Synthesis of the "Orbicom Forum on Networking" Survey


Context

Following the focus group led by Martha Stone in November-December 1999, participants recommended that Orbicom’s secretariat carry out a survey of the Network members to identify:

1. T
he research / project interests of the Chair holders and Associate members

2. The responsibilities and functions of the Orbicom Network


3. The tools used and the limitations of a networking environment

This survey is the second step identified by Martha Stone as part of the summary of the focus group discussions to prepare the electronic forum which will be held March 13-31.

Details on the Collected Data

Co-written by Martha Stone and the Secretariat team, the questionnaire gave priority to open-ended questions in order to gather the most qualitative information possible. The 18 questions organized according to three themes (personal profile, the Orbicom Network and networking) received two types of answers in general: either quantitative and concise or qualitative and detailed. This information was considered while processing the responses. Consequently, the synthesis presents both the main overall results and a chart accompanied by selected comments made by the respondents.

Personal Profile

When it came to describing research / project interests (the questions from Theme #1), Members answered clearly and with tangible enthusiasm. Furthermore, the accompanying figures show that these questions obtained the highest response rates.

From this, we can make the following observations:

1. Research / project interests in the area of communication and international development are the focus of 24.6% of the Membership. It must nonetheless be noted that, of the possible choices for this question, the response "Others" dominated (32.3%). More than one third of the projects identified by Members are not necessarily related to the seven themes adopted by Orbicom. The research and work interests given by the Members are in areas such as biotechnology, politics, women’s rights, administration and space law.

2. International organizations are Members’ primary collaborators and partners with a proportion of 26.2%. Next came contacts with academia and individual contacts. Partnerships with the private sector came in eighth place with a response rate of 9.2%.

3. 63.1% of Members have experience as part of a research/work network at the local and/or national level. Specifically, this percentage is 53.6% for the regional level and 50.8% for the international level. Responses to this question show that Members either gave numerous details on their experiences by outlining the nature of the projects they are working on or simply stated their level of intervention.

The Orbicom Network

The main feature of the Network is without a doubt the sharing of knowledge and experiences with other professionals and academics, both belonging to and outside the same sector (Question 2.1). One third of Members identified sharing knowledge as the main advantage of the Orbicom Network.

The feedback received for Question #1 was confirmed by the opinions of Question #2, which covered the contributions that Members wish to make to strengthen the Network. 40% of Members wish to participate in research projects, discussions and seminars in order to share their points of view and work experiences in general.

On the other hand, Questions (2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6) regarding the responsibilities of Chair holders and Associate members, as well as the role of the Orbicom secretariat appear to have been problematic. Members seem to have difficulty detailing the nature of these responsibilities. In fact, the choice "Did not answer question" received the highest response rate almost systematically.

Similarly, it appears that the respondents are unaware of the role and purpose of the committees because approximately 40% of Members believe that the current structure of the committees does not allow Orbicom to develop a research program that corresponds to the Members’ projects.

Answers to the questions on Orbicom nonetheless show that contacts and information exchanges are considered by Members to be pre-requisite to the functioning and sustainability of the Network. Whether it be from the point of view of strengthening the Network, establishing new alliances with various organizations (NGOs, UNESCO, other international agencies, etc.) or helping Chair holders and Associate members to work together, communication is a must. The Orbicom Website is the means of choice to attain this objective.

Networking

With regards to the tools used and the limitations of a network environment, Members consider that:

1. For the vast majority of Members (61.5%), e-mail discussion groups allow the highest level of interactivity between Members. Using this tool encourages sharing experiences with individuals located far away from one another and entails savings in both time and money. Next came electronic forums via Websites, with collective publications drawing up the rear.

2. Members unequivocally identified e-mail (70% of respondents) as the method of choice for participating in electronic discussion groups. However, simply because 60% of Members indicate that they prefer electronic mail, it does not mean that they use it on a regular basis. Members maintain that they still prefer direct, real contact with humans.

The two main limitations to using electronic tools that were identified by Members are the lack of synchronization (12.5%) and the lack of direct human contact (10.7%). As best stated by one of the respondents, "People create projects, not tools."

3. As far as the information on the Orbicom Website is concerned, approximately 40% of Members responded that they are most interested in reading the current news items. This being said, many respondents indicated that they did not have the time to consult the site. Implementing a distribution list of key information points is an avenue worth investigating.

4. Participant responses to this survey reveal that Members are interested in learning about the research projects and work of other Network members, which confirms in part the data gathered for the questions of the second theme covering knowledge and experience sharing. From this point of view, Orbicom’s Website has the potential to play an instrumental role in such a venture.

About the Respondents

The majority of respondents were male, with a proportion of 73.8%.

The areas represented are Europe (35.4%), North America (23.1%), Pacific Asia (21.5%), Africa (10.8%) and Latin America (9.2 %).

Of the 65 respondents, 11 were Chair holders.

Methodology

The questionnaire was mailed out to all 251 Network members in early January, and followed up by e-mail and fax on January 17. By the end of this step, 23 questionnaires had been returned.

Given the response rate, a second electronic follow-up accompanied by telephone calls was carried out on February 1-12, 2000. As of February 18, a total of 65 questionnaires had been received, which translates to 26% of the Network membership.

Compiling the responses took place during the week of February 12. To simplify processing the data, categories of analysis were identified for each question. In keeping with this approach, the results are presented in a quantitative fashion (number of responses and percentage.)

Selected Answers and Comments for each Question

The tables in Appendix provide a more precise breakdown of the Members’ responses. Upon examining the compiled results, it becomes evident that not every respondent answered all the questions. This explains the disparities in the responses and percentages obtained from one question to the next

Moreover, many questions yielded a total number of responses greater than 65 (the number of participants) because they were multiple-choice questions.

The term "member" is used to refer to both Chair Holders and Associate Members of the Orbicom Network. Except when stated otherwise, the exact title will be used.

Conclusion "An invitation"

The Orbicom Forum on Networking informal survey was concluded on February 12, 2000. A summary of the results is available at the following address: here.

You are invited to consult this document, along with the synthesis written by Martha Stone following the focus group from November-December 1999.

Reading this information will allow us to identify the issues and difficulties brought to our attention by Network Members and begin the third phase of follow-up activities to the April 1999 General Assembly, The Electronic Forum, which will take place March 13-31, 2000.

You are invited to take part in the Electronic Forum on Networking, which will take another look at the main topics of discussion identified while processing the respondents’ feedback.

Magda FUSARO