Wiki, and he explained: 

  • inline edit/save
  • easy and open access to history, versioning/differences information and the ability to role back
  • The most recent additions/modifications of articles can be monitored actively or passively (RSS, email, summary page) – to facilitate collaborative editing
  • Discussion tab
  • User management/permissions
  • approach that focuses on trust, accountability and transparency, rather than security/authority/ownership
  • Moderation/advocacy required. Sense of community and personal involvement of content
Gauri Salokhe

Gauri Salokhe

Gauri showed the example of the Knowledge Sharing toolkit (KS Toolkit), a long-term collaborative Wiki site using Wikispaces that assembles knowledge sharing tools and methods resources as a clear example of collaboration between CGIAR ICT-KM, FAO and most recenly from the KMforDev community.

Tania Jordan

Tania Jordan

This time, I showed them an example of a private collaborative team site under our CGXchange 2.0 implementation where more than 25 people from the different continents were actively collaborating to produce 7 Enterprise Security Good Practice documents on a Google Sites Wiki.

There were interesting questions like: ‘ How do you get people to start on a Wiki?’, What if I need to work only on one document? or How do I know if I need a Wiki’… Like any website, to get people started on a Wiki, you really need someone that is constantly ‘pushing’ people to provide their input, someone (or a group of people) that as Gauri put it: acts as a ‘Wiki gardener’, that encourages people to provide their ideas and content on the site. Once people start feeling confident on the tools and see the potential of what they’re working on, the Wiki starts taking a life of its’ own!

Remember that in some cases, people don’t really need a Wiki site, sometimes a simple online document can do what you need and I explain these differences further on this post: Useful tips for collaborative writing with Google Docs and Google Sites.

Of course towards the end of the session, the moment they’ve all been waiting for…the participants were paired up on the computers and had the opportunity to get their hands-on the Wiki…indeed this is the moment where they have lots of fun!

Once again, I congratulate and thank Gauri and Romolo for organizing this wonderful session…it’s very nice to see that there are always new things to learn from each other.

Gauri also wrote a blog post about this Wiki session.

Until the next time, I look forward to your comments…

Chantal and Vanessa tweeting from the plenary on Day 1

Chantal and Vanessa tweeting from the plenary on Day 1, WCA2009

We’re past midway through the Congress, it’s end of Day 3. The WCA2009 blog is up and running with a variety of posts, lots of photos are available on the ICRAF Flickr photostream, and the @icraf on Twitter has 300 tweets from the plenary sessions and a few side events (and went from 0 to 90 followers in 3 days).

The reporting team embraced the idea of posting informal reports from the sessions and the conversations in the hallways. And even people who had never had the opportunity to blog before posted a few interesting things. In fact, most of the social media team became new users of blogging, photo sharing and microblogging tools.

At the beginning of this buzz-making adventure, we started to promote the use of the #WCA2009 tag. However, the full name of the Congress has been around for a while, so we’re keeping an eye on World Congress of Agroforestry as well.

While it’s early to draw any conclusions on how it’s going based on the numbers, here’s  a list of places I’m keeping an eye on to track how the WCA2009 is doing on the Social Web.

Google Blog Search

The name says it all: it’s Google search just for blogs. Using it to search for full name of Congress.

World Congress of Agroforestry on Google Blogs Search

World Congress of Agroforestry on Google Blogs Search

Socialmention.com

Socialmention.com helps you search selectively on blogs, microblogs, comments, events, bookmarks, videos, Q&As, audio, video. The hashtag and the full Congress name are showing results in real time (a bit contaminated by a concurrent use of the WCA2009 tag for a number of different events).

#WCA2009 hashtag search on microblogs via Socialmention.com

#WCA2009 hashtag search on microblogs via Socialmention.com

Twitterfall

Real-time tracking and display of whatever you’re keeping an eye on. Here’s the fall this afternoon on the WCA2009 tag. Thanks to @romolotassone for pointing me to this.

