CDS/ISIS

“Micro” CDS/ISIS was an advanced non-numerical information storage and retrieval software developed by UNESCO (Mr G.P. Del Bigio) from 1985 to 2005, to satisfy the need expressed by many institutions, especially in developing countries, to be able to streamline their information processing activities by using modern (and relatively inexpensive) technologies.

The software was originally based on the Mainframe version of CDS/ISIS, started in the late '60s, thus taking advantage of several years of experience acquired in database management software development. Several partners contributed to its development through the years.

In 2009 BIREME/PAHO - Brazil, a historic major partner of UNESCO for the development of CDS/ISIS software, released ABCD a fully integrated Open Source Library Management System based on CDS/ISIS technologies developed by BIREME during the years. ABCD received financial support from VLIR, the Flemish Interuniversity Council (Belgium) as well as BIREME.

Extensively contributing to the development of technologies based on CDS/ISIS, BIREME/PAHO built during the last 20 years the Virtual Health Library, “[…] a model for the management of information and knowledge, which includes the cooperation and convergence between institutions, systems, networks, and initiatives of producers, intermediaries, and users in the operation of networks of local, national, regional and international information sources favoring open and universal access […]” (BIREME, 2006).
The last official release of CDS/ISIS for Windows, called Winisis, was released in 2003 with a few updates until 2005. Since then, thousands of institutions worldwide have continued to download and install the UNESCO software benefitting from the support of its worldwide community of users.

The community aspect of CDS/ISIS has since its early days played a key role in the success and spread of the software. Over the years UNESCO has built a worldwide network of “official distributors” which has provided technical and training support to thousands of institutions, from National Libraries to small documentation centres, including those of many UNESCO National Commissions.

UNESCO has been also very active in capacity building for information professionals organizing or supporting a large number of training courses and workshops on CDS/ISIS solutions worldwide. Many other local or international organizations, including FAO and the UN have been providing courses and material to professionals for years. Many information systems in the UN have been built and some are still running on software based or derived from UNESCO’s CDS/ISIS, e.g. FAOLEX, an online database for legislation on food and agriculture, or the International Bureau of Education, bibliographic catalogue.

Also, while until 2/3 years ago the approach of CDS/ISIS to database was considered by many disruptive, i.e. out of the classic relational database management system (RDBMS, SQL) model, in 2009 the emergence of a growing number of open source non-relational, distributed database systems was acknowledge and the term NoSQL was finally adopted (the term was introduced for the first time in 1998). These developments confirm the long term visionary approach of UNESCO in the field of information storage and handling as well as the importance for the Organization to work with continuous engagement (more than 20 years in this case) with a view to achieve concrete, grass-root results and impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of information managers and users worldwide.

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