Setting-up Decentralised Information Exchange

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IMSMANG is designed to support information management in a decentralised context involving many users and groups at various sites. These users can include implementing partners, mine action operators and regional or decentralised mine action authorities. Decentralising information management within IMSMANG is easy and allows information managers to expand the scope and impact of information on mine action activities. While IMSMANG supports nearly any conceivable patterns for decentralised information exchange including multilateral exchange, peer-to-peer exchange and one- and two-direction exchange, the most prevalent pattern is that of a central mine action authority (CMA) and subordinate regional mine action authorities (RMAs). Much of the discussion of maintaining a decentralised IMSMANG system refers to this typical example; however, many points apply to other information exchange patterns as well.

The centralised pattern is characterised by one or more non-overlapping regional sites or authorities that conduct data entry and data quality control for their region. Regional sites also typically perform some regional data analysis designed to support regional operations management and planning. By contrast, the central authority manages the overall data set for the entire country, collecting all regional information in order to perform national planning and produce national statistics.

Decentralized Information Exchange

Decentralised Information Exchange

Establishing IMSMANG with the correct configuration in this complicated context of multiple users and asynchronous data exchange is important to trouble-free operations and high-quality information management. The first step in ensuring the correct configuration is to document the information management flows.

In the following example, mine action Data Entry Forms are entered at each regional site for the ongoing operations in that region. Data Entry Forms are reconciled, linked and approved according to the regional operations needs. Using the export functionality, the regional sites export data on a regular basis (for example, monthly) and send it to the central authority (regional information managers can use the search functionality to export the Data Entry Forms entered since the last data exchange). The central authority then imports the maXML files from each site and resolves any issues with the imports as well as performs quality control. When the import is complete, the central authority compiles a set of national statistics and then distributes a complete dataset (in the form of a database backup) to each of the regional sites. The regional sites restore the dataset and then import any data entered since the last export was sent to the central authority. When the backup is restored, regular data entry and exchange can continue, based on a common dataset.

Decentralised Information Management Flow

This straightforward approach to decentralised data exchange ensures that all sites regularly receive a complete and authoritative dataset. Other variations on this pattern are possible with varying degrees of increased complexity to meet specific data exchange needs. Regardless of the information exchange pattern selected, there are several key aspects of maintaining decentralised data exchange within IMSMANG that must be considered. These aspects are discussed in the following sections.

Ensuring Correct Roles and Permissions are Assigned

Establishing correct roles and permissions is a key factor in managing and maintaining data exchange within IMSMANG. Using the permissions structure, the information manager can carefully control access to key functions that affect data exchange including Data Entry Form template creation, CDF creation, Data Entry Form approvals and auxiliary data creation. When permissions are correctly established and roles and user accounts created, information managers can freely distribute the IMSMANG dataset to regional partners knowing that key data controls are in place.

Using the example of the central authority and regional sites, the following principles for user account creation and permissions should be considered:

  • Central Authority: Ensure central authority has exclusive control over user accounts and roles, Data Entry Form templates, the Data Inventory Manager and auxiliary data.
  • Regional Sites: Ensure that regional sites have data entry, approval and import/export permissions. Remove permissions for user accounts and roles and auxiliary data.

By establishing a set of limited permissions for the regional sites, information managers can prevent the accidental or intentional creation of new data elements not available at the central authority that could affect the ability of the central authority to import Data Entry Forms and cause the dataset to become fractured.

Creating New Auxiliary Data at the Central Authority Level

By limiting auxiliary data permissions to the central authority, information managers can prevent complications when synchronising Data Entry Forms. Because Data Entry Forms often refer to auxiliary data (places, ordnance, organisations, etc.), it is important that each site have a common set of auxiliary data to facilitate exchange. If the auxiliary data is not properly synchronised, the exchange of Data Entry Forms can result in import issues which must be manually resolved. While IMSMANG provides an interface for resolving these kinds of issues, it is recommended to reduce the occurrence of these issues by limiting any creation of auxiliary data to the central authority who can then distribute an updated dataset as necessary. Likewise, limiting the creation of Data Entry Form templates, data elements and country structure levels to the central authority improves the ease of information exchange.

Sending Backups to Reset to a Common Dataset

The easiest way to ensure that each site is working from a common dataset is to distribute a full backup of the IMSMANG dataset to each site on a regular basis. This can occur weekly, monthly or quarterly, but the key is to distribute an official‖ dataset to each site regularly to ensure that auxiliary data is up to date and that any changes made to other parts of the dataset are distributed. In this way, organisations can maintain a common set of national statistics and the dataset reflects the decisions made by the central authority to resolve errors or issues in importing and exchanging Data Entry Forms.

It is important to understand, however, that the restoration of a backup file overwrites the data at the regional site including any locally created searches and reports. So, the recipient sites should consider the following recommendations:

  • Make a complete backup prior to restoring the central authority’s backup.
  • Export all Data Entry Forms that have been entered since the last exchange with the central authority before restoring a backup.
  • Restore only the IMSMANG database and GIS database. This preserves local customisations of peripheral elements such as Data Entry Form templates and iReport templates, which can be reimported into IMSMANG.
  • Request that any searches or other non-exportable elements that are important for regional site use be created in the central authority’s dataset prior to distribution so they do not need to be recreated regionally each time a new backup is distributed.

Collecting Regular Feedback

In any information exchange activity, it is important to have regular sessions or meetings to collect feedback and discuss issues or improvements to the information exchange process. One recommendation is to establish a feedback forum where organisations can address data quality issues and make adjustments to the information exchange process. Topics to address in such a forum include:

  • frequency of data exchange
  • standardisation of reports and searches included in the central dataset
  • permissions and role changes
  • creation or modification of auxiliary data
  • form template changes

By collecting feedback on these issues, information managers can help ensure that decentralised information exchange works as expected and set up a quality assurance mechanism to prevent data quality issues from affecting the programme’s information management.

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