WCA2009 on Twitterfall

WCA2009 on Twitterfall

Tweetgrid

Helps you visualize multiple real-time searches on one screen

Hashtag and Congress name search on Tweetgrid

Hashtag and Congress name search on Tweetgrid

Backtweets.com

Useful to track the links to the ICRAF site on Twitter, reads ‘through’ short URLs.

Backtweets

Backtweets

What else is out there? If you have tried these approaches before, how do they compare to each other? Any strategy you want to suggest? We’d love to know.

E. Porcari, CIO and J. Fitzsimon, Director Internal Audit

Enrica Porcari, CIO and John Fitzsimon, Director Internal Audit

We have just published a new series of Good Practice Guides on IT related issues.

Some people asked me: Why do you do this? I am not sure about the question…. if the the question is why Good Practice Guides and not Policies? Well, the answer is simple: The CGIAR is a voluntary association (pending its reform) of international research centers, which enjoy a high degree of independence but build on their collective experience to improve the way they do business. These are centers, organizations that collectively employ over 8,000 staff, in over 100 offices worldwide, often working in locations where connectivity or IT support is a challenge, but organizations that are cut across by very active Communities of Practice that work together to share, learn, improve. These Good Practice Guides are an example of the collective work of the IT community of practice. We built on the experience of external consultants, experts who helped us put our collective experiences at work. The results are a useful series of do’s and don’ts on how to manage your mail, on how to ensure you make good use of your limited connectivity, how to keep your network secure, how to avoid spam … This is why they are not policies. We do not believe in enforcement. We believe in collectively writing useful guides that everybody wants to implement. And to do this we joined hands with the Internal Audit Office. Better friends than foes, right?

Audience? For now, the IT departments in each center. But we have started compiling simple guide for users to ensure they make the best use of the technical resources they have.

Creative Commons? YES! In line with the CGIAR mandate of generating “public goods”, we wanted to make sure anybody could use the experiences we have collected.

If you use them, let us know. If you think we can improve them, let us know. If you have better ones, let us know!

And if I was wrong with guessing the question …let me know….

gcard_logo_21_5 FinalThe ICT-KM Program is supporting the GCARD process, starting with the e-consultations that should contribute a great deal in enhancing the development value of research.

Organized by GFAR, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) is more than just a Conference – it’s a multi-year process of learning and continuous updating of the global agricultural research for development (AR4D) system. The aim is to create new ways of working together to enhance the development value of research. GCARD will be an open and inclusive process for consultation and change, which will aim to reshape agricultural research and innovation, improve resources for research, and increase its development impact.
The GCARD 2010 will result in an action plan and framework to improve agricultural research and innovation globally.

Through CIAT’s Simone Staiger-Rivas, the ICT-KM Program provides the coordination of the e-consultation process as well as support in their facilitation.

Get involved by subscribing to the regional e-consultations of your choice, following the GCARD blog or tweets.

Listen to an interview of Nancy White with Simone Staiger on the GCARD process

More about the e-consultations

Follow the Congress opening keynotes on @icraf.

We’re covering the keynotes (have a look at the speakers’ lineup) in turn. Connection is not helping us: working off mobile phone internet. It’s exciting, though.

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureate, Green Belt Movement, closed her session today with the inspiring story of the hummingbird. A forest was on fire and all the animals were escaping to the margins of the forest, leaving it to its fate. Only the hummingbird started flying up and down from a water stream nearby, taking a drop of water at a time and putting it on the fire. All the animals were discouraging the industrious hummingbird. But the little bird continued its work and said: I can’t do it all, but I can do something.

Take home message: wifi failure won’t stop up. We’ve also agreed to tweet asynchronously if that’s necessary.  So keep an eye on @icraf.

The 2nd World Congress on Agroforestry starts Monday and preparations are hectic here at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi.

The reporting team is getting ready to make some buzz about the Congress. We’ll do our best to leverage social media to increase reach, participation and sharing during the Congress. We have a team of 8 eager reporters ready to go.

Whether you’re participating in the Congress or not, you will be able to follow what’s going on through a variety of channels:

We’re looking for volunteers to rove the Congress meeting rooms, hallways and corridors to scout some good stories.

