"Fair Trade Global Communication System".
FT relies on fair prices to provide sustainable development for excluded
If you want to find more on Fair Trade, just click here What is Fair Trade?
The environment is complex.
There are many different actors: Producers Organizations (usually in Economically
Less Developed Contries), Importers Organizations (usually in Developed countries),
World Shops (usually in Developed countries) with their staff (employees
or volunteers). There are actual and potential customers (usually in Developed
countries). There are National and International Labelling Organizations.
A big amount of informations need to flow among these actors but, nowadays,
no or little informatic support exists leading to slow or missing communications.
For a complete study on the Fair Trade environment and its
needs, you should really have a look to
"Creating a Fair Trade Partenership
Trade Global Communication System"
(if you want different formats, visit http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/
Goal: create ad hoc Computer
Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) software for the complex needs of the
Fair Trade Organizations
for FairTradeNet on SourceForge
(how to use this cvs)
A more detailed description
Fair Trade Global Communication System
During the European World Shops Conferences in Rome (March 1998) and Gothenburg
(March 2000) it clearly emerged the existence of an "information divide"
in Fair Trade. Important information data, as sales and market trends, consumer
preferences and profiles, producers' stories, evaluations, are not systematically
collected or unevenly accessible. Because of the poor communication and information
flow, World Shops - and consumers through them - and producers remain fare
away, not only geographically.
Several efforts have been done by a few Alternative Trading Organisations
(ATOs) to fill the information gap, overcoming a certain resistance to the
use of new technologies and innovation processes. Data management systems
have been build up at different levels. Although very valuable, they lack
a global and co-ordinated strategy and cause some work duplication. Moreover,
these proprietary systems usually serve the purposes of restricted Fair Trade
The Fair Trade global communication system proposed, seeks to respond
to the different needs of the Fair Trade stakeholders, creating a global
framework for the existing and future communication and data collection
systems. It aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole
system with positive effects on the satisfaction of people involved and
on the turnover of their organisations. Its feasibility is analysed from
different points of view - political, technical, financial.
The feasibility study is available at http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/report_feasibility_study_news_2001.pdf
A more detailed description of the project is available here: http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/
HOW IS THE SITUATION TODAY?
The grey arrows represent the information outgoing from
Producer Organisations and World Shops, the white ones the incoming information.
As suggested by many Producer Organisations and also by a number of Importing
Organisation, the information flow between European and ELDC ATOs is unbalanced.
Lots of data, required by Importing and Labelling Organisations, mainly for
monitoring purposes, must periodically be provided by Producer Organisations,
while the other way round is not working properly (with few exceptions). Between
World Shops and Importing Organisations or National Associations, the information
flow is more balanced, although it can still be improved. Between National
Associations and Importing Organisations, the relations are fairly good with
common projects and activities, while the relations between Importing Organisations
and Labelling Organisations are still turbulent. It is also clear that between
Producer Organisation and consumers there is virtually no communication and
that the information is always filtered by other organisations.
HOW WOULD WE LIKE TO MAKE IT TOMORROW?
The grey arrows represent the outgoing information, the white ones the incoming.
As shown in previous figure, the present information flow
is inefficiently centralised by the Importing Organisations and, partially,
by the Labelling Organisations. The inefficiency does not lie in the centralisation
itself, rather in the fact that the internal structure is sometimes inadequate
or not open enough to allow an easy access. To solve this problem and allow
a smoother flow of information throughout Fair Trade, it is necessary to shift
to an open system where each ATO still plays an important role, without being
the ultimate owner of the information. Basically the idea is that every ATO
provides the open system with the information needed by the others. As soon
as the information is recorded in the system, it is immediately available
to all the users connected, with the only exception of confidential information.
Labelling Organisation will upload to the server the consolidated
information about producers, market studies, information about the labels.
At the same time they can get all relevant information about producers and
sales and market trends in World Shops.
Producer Organisations will provide their profile, stories, pictures,
videos of producers, pictures, characteristics and use of products, information
about events and campaigns, their evaluation of the relations with Importing
and Labelling Organisations. At the same time they will get information from
the World Shops, especially the trends of sales, market analysis, consumers'
Importing Organisations will have to provide processed information
about sales in World Shops and in other selling points, market studies, price
structure, evaluation of Producer Organisations. At the same time they will
get information about producers and products, will be able to read the evaluations
done by the Labelling organisations and will use sales data and consumers
World Shops will provide sales data and consumer profiles, directly
or through their National Associations or the Importing Organisations. World
Shops will be able to download directly producers profiles and stories and
show to their customers pictures and videos of producers groups. At the same
time they will have their own application to process data on sales that can
be used for their internal analysis and planning.
World Shops National Associations will be able to retrieve updated
information about producers to build up partnerships for campaigns, to involve
producers in the training provided to World Shops, to have a clearer idea
of the impact of Fair Trade on producers' lives. They will have to process
and upload to the server data from World Shops and provide information about
campaigns and any other awareness raising activity undertaken to promote Fair
The Innovation Task Force will act as an antenna on the World, providing
the system with information and predictions about market trends, products
development, consumer preferences.
The adoption of the open system concept can help breaking the wall between
Producer Organisations and consumers, reducing the present communication gap.
Through computers installed in each World Shops, consumers will be able to
access up-to-date information about producers groups and their products.
Consumer can even become turist in the countries of Producers they have learnt
to know (see Responsible Turism ideas at section
tourism in developing countries" http://www.big-world.org/upload/chap8.htm
Nowadays, there are a number of proprietary systems used by Fair Trade Organizations
but there is no global vision and no (or little) interoperability between
the different systems.
I think that what is lacking is a global view over the Fair Trade Network.
For example there isn't a uniform way to give ID to products; in this
way it is not possible to follow their history and to discover which product
sell well and which not, it is almost impossible to take into account feedback
on products ("this product is fine but is better if red and not green") and
to communicate it to producers so that they will change it. This kind of
communication anyway nowadays is supported by email messages or intercontinental
call phones and it can take even 2 years to receive feedback on selling data
of products in World Shops, sending them to Producers, waiting them to change
the new products and resend it. Of course this timing is not appropriate for
a Fair Trade activity.
There are a number of challenges:
- The system must be really multilingual (Fair Trade Organizations
exists in surely more than 80 countries),
- Producers often have limited (or no) access to the Internet, which
can be costly.
- The system should be very easy to use.
- Lack of standard systems/databases between stakeholders.
- World Shops tend to be run as charity projects, rather than business
ventures; many see ICT as a luxury (rather than a business tool).
This project is very ambitious and covers a lot of different but related
aspects. I think that only the "free software community" can find a reliable
solution to such a big problem and I hope that soon very skilled people will
join the project.
The idea will probably be to extend some existent CSCW software but I'm
There is no constraints up to now concerning programming language.
The system must run on every possible platform.
List of acronyms
ATO Alternative Trading Organisation
EFTA European Fair Trade Association
ELDC Economically Less Developed Countries
FINE FLO, IFAT, NEWS!, EFTA
FLO Fair trade Labelling Organisation
IFAT International Federation of Alternative Trade
LNI Labelling National Initiative
NEWS! Network of the European World Shops
NGO Non Governmental Organisation
If you would like to join the project or give any kind of suggestion/feedback,
please send an email to