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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
January 2004

Volume 10 Number 1

ISSN 1082-9873

Report on the 6th International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries (ICADL 2003)

8 - 11 December 2003, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Sally Jo Cunningham
University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Red Line


One of the more striking features of digital library conferences is the diversity of the attendees, and ICADL'03 was no exception. The institutional affiliations of the participants included commercial organizations, several governmental agencies, museums (including a representative from the intriguingly named Department of Painting and Calligraphy of the National Palace Museum of Taiwan), library automation services, medical libraries, UNESCO, and of course academia—from departments of computer science, library science, decision science, and other related fields. ICADL'03 featured geographic diversity as well, including presenters from 20 countries.

The ICADL'03 conference began with four tutorials, covering knowledge management systems, management of indigenous knowledge, semantic web metadata, and a general overview of digital libraries. From the 136 submissions to the conference, 45 full papers, 23 short papers, and 15 poster papers were accepted.

The members of the organizing committee sought to construe the area of digital libraries as widely as possible: one member of the committee stated that, "We are looking at digital libraries in the greater sense—not just to disseminate knowledge in a conventional manner. We see digital libraries as a platform for the political, financial, medical, economic—everything! Digital libraries are a start for everything."

This wide view of the subject area was reflected in the selection of invited talks: the conference was opened by Tan Sri Dato' Seri Musa bin Mohamad, Malaysian Minister of Education, who noted the key role that rural libraries play in a new Malaysian program to bridge the digital divide experienced by rural communities, and who highlighted the potential importance of digital libraries in supporting e-government, commercial decision making and operational processes, and creation and organization of indigenous knowledge; Mr. Bistaman bin Abdal Rahman (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) described how the MCMC is promoting the development of a national broadband plan, so that Malaysians "will be able to access information at any time, any place, when needed"; Datuk Dr. Halime Shafie, Secretary-General of the Malaysian Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia discussed the infrastructure necessary to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy and society; and Salma Khairuddin (MAMPU) described the implementation status and future directions of Malaysia's ambitious e-government programme.

Invited talks from academia included Professor Ed Fox (Virginia Tech), presenting case studies from the US National Science Digital Library (NSDL), and particularly emphasizing the role of digital libraries in creating knowledge, as well as organizing and storing information; Professor Shalini Urs (University of Mysore), describing "challenges" (surely an understatement!) encountered when developing multi institutional, multi language digital libraries, using the Vidyanidhi Digital Library of Indian theses as a case study; Professor Hsinchun Chen (University of Arizona), weaving together his digital libraries and knowledge management experience to critique current information resources; and Professor Erich J. Neuhold (Darmstadt University of Technology), discussing personalization facilities in digital libraries, seeing these facilities as a key to resolving the conflict between individual-specific information needs and the function of digital libraries in holistically targeting an entire community of users.

According to members of the conference organizing committee, this ICADL's focus on "indigenous knowledge for global access" was chosen because of the potential importance of digital libraries in bridging the digital divide, both within a given country and across cultural borders: digital libraries offer a way for minority groups to "create an awareness of themselves in the infosphere, to make a presence for themselves in that invisible continent". It is hoped that digital libraries won't simply archive indigenous documents, but will become a part of an infrastructure that supports local cultures, heritage, and values. Committee members also stressed the importance of indigenous peoples taking charge of their own digital presence by themselves capturing their knowledge in digital form, with one benefit being the likelihood of that capture process helping the indigenous peoples to overcome the digital divide: "people can identify with, understand that knowledge—it will be close to them."

In accord with this focus, two significant digital libraries were launched at ICADL: PERDANA (, a national Malaysian digital library system emphasizing local digital content in text, images, sound, and video; and the International Islamic Digital Library (, a portal to multi-language material related to Islam, which also supports a referral center for inquiries and the exchange of knowledge amongst scholars of Islam.

The paper presentations were organized into 18 parallel sessions, covering a wide variety of topics. ICADL has from its inception featured specifically Asian problems with digital library development, in tailoring information retrieval algorithms for Asian languages (for example, "Application of latent semantic indexing on Malay-English cross language information retrieval"), in processing Asian text or multimedia documents (for example, "Gradient-based edge detection of Songket motifs"), or in organizing and delivering collections with an Asian focus (for example, "Knowledge management in a Chinese genealogy information service").

The ICADL'03 organizers included a full social programme for attendees. The conference dinner was a sumptuous Aidilfitri feast (marking the end of Ramadan), accompanied by traditional Malay dancers and numerous lucky number prize drawings. An evening city tour included a stop at a craft market (with members of the local committee keeping an eye on overseas attendees, to help us bargain effectively) and ended with dinner at a hawker's food court. On the final day of the conference tours were offered to CyberJaya, PutraJaya, and the National Library. CyberJaya and PutraJaya are developing, planned communities in Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor: PutraJaya is the new administrative capital of Malaysia, constructed to take full advantage of the MSC infrastructure to offer electronic governmental services, and CyberJaya is its twin city in the MSC, an "intelligent city" designed to incorporate the latest IT infrastructure in its commercial, municipal, and residential areas, to attract knowledge industries to the MSC.

ICADL 2004, the seventh conference in the ICADL series, will be held in Shanghai, December 13 - 17.

The proceedings for ICADL '03 are available as part of the Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science Series:

Digital Libraries: Technology and Management of Indigenous Knowledge for Global Access. T.M.T. Sembok, H.B. Aaman, H. Chen, S.R.Urs, and S.H. Myaeng (eds). Springer, LNCS 2911, 2003.


Copyright © 2004 Sally Jo Cunningham

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DOI: 10.1045/january2004-cunningham