This post on WCA 2009 Blog has more about how to join the social reporters: check out the tags and how to contact us.

Get in touch!

poster_ILRI… at final last. This morning I was at ILRI Headquarters in Nairobi to meet with a few people that I had only met virtually, via email or skype or phone. With some we carry out common work so it’s a steady relationship.  It was so good to finally have the opportunity to meet them in person.

First, Evelyn Katingi, from the Collective Action Regional Plan: we’ve been working together on the CGIAR Research Map. We talked about the status of Phase II developments and the feedback she is getting about the Research Map from the scientists she’s in touch with all the time. Very promising outlook for this project.

Muthoni and Susan, Public Awareness, ILRI

Muthoni and Susan, Public Awareness, ILRI

Then, Susan McMillan, Head, Public Awareness, and her staff of young, committed people in the PA team. We had no agenda for this meeting, we just wanted to share our experience with social media. And what a job ILRI is doing! Videos, blogs, and online accessible documents! The meeting ended up in a fascinating brainstorming session on how to bring a conversational quality to the documentation process of intense meetings, and eventually in some sort of speed geeking with quick tours of what we are doing on the Web.

Finally I met with Ian Moore, the ILRI-ICRAF IT Manager. I had met Ian before but only very quickly at the IT Managers’ meeting in Bioversity back in 2007 when I had just arrived in the CG and was still pretty frightened at the new turn in my career. Forty-five minutes with Ian were enough to agree on some key points of the single sign on project for CGXchange 2.0 that has been discussed with other colleagues online for a few weeks now.

Last but not least, I met Leah Ndungu, Research Management Officer, who is the EasyMTP Focal Point at ILRI. It had only been skype chats and phone calls with Leah so far, mostly in the rush of the MTP submission deadline. So it was good to finally see her smiling face.

Off to ICRAF in the afternoon where I met Michael Hailu, Director of Communications, and Solomon Mwangi, Web Developer. And this is only a taste of the great bunch of people who will make the reporting team at the Second World Congress on Agroforestry. We’re getting ready to bring in the social Web to the Congress starting from Monday 24.

Self portrait of the author on ILRI campus

Self portrait of the author on ILRI campus

As Tania suggested in her post on the wiki session at FAO, we’re getting really good at online collaboration, but eventually nothing beats the power of the face and the personal touch.

Thank you, all, it was good to see you…

… at final last. This morning I was at ILRI Headquarters in Nairobi to meet with a few

people that I had only met virtually, via email or skype or phone. With some we carry out

common work so it’s a steady relationship. so it was so good to finally have the opportunity

to meet them in person.

First, Evelyn Katingi, from the Collective Action Regional Plan: we’ve been working together

on the CGIAR Research Map. We talked about the status of Phase II developments and the

feedback she is getting about the Research Map from the scientists she’s in touch with all

the time. Very promising outlook for this project.

Then, Susan McMillan, Head, Public Awareness, and her staff of young, committed people in

the PA team. We had no agenda for this meeting, we just wanted to share our experience with

social media. And what a job ILRI is doing! videos, blogs, and online accessible documents!

The meeting ended up in a fascinating brainstorming session on how to bring a conversational

quality to intense meetings, and eventually in some sort of speed-geeking with quick tours

of what we are doing on the Web.

Finally I met with Ian Moore, the ILRI-ICRAF IT Manager. I had met Ian before but only very

quickly at the IT Managers’ meeting in Bioversity back in 2007 when I had just arrived in

the CG and was still pretty frightened at the new turn in my career. Forty-five minutes with

Ian were enough to agree on some key points of the single sign on project for CGX 2.0 that

has been discussed with other colleagues online for a few weeks now.

Last but not least, I met Leah Ndungu, Research Management Officer, who is the EasyMTP Focal

Point at ILRI. It had only been skype chats and phone calls with Leah so far, mostly in the

rush of the MTP submission deadline. So it was good to finally see her smiling face.

