ILRI 2.0: Web communications update

Early in October you may have noticed some changes to the ILRI web site – the front page mainly, but also a few other pages.

Apart from some design and layout changes, the biggest change is the way we use dynamic content from different sources to build up these web pages.

This dynamic combining of different content streams is part of what many people call ‘web 2.0’ or the ‘social web’. It is a fundamentally different approach to publishing, sharing and communicating on the Internet. It helps us make all kinds of information and knowledge more accessible. It allows us to ‘decentralize’ the creation and sharing of our information.

We will be making much more use of such tools and approaches as we move towards a new website in the first quarter of 2010.

We are also introducing a lot of other ways to share and communicate our knowledge, including:

  1. RSS Newsfeeds. You will begin to see some small orange icons with the word ‘subscribe’ on our website (and across the web generally). If you click on these buttons, you can sign up to receive automatic alerts each time the service is updated. These alerts can be through email or an newsreader like google or bloglines. This link on our website takes you to some newsfeeds that you can subscribe to:
  2. Photos. All across ILRI, we ahve numerous photos. Until recently, we tried to capture a lot of these in an internal database – that was rather underused.  To try and make the photos more visible – and more used – we have set up an ILRI account at
  3. Presentations. One of the most used, and often most difficult to retrieve output from our work is the powerpoint presentation. Hundreds are created and delivered each year, they usually remain on our laptops or usb sticks. We have started to collect and share some of these at – using the possibilities of this specialized tool. In time, we hope to publish all our powerpoints – and posters – here.
  4. Video and audio. We traditionally publish a lot of text, enlivened perhaps with photos. We also made some video and film and recorded audio, but it was costly and technically difficult to share this online. This has all changed and we have many more ways to communicate and publish using online video and audio. You can see some ILRI video at (they are also on YouTube); we have also started to produce some audio podcasts at
  5. Publications and reports. We have begun work on a complete repository of institutional outputs, using Dspace: . In line with institutional and donor requirements that we have a complete inventory of our various research outputs, we aim to index and collect them all in our repository – named Mahider. The strength of the Dspace system is that it allows us not just to collect and index outputs, we can also publish alerts and RSS feeds for use on our other websites and the content is automatically harvested by AGRIS, Google, CABI, etc. The repository is not yet complete. We aim to be complete for 2009 in early January, we will migrate records for older outputs in 2010.
  6. Google Books. For older documents and books, we – and other CGIAR Centers – are working with Google Books to make full text versions of all our reports and publications available. Search the 500 plus online books at
  7. Calendar of events. We have begun to use Google calendar to track and present upcoming events on our Addis Ababa and Nairobi campuses. We also track relevant events organised by others that are relevant to our work. Our calendars are online ( – you can also add our events to your own Google calendar.

A fundamental benefit from using these tools is their openness. Anything we put into them is normally open for all to view. Anything we put in can normally be re-used and embedded back on other web sites. So our photos on Flickr or presentations on slideshare can be part of a blog story or used on a Theme or project web site. The principle we aim to follow is ‘create once, re-use often.’

The end result should be that ILRI – and our partners – can all publish, share, access, and re-use  a wider range of information and knowledge ‘outputs’ from ILRI, in much easier ways than in the past. We will also have a much better insight into how they are being used, and who by.

This work is a joint effort by staff in our knowledge managmenrt and information services and public awareness groups, with strong support from our colleagues in IT.

Story by Peter Ballantyne