On-line data bases are essential in gaining timely information on new developments, in acquiring the necessary technical, commercial and economic information required by production units as well as obtaining bibliographies, directories and news for efficient operations and for the proper support for researchers. Modern information systems are under-utilized because of real or perceived inadequacy of information services, problems of access to such on-line systems, cost of such access, apathy, ignorance and information shock. Particular problems in attempted use arise from lack of trained personnel, expenditure of hard currency for foreign data or higher technological dependency. Strategic problems for underdeveloped countries stem from an exclusive reliance on foreign data bases. Operational problems include language barriers, orientation and design of data bases for alien needs and the lack of coverage of aspects relevant to local needs.
[Industrialized countries] "Commercial" costs applied to database access means that databases are limited in their use by high charges. A USA university student studying the cause of bank failures was quoted $20,000 from a federal agency for computer-search of data which would cost a few hundred dollars to actually copy and ship. The agency concerned had about 60 regular customers who buy its bank reports, most large banks and finance companies that can afford such high prices.
[Developing countries] On-line data bases are a segment of the information market that is rapidly growing. To date, most of the on-line data have been produced, transmitted and consumed by institutions of the developed countries, especially transnational corporations. Given the configuration of the transnational telecommunication networks, most developing countries are not linked to these networks, and hence have access to on-line data bases only through long-distance telephone dialing, which makes the use of this information resource almost prohibitively costly. The result, which is further accentuated by the inadequate telematics infrastructure in many developing countries, is that most of these countries do not actively participate in the transborder flow of data originating in on-line data bases. Therefore, they are, de facto, not in a position to use an information resource whose importance is growing.
[Former socialist countries] The former socialist countries participate only marginally in the international on-line data-base market. As of 1981, only 4 or 5 data bases were internationally accessible in such countries.