Off to ICRAF in the afternoon where I met Michael Hailu, Director of Communications, and Solomon Mwangi, Web Developer. And this is only a taste of the great bunch who will make the reporting team at the World Congress on Agroforestry. We’re getting ready to bring in the social Web to the Congress starting from Monday 24.

As Tania suggested in her post, we’re getting really good at online collaboration, but

eventually nothing beats the power of the face and the personal touch.

Thank you, all, it was good to see you…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate as guest speaker to the first training session about Wikis at FAO and it was an enriching experience!

The 2-hour session was moderated by Gauri Salokhe and Romolo Tassone, both from the Web Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building Division at FAO.

These sessions at FAO are part of an ongoing series of workshops on the methods, tools and services that can facilitate knowledge sharing.  These trainings are offered weekly by the Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building Division (KCE), in collaboration with Staff Development Branch (AFHT).

The session was fully booked and it was interesting to see how more and more people that couldn’t register were arriving to see if, just by chance, they could get a seat to participate in the session. This shows there are a lot people interested in learning more about collaborative tools and how these can be applied to their work at FAO.

Initially the moderators introduced Wikis by showing one of the world’s most popular Wiki: Wikipedia. Actually at FAO, they have implemented MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia as their internal Wiki, but they also offer other Wiki tools depending on the users’ requirements.

Together with Gauri, we showed the example of the Knowledge Sharing toolkit (KS Toolkit), a collaborative wiki site using Wikispaces that assembles knowledge sharing tools and methods resources. The KS Tookit is an initiative of the ICT-KM’s Institutional Knowledge Sharing project and in collaboration with FAO and the KM4Dev community, it currently has approximately 120 people that contribute to keep this global public good growing.

I had the opportunity to show the Wikis we have implemented recently in the CGIAR. As part of the CGXchange project, we are currently offering Google Sites which is a Wiki that users can easily setup themselves and start collaborating quickly. Some of these Wikis are public or private. The private Wikis in the CGIAR are mostly being used for project/team collaboration and meeting sites. The public Wikis are shared with the world for viewing and only a few people with editing rights can maintain the content:

http://www.cgxchange.org (site that gathers tutorials and trainings of the collaboration tools available for the CGIAR staff)

http://alliance.cgxchange.org (the strategic framework of the new CGIAR is being shared through this public Wiki)

We also discussed about the Wikis that ‘die‘ because of the fact that people do not contribute. Of course…Wikis are just like any website, they need a moderator or at least a group people that are committed in keeping the content updated and encouraging others to contribute so they can be useful.

Towards the end of the session the participants had the opportunity to edit a Wiki that had been setup for the training using a free Wikispaces guest account. The participants had a lot of fun adding content, links, inserting videos and deleting what others had written!…thank goodness that Wikis have version history and you can easily go back and retrieve older versions! 🙂

You can find a summary of all the links to the Web pages that were viewed during the training session on this Delicious page: http://delicious.com/sharefair09/training_wiki

I would like to thank Gauri and Romolo for the invitation to participate as guest speaker for this session. I believe we learned a lot from each other and hope we continue partnering in these knowledge sharing sessions in the near future. 

I believe that we, in the ICT-KM program, are doing a lot of research about social media tools and have vast experience on these topics. Given the CGIAR’s dispersed locations, currently our main method to communicate our knowledge is using our blog, which is great, but many people still prefer hands-on training sessions than reading. In this respect, my take home message is that we should learn from our FAO colleagues and start organizing on-site or online training sessions as well, every now and then, to share our knowledge on social media tools for our colleagues in the CGIAR…

Are you a researcher? Do you work in a research organisation, project or program? Are you looking for ways to better conduct your research for development, share knowledge, engage with stakeholders, and achieve impact?

To help answer those questions, visit Improving impact through knowledge sharing in researchthe newest context page to be recently added to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit.  The new page offers people ideas, experiences and inspiration on recommended tools and methods to share knowledge during the research project cycle.

The Knowledge Sharing toolkit has consistently provided lots of information on tools and methods for knowledge sharing. However, it has been striving to make this information more relevant and accessible to people’s needs and situations.

