Friday, March 15, 2013

Providing access to digital content from Africa discussed at CODIST-III

Gracian Chimwaza (ITOCA) and
Justin Chisenga (FAO) at CODIST-III
Over the past four days, I have been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia participating in the Third Session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST-III). CODIST is one of the seven subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) composed of senior officials and experts from member States who meet on a biennial basis. The theme for CODIST-III was Measuring Innovation in Africa.

On 12 March, I took part in the pre-CODIST-III roundtable of the Knowledge and Library Information Services (KLIS) sub-Committee. The theme for the round table was “Innovations promoting information access and diffusion in Africa: best practices, challenges and the way forward”. Discussions mainly focused on initiatives that are working towards opening access to digital content generated in Africa. These included development of institutional repositories in African universities, the Access to Scientific and Socio-economic Information in Africa (ASKIA), the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD), Uganda’s implementation of the World Digital Library initiative, and the impact of social media in libraries. Following the discussions, the participants at the round table noted, among others:

  • The absence of necessary technical, legal and governance frameworks to support adoption of Open Access model and other emerging technologies that would enhance access to the continent’s digital content;
  • Proliferation of initiatives aimed at creating digital repositories. These are mainly externally supported/funded and in most cases, there is duplication of efforts.
  • The need for coherence in information management and dissemination initiatives existing in Africa;
  • Inadequate and/or limited capacity in many countries to manage digital information assets to support innovation for national development.
A key recommendation that came out of the round table is that UNECA should provide a forum for development partners, international organizations and member states to deliberate on the integration of their initiatives to avoid duplication and to leverage on the sharing of resources.

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