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The Digital Agency for International Development

UN (WHO/FAO/UNEP/WIPO) - Research4Life

Research4Life is the collective name for four web portals - HINARI, AGORA, OARE and ARDI, which provide developing countries with online access to free or low cost international academic and professional peer-reviewed journals.

Jan 2006 to Jul 2016

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Purpose

Aptivate met with researchers in Ghana in 2006 to learn about the problems they were having with the existing AGORA web interface. We found that whilst users were able to download valuable content for their research, they would often only discover which journals etc were available to their institution after browsing through several slow-loading pages of information. It would typically take hours for them to find and download a single article over a slow connection.

From these findings and using our experience of low bandwidth web design, we were able to implement changes to the user interface, which improved the user experience drastically.

We also worked with WHO and FAO to build a robust data management web application that allows the different UN agencies to manage the extensive library of content behind the Research4Life web portals.

Since our initial involvement, we have continued to provide improvements to the Research4Life web portals, adding support for Portuguese, Arabic and Russian whilst maintaining the low bandwidth ethos.

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People

Who does it benefit?

Since 2002, the four programmes – Research in Health (HINARI), Research in Agriculture (AGORA), Research in the Environment (OARE), and Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) – have provided researchers at more than 6000 institutions in more than 100 developing countries and territories with free or low-cost access to more than 9000 leading journals in the fields of health, agriculture, environment and technology.

Clients and Partners

The HINARI Programme is sponsored and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in conjunction with major publishers and partners worldwide.

"Having worked with commercial IT organizations in the past, it has been refreshing to work with [Aptivate] – a development organization that specializes in IT consultancy. By sharing our end goals, [Aptivate] has consistently offered thoughtful solutions to the root of the problem."

Barbara Aronson, HINARI Programme Manager, WHO (UN).

The AGORA programme is administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

"Working with [Aptivate] through the UNFAO AGORA project has been a great success – their active engagement with users resulted in a solution closely tailored to our needs."

Theodosia S. A. Adanu, Assistant Librarian, University of Ghana.

Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in partnership with major publishers.

ARDI (Access to Research for Development and Innovation) is coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organization together with its partners in the publishing industry

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Process

Working closely with the programme managers for the Research4Life portals and their network of trainers and end-users, Aptivate captures requirements in the form of user stories that are written on virtual cards and assigned a number of points based on complexity.

At the beginning of each iteration (short cycle of work), the story cards are prioritised by the Product Owner on an online collaborative board. The PO can view the cards' progress from development to testing and deployment to the UN's own test servers.

At the end of each iteration there is normally a demo and the remaining cards are prioritised alongside any new items that may have arisen from the tasks completed to date.

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Code

Aptivate engineered the replacement of the authentication gateway for secure remote access to academic journals, replacing Safeweb devices with Microsoft IAG. We developed an LDAP user management application. The technologies for this project were Java, J2EE, VB.NET and OpenLDAP.

Aptivate continues to maintain and extend Research4Life's common PHP code base, which is shared by the four web portals. We have added support for several languages including Arabic (Unicode + right-to-left support) and Russian.

The data management web application developed by Aptivate and used internally by the UN to manage the database of books, journals and other resources was built with Java/JSP.