Picture1

To help its visitors even better find what they are looking for or figure out what they may need and could use- a ‘What is your context?’ page was also developed.

The new context page on knowledge sharing in research-‘Improving impact through knowledge sharing in research‘- takes people right into the research process with a basic diagram of the research cycle and its key stages.

KsinR context-pic

These stages are presented as ‘entry points’ through which knowledge sharing approaches can be made use of to address certain shortcomings and limitations which traditional research may experience such as:

  1. a lack of inclusion of priorities, needs and realities from the ground
  2. inadequate use of other sources of knowledge in planning research
  3. poor collaboration with stakeholders during research activities
  4. limited understanding of how research results can most effectively be made use of
  5. ineffective ways of getting knowledge to target groups
  6. limited opportunities for learning within research process

To address these, the context page invites visitors to consider which stage of research they are in- and asking a key question related to improving that stage. The page then provides a list of suggested methods- both Online tools and Methods as well as Other Knowledge sharing Tools and Methods- to try out. These tools and methods are linked to other pages within the toolkit. Tags of related topics are also provided.

Example:

Stage 1: Identifying research (questions) to undertake

Vietnam_Vist to WorldFish Pilot_09-08 576

This information has come out of the resources collected, knowledge generated and experiences of the recently concluded two-year CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project (2007-2009). The framework on which this context page is based was developed and tested particularly through 6 Pilot Projects.

These Pilot Projects are all projects of CGIAR Centres or System-wide or Challenge Programs which proposed to pilot the use of various knowledge sharing approaches and principles in their activities. This included:Picture3

080507-015

  • The convening of a Farmers’ Conference to bring out the knowledge, experiences and needs of farmers to help in planning of activities of the Participatory Plant Breeding department at ICARDA005
  • The use of a learning alliance approach by the IWMI WASPA project to bring together relevant stakeholders to link research to action
  • The IRRI-lead Pilot Project worked with key stakeholders to 2009_01150033_resizeunderstand how to write and package research results from projects working on rice in the Northern uplands of Laos, and created factsheets which were uploaded into the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (online tool)

The selection of tools for each of the stages of the research cycle is based on the results and experiences of these 6 Pilot Projects as well as other projects and other documented cases. Documentation of the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, its pilot projects and other activities  can be found on the Documentation and Outputs page of the KSinR website section.

But this is not a blue print approach and each research project needs to find what fits with its own context, needs and objectives–the tools presented in this context page are just some suggestions to help.

If you have also used knowledge sharing approaches in your research let us know what you have done and how it worked. If you try any of these suggested approaches out, also let us know how it worked. You make contributions to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit to keep it a living and dynamic resource by signing up and adding your methods, ideas and experiences.

© 2003 - Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar Animation Studios

Source: IMDb - © 2003 - Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar Animation Studios

When I started drafting this post about our traffic trends for the first two quarters of 2009, I thought I’d call it: Six months of social media and how are we doing? But, as I was writing it, I realized that the story I wanted to tell was more about what we’ve learned so far from blogging and increasing the visibility of the ICT-KM Program on the Web than just measuring the impact of social media per se. Of course, the use of social media is part of the bigger picture, but what I had to say had more to do with an organic approach to the monitoring and evaluation of our Web publishing work.

Traffic monitoring and analysis play a big role in gathering insights into what we’re doing on the Web and how we’re doing it. In a previous post about including social media appropriately in a communications plan and measuring its effectiveness, the core message was ‘measure as you go and abandon that which doesn’t work‘. Well, here I attempt to explain what we’re learning from the main ways in which we measure traffic (blog page views and referrers, the two core stats provided by hosted blogs at WordPress.com) and what we’ve learned so far about blogging.

(more…)

gtalk1

skype1

CGIAR staff frequently use online tools to communicate with colleagues and partners around the globe. Many of these tools have made a significant, positive impact on the way staff work by facilitating communication and information sharing.

