1. Introduction: Policy may be stated to be a statement of guideline for a course of action. Policy becomes an instrument seeking to concretise or legalise a system design or a plan.
2. Information Policy: Information policy deals with issues relating to content of document that carry all forms of information, institutional and organization mechanism to collect, store, process, disseminate and make them available to a variety of users according to their information need. The national information policy is a statement of guideline, committing the government and the people to a definite course of action relating to the above process.
According to UNISIST main working document, a national information policy is a set of decision taken by a government through appropriate laws and regulations to orient the harmonious development of information transfer activities in order to satisfy the information need of the country.
A national policy need provision of necessary means / instrument (financial, personnel, institutional) for concrete implementation.
3. Need for a National Information Policy: National information policy is needed to achieve a progressive upliftment in the socio economic development of the country through the provision of information and its effective use. The needs of national information policy is felt due to the following reasons-
a) Information is Power: Possession of information is a key factor to remain competitive in the modern world. It is powerful resource. It can convert natural product into useful product. So to take advantage of this resource for recurring maximum benefit to all section of society a national information policy is needed.
b) Diverse Participants in information transfer activities: A variety of individual organization involved in generation, dissemination, transfer, communication and distribution of information. There are also several users of information. To overcome the barrier of information flow, to fulfill the need of the user, to coordinate all the participants in information cycle, whatever it may be, an organized system is needed.
c) Avoid Wastage: No organization can collect all the materials, published or otherwise produce. So, it is necessary to create structured link between them to avoid duplication and wastage of effort and resources.
d) Information is Commodity: In almost all countries national governments are the major investor in information sector. Information dissemination is governed by the fact of recovery of investments in research, gathering, processes and storage cost. As such each country should evolve a national policy of its own.
4. Aims and Objectives of a National Information Policy: An information policy at national level in each country is a must for formulating basic rules and regulation and directions for establishing and maintaining a consistent framework to meet the developmental, educational and cultural needs of the persons of any country. The basic objectives of an information policy statement is to provide guidelines for the design and development of an integrated and versatile National Information System with the following specific aims-
i) To improve the existing information facilities.
ii) To develop information culture in the country.
iii) To standardize information activities.
iv) To facilitate better decision making.
v) To minimize confusion.
vi) To promote the storage and use of national and foreign resources of information.
vii) To intensify bibliographic control of all indigenous record.
viii) To coordinate the activities of various units.
ix) To encourage cooperation in the user of information internationally.
x) To develop manpower to conserve time in training personnel.
5. Issues for a Policy Statement: Policy statements are to be formulated at the institutional level – regional, state, national and international level. Whatever may be the level at which the policy has to be formulated, it should comprehend a set of basic issues. Some of these are illustrated below.
5.1 Users their identification and information need: The information organization at various levels should provide for carrying out user studies as an inbuilt function. Further there is a need to establish a centre for user studies which will conduct field studies, group behavior studies, user studies, etc so that information activities are well directed on demand criteria.
5.2 Resource Development: The resource development can be of document resources, institutional resources, and human resources.
a) Document (Information) Resources: A comprehensive collection of documentary information sources whether primary, secondary or tertiary does not matter should be built within the country. No matter where the resource but they should be accessible and available to all types of information users, irrespective of their location.
b) Institutional Resources: A national Information Policy should link up all types of institutional resources i.e. libraries, documentation centres, information centres, etc. It should also offer guidelines for the design and development of need based information institution.
c) Human Resource Development: Planning for education and training in Information Science and Technology to be given utmost attention so that a high quality manpower at all levels in adequate quantity and with a variety of skills is constantly made available to take care of ever increasing complex of information institution and system. There should also scope for continuous education, training of trainers, scholarship, etc.
In order to promote exchange of experience, conference, seminar, workshop, etc should be organized. Adequate facility for research and development, innovation, etc. should be built up. A national information system is expected to give a proper direction to all the above issues.
d) Material and Monetary Requirements: A national information policy is expected to provide a matching scale of investment to all the existing information institution, without which the information sector will be found deficient to provide the expected support to national development effort. It should also provide the clear-cut guideline about the question like is the service to be provided are free or subsidized or on actual cost or profit oriented.
5.3 Utilization of New Technologies: A national information policy should be indicative of the thrust required to be given to the application of modern information technology which involve computer, telecommunication, reprographies and micrographics and of the need to create and develop facilities thereof. Otherwise the whole structure shall soon handicapped to have access to world information.
5.4 Organizational Structure: The national information system may be centralized or decentralized but if possible decentralization should be introduced. The system may be of in three levels – local information unit – operating to meet the immediate requirement of their affiliating institutions, sectoral information centre – devoted to discipline / mission / problem and national information centre for performing national level task.
5.5 Information Product and Services: A national information policy should have proper guideline related to-
i) Increased control of locally generated information through bibliographic control, national indexing and abstracting services relating to indigenous information, etc.
ii) Establishing databases on indigenous information such as ongoing and completed research project.
iii) Development of information analysis centre in sector and subsector for evaluate, assess and repackage information.
iv) Providing residual services which are left out by individual information unit but are required to be given to the user eg. Document delivery service (DDS), translation services, etc.
v) Acquiring costly foreign databases for offering services both in online and offline mode. Provision of a centralized effort and outline a strategy, scope of other services relating to foreign information, etc.
vi) Establishing feedback mechanism and evaluation of the service and products.
5.6 Standardization: Standardization contribute to overall economy of cost, time and effort, and uniformity in national information plan only can be achieve through some standardization of techniques, method and procedures, hardware, software and services and so on. So that exchangeability of information is facilitated in the national network.
5.7 International Cooperation: National information system should maintain international cooperation in the information field to exchange information between countries.
5.8 Public and Private Initiatives: The information industry, mostly a private enterprise is highly market oriented and takes care of the exact needs of consumers. Information broker, consultant, intermediaries, software and hardware manufacturer, database producer, publisher of secondary services and products of information analysis and similar other makes up the information industry. So a national information policy may also undertake the importance of the role of private sector in information activities. It can be done through user training and by some other similar method.
6. Process of Policy Formulation: The process of policy formulation has the following steps-
i) Formation of a committee
ii) Preparation of a plan of action
iii) Identification of existing formal and informal policies
iv) Analysis of existing policies
v) Recommendation of the new and revised policies
vi) Preparation of a policy manual
vii) Publicity, execution and evaluation
viii) Finalization of the policy
ix) Periodic revision of the policy
7. National Information Policy in India: In India the national policy on library and information system and services was formulated by the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) and also by Indian Library Association (ILA). The department of culture, Government of India set up a committee on National Policy on Library and Information System (CONPOLIS) on 7th October, 1985 under the chairmanship of Prof. D. P. Chattopadhyaya, chairman RRRLF. The fjnal report was submitted to the government in 1986.
a) Empowered Committee: The department of culture, GOI appointed an Empowered Committee in November, 1986 again under the chairmanship of Prof. D. P. Chattopadhyaya to lay down the programme of action for the implementation of the recommendations made in policy statement. The Empowered Committee submitted its report in April, 1988.
b) Working Group: A working group was formed under the chairmanship of Ms. Komal Anand (Jt. Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Culture) to go through carefully each decision of the Empowered Committee and indicate how best to implement them. The president of ILA was a member of this group.
The working group discussed the whole matter in four sittings between July – September, 1992 and submitted its suggestions in December, 1992. These have since been accepted by the government for implementation.