The standards information centre has a collection of standards, including East African Standards, ISO Standards and Codex Alimentarus Standards and obviously the Burundi Standards. The centre does not have any IT equipment, or connection to the internet. Hence, clients and staff cannot easily search for the right standards on the internet, nor can the CD-ROM based catalogues such as Perinorm1 be utilised. This is a major gap in the current activities of BBN. The sales of standards are also very low, no doubt due partly to the ineffectiveness of BBN in providing a proper standards information service. The situation can and must be addressed if BBN wishes to support the industry and the authorities with regard to standards information. The following activities should be considered in creating the appropriate capacity in the standards information centre :
1) The re-engineering of BBN should ensure that the standards information centre becomes part and parcel of the standards development and publication activities, e.g. there should a seamless value chain from development through to dissemination. In addition, it would be extremely beneficial if the information centre could be strengthened by the appointment of a trained librarian, rather than placing the responsibility on the shoulders of technical staff. Once a librarian has been appointed he/she could be attached to a functioning standards information centre of a national standards body in the region as further afield to gain a better understanding how a standards information centre should be operating.
2) The IT capacities of the standards information centre need to be considerably enhanced. This would entail the provision of dedicated PCs (not laptops!) and their linkage to the internet. They should not be utilised for any work other than standards information. Once the PCs have been installed, then CD-ROM based information systems such as Perimorm and the East African Standards collection could be usefully deployed.
3) The standards information centre should be made responsible for the sale of any standards, which would include Burundi Standards, East African Standards and ISO and IEC insofar as BBN arranges a sale's agreement with them. It would be very important for BBN to install a print-on demand system, consisting basically of a server, i.e. dedicated PC, a printer with double-sided print capabilities and simple binding equipment. The appropriate software to handle both MS Word and PDF files should be installed. This server could also double up as the Depository for East African Standards.
4) BBN has been designated as the National Enquiry Point viz. a viz. the WTO TBT Agreement by the government. Hence BBN, and the standards information centre in particular should develop the capacity to review all the notifications emanating from the WTO Secretariat, and circulate these to relevant ministries and economic operators. The same will soon be the case for the East African Community and even COMESA, as the Customs Union and Common Market ideas are being operationalized in these regional groupings.