Until recently, some CGIAR Centers used Microsoft’s Live Communications Server (LCS) version 2005, an internal instant messaging (IM) system that integrates other IM applications (MSN, AOL and Yahoo) using a single client. LCS wasn’t deployed widely in the CGIAR mainly because the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) conversations between Centers didn’t work properly. This was due to the different security levels and network environments across Centers, as well as some limitations with LCS itself.  In addition, the implementation of LCS incurred monthly costs for server maintenance and per-user licensing charges.

Consequently, the decision has been made to remove LCS from the CGIAR’s portfolio of services come September 2009 and explore alternatives.

As the Technical Coordinator of the ICT-KM program, I’ve been working with a group of CGIAR IT managers over the past few months to research possible cost-effective alternatives to replace LCS.  The objective is to find a tool (or set of tools) that:

  • doesn’t incur high licensing and server maintenance costs
  • has a user management that can be integrated with CGIAR Active Directory, which presently has over 8500 users
  • allows users to make calls to landlines and mobile phones at low rates given the high cost of communications between Centers and with CGIAR partners and to a much lesser extent within Centers

With these requirements in mind, we started exploring GTalk and Skype, both of which are applications in the cloud.

While a system-wide decision is yet to be made, I would like to share the information I’ve collected so far about these tools and present a comparison table.

Google Talk (GTalk) gtalk1

In mid 2008, the CGIAR tried out Google Apps as a suite of collaboration tools. The ICT-KM Program gathered the feedback from users and published it in the CGIAR Google Apps Case Study Report. Then, in January 2009, it was decided to implement Google Apps Education edition to replace the CGXchange BEA Aqualogics infrastructure and take advantage of the collaboration tools in the Google Apps package:  Docs, Sites, Calendar, Google Talk, etc.

GTalk Downloadble Client

GTalk Downloadble Client

Google Talk is a free web-based application for instant messaging and voice over internet protocol (VOIP), offered by Google Inc.

Instant messaging between the Google Talk servers and its clients uses an open protocol, XMPP, allowing users of other XMPP clients to communicate with Google Talk users.

GoogleTalk allows users to sync their “screenname,” so to speak, with their e-mail account so they are alerted when they receive new mail, thereby eliminating the need to frequently check their accounts.   email_alerts
The first beta version of the program was released on 24 August 2005. At first, it was only possible to use Google Talk via the Gmail interface, but now users can download  a program to keep in touch with contacts and that’s available for Windows systems only.
Although the Google Talk program has room for further improvement, it allows for a bit of flexibility that other IM programs don’t. For example, most other lite or express IM versions require the use of JavaScript and other scripts to run from the web.

One of the advantages of Google Talk is that you can access it either through your personal Gmail account or your Google Apps account (if you are in the CGIAR), making it easier to keep in touch with contacts.
GTalk in the mail page

It also works with any operating system through the web, whereas some other popular programs do not always allow users to sign in over the web depending on the type of computer and Internet connection used.

Google Talk also allows the Google Talk Gadget to be added to personal website or blogs simply by pasting some code in the site’s HTML.

Google Talk also allows the Google Talk Gadget to be added to personal website or blogs simply by pasting some code in the site’s HTML.
In summary, you can use Google Talk through the downloadable client, Gmail or the Google Talk Gadget. Please note that the features in these three approaches are not the same and this may create confusion. As such, it would be useful if Google could incorporate the same features in all the options they offer.

For more information about Google Talk, click here.

Skype

skype1, another popular VoIP software with IM functionality, is already more widely used than Google Talk in the CGIAR. Skype, which has been owned by eBay since 2005, is free to download and has more than 443 million users around the world as of March 2009  (according to EBay).

One of the main differences between Google Talk and Skype is that the latter allows users to make free PC-to-PC calls as well as low-cost long-distance or international phone calls to landlines and mobile phones over the Internet.

Skype uses a peer-to-peer protocol and offers voicemail, chat, videoconferencing and an expanding array of additional services. Skype is not a replacement for ordinary telephones and cannot be used for emergency calling.

Source: Skype

Source: Skype

While Skype was originally intended for personal communications, the service also offers significant appeal as a low-cost, long-distance service for businesses, particularly for companies that need to communicate internationally.

