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Open access publishing punted

A workshop at CODIST II in Ethiopia says open access technologies could benefit Africa.

The workshop, on the theme “ Promoting Innovation Development and Diffusion in Africa through Open Access Publishing” , was held this week at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The workshop was organized as a pre-event of the Second Session of the Committee on Development Information (CODIST II) and was attended by more than 50 participants, including librarians from the UN, the African Union and Universities across Africa, as well as Knowledge Management experts and Scientific Officers

Delegates examined ways to improve knowledge sharing in Africa and to remove existing barriers. Participants recommended that Member States should adopt appropriate Open Access (OA) policies and that the ECA should take the leadership in these activities.

“ Open Access is a new way of publishing and of sharing information in the 21st century” , said Irene Onyancha, ECA’ s Chief Librarian. “ Everyone has a role to play in knowledge development and content sharing and everyone can make an impact” , she added.

At issue during the workshop was the current situation in Africa and the question of how OA can benefit Africa.

“ African internet connectivity is improving dramatically and it will be the same as it is in Europe and in the United States; the mobile phone market in Africa is currently the fastest growing in the world” , said Calum Land from BioMed Central a global publisher of peer-reviewed open access journals. He pointed out, however, that the growth in connectivity has not yet translated into access to online journals for African academics as they also lack the skills to use computers.

“ All of us must share knowledge in order to achieve the MDGs, and if we don’ t open up in this field I don’ t think we will reach these goals” , said Matseliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa from the Advisory Board of Electronic information for libraries, a non-profit network enabling access to knowledge for training, learning, research and sustainable community development in more than 45 transition and developing countries.

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata from the Africa Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) pointed out that “ nothing in the past has ever given Africa such an opportunity to share its knowledge” , and that the growth of the internet is chance that must not be wasted.

The meeting was in agreement that the way forward must ensure the creation of requisite infrastructure and legal frameworks to support the growth of online content on the continent.

Among other issues, the morning sessions dealt with open access standards and policies; open access advocacy tools; the conception, development and the implementation and management of digital repositories.

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