There are some 3rd-party Skype solutions for business such as  Skip2PBX and VoSky Exchange to name a few that offer the possibility of integrating Skype with their PBX systems. However, Skype has begun testing a connection to corporate VoIP systems (Skype For SIP for Business Users), something that enterprises have been asking for years and which is currently undergoing beta testing.

Although Skype is a great tool for making competitively priced calls to landlines and mobile phones, I feel it needs to improve its online presence indicator – sometimes, online users are shown as being offline when their status if set to online. I’ve also received some instant messages several days after they were sent. In short, the IM feature is not always so ‘instant’ after all.

For more information about Skype, click here

Comparison between Google Talk and Skype

See the Google Talk and Skype comparison table

Conclusions

In my opinion, Google Talk is more enterprise-oriented than Skype, has a good level of security, requires less bandwidth, collaborative features that work well with the implementation of Google Applications Education Edition (CGX 2.0), and integrates with our Active Directory through third-party tools, to name just a few advantages.

Skype, on the other hand, is an application with many interesting features that Google Talk doesn’t have at the moment, such as the ability to establish a conference call with up to five people at a time and the ability to make phone calls to mobiles and landlines worldwide at low rates. However, this software requires more bandwidth than Google Talk and it is blocked in some CGIAR Centers as a result.

In summary, there is no single tool that does it all. At the moment I use Google Talk mostly for work-related purposes since it’s directly linked with the Google Apps CGX 2.0 collaboration workspace and with external partners or friends that have Gmail accounts.

I mostly use Skype for personal communications or when I need to make international phone calls or send a text message.  I hope Google introduces a feature that will allow users to make phone calls to landlines and mobile phones at low-rates with Google Talk. Google is working on  Google Voice, the next version of Grand Central (presently in private beta), which will allow users to make international calls, conference calls and send text messages. However, it’s not known if Google Voice will be integrated with Google Talk. If that were to happen, we would have a real killer application at our disposal.

Keep a look out for the full report on the ‘Selection of a communication tool in the CGIAR’ – to be published soon!

Until the next time, the question still begs: GTalk, Skype or both?

Photo credit: Harry Nesbitt/2000 IRRI (Creative Commons)

Photo credit:H.Nesbitt/2000 IRRI (Creative Commons)

In 2008, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) launched a Change Initiative to identify how best to adapt to anticipated global changes and challenges.

The reforms will help to strengthen the CGIAR by establishing a results-oriented research agenda .

As part of this process, the CGIAR, in consultation with its partners, is presently seeking feedback on what can be done, through research and innovations, to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience.

The Chair of the CGIAR Strategy Committee now invites all frontline researchers (including those in universities, national agricultural research and extension systems, farmer organizations, private sector and NGOs) to take part in a survey developed to identify agricultural research opportunities, offering large scale development impact.

The survey is available online until August 20, 2009.

At the conclusion of the survey process, the CGIAR Strategy Committee will synthesize and make the overall results available as part of its reporting.

Donate 30 minutes of your time to help shape the future of international agricultural research for development!

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Source: myozspot.com.au

There’s a whole new world of ICTs out there. So much to choose from: technologies and services that could have a significant impact on the way we do research, aid….. well, our business, whatever that is.

There’s cloud computing, virtualization, chargeback and social software, to name just a few. And just where does Green IT fit into the scheme of things, if at all?

With budgets being squeezed ever tighter, many of us now have to justify more than ever our investment in new ICTs. We all know that certain ICTs can improve efficiency, are cost effective, and easy to implement and use, but with limited funds and a large array of technologies and services available to choose from, it can be a daunting task deciding what’s best for your organization.

In June I presented a paper at the CGIAR Science Forum discussing cloud computing and ubiquitous networks. Look at this paper to explore some of the advantages.
Each year, analyst firm Gartner releases its Top 10 Strategic Technologies list, a predictive inventory of the technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations in the three years following its release.

Last year, we started from this list and with help from the CGIAR IT Managers we used a ranking system based on five criteria: effectiveness, cost reduction, practicality, user satisfaction and low cost to select our top 10. Cloud computing was looked at there too…

Towards the first half of October, we will have a new list of technologies for 2010 and as part of a new upcoming ‘Tech’ series in our blog, there we will give you more details on each of the new technologies/processes we expect to gain ground in the CGIAR in 2010.

Stay tuned as you can find there some ideas for your organization!

In an earlier post I announced the ICT-KM program was undergoing a health check.

Let me be frank. Having two external experts, completely new to the Program, take a very close look at what we have been doing, made me nervous. Would I be able to explain the complexity of the environment we operate in, would I be able to explain the process that brought us here, how we developed the strategy, why we chose those projects, why certain things just did not work, so many “why’s and how’s”. Would I be able to explain that more than outputs I look at outcomes, at changes in behaviors as indicators of success….

The review lasted a few months, during this period the reviewers read documents, listened to what we had to say, interviewed many many people, imparted a survey, looked at our reports, our budgets, our accounting….

Well, their report just came out….. and it exceeds even the “best” I could hope for. The reviewers have shown a great ability to wade through the intricacies of the program, and read straight through….coming out with a fair, objective and very very supportive review.

The report will soon be public and it will be my pleasure to share the main learnings with you all.

There are many people who have contributed immeasurably to the Program’s success; people who work diligently and quietly behind the scenes to make sure that all our projects are implemented smoothly and kept on schedule; people who are committed to taking the Program forward. Without such dedication, the Program would cease to be.

I  greatly appreciate the willingness of the many of you who generously contributed feedback and  ideas to the reviewers.

To everyone who has contributed to the Program in the 6 years of its life, I thank you for your support and look forward to your continued involvement as the Program enters its next phase in a renewed CGIAR.

Enrica

Chances are, you’ve used maps not only to find place or location, but also to explore an area based on a theme or criteria. For example, “I want to eat Korean food in Rome”. Where to eat Korean food in Rome is the geographic extent to a set of criteria to find what I want for planning my evening: Where Korean restaurants are located, when are they open, how are their ratings (reviews), what is the nearest public transportation to get me there and take me home, and do they take credit cards. I recently put this search to the test with an earth browser, and I must say I had a splendid night out!

The CGMap team is gearing up for the release of research plans to the world via KML, the Open Geospatial Consortium international standard for the geographic annotation and visualization in earth browsers, mobile maps, and Web-based maps. CGMap is the epitome of ICT-KM’s ‘Triple A’ approach, and once CGMap lands on the Web’s engines through KML, the project plans in CGMap will have an even greater Accessibility and Applicability potential.

Google Map Search for CIMMYT Projects

Search engines will now have geographic coordinates of the who, what, and where of CGIAR research. This means that searching for ‘maize and wheat genetic research’ will give results on CIMMYT projects, along side other relevant sources, like FAO.

Google Earth Sample Overlay CGIAR Projects with Koppen Climate Classification

Scientists, researchers and beyond … investors, partners … who use tools like Google Earth to study and plan activities will be able to build scenarios which provide a more intelligent context to their research. For example, a researcher using an earth browser to plan maize and wheat genetic research activities will be able to focus on any geographical region/location, search for maize and wheat genetic research, see results, add layers of required data (e.g: the Köppen climate classification), and save the scenario built on the fly.

Who is doing What and Where in the CGIAR?

From my first day with the ICT-KM Program, this has been an underlying question and driving force in most of my work with the Program. CGMap, launched in late 2008, is the CGIAR’s prime source of MTPs, the Medium Term Plans in which CG Centers and Challenge Programs express both their strategy and coherence to the CGIAR objectives and priorities.

Recent posts on the Social Media Tools Series have shed light on how social media tools provide researchers a more effective landscape for the collaboration and dissemination of research information. Exploiting research projects geographically will give rise to sharing and collaborating by using CGMap’s existing resources, the CGIAR project plans (who is doing what and where).

Stay tuned for future landings on maps and earth browsers of the CGIAR’s Ongoing Research: Focus on Africa (a.k.a. Eastern and Southern Africa – ESA).