On June the 2nd and 3rd the first of a series of IKM interactive sessions was held with the information managers of 11 Organisations working in Francophone Africa. The workshop in Dakar, Senegal, was hosted by CODESRIA at the AUF Campus Numérique.
The meeting focused on the use of new opportunities provided by the Internet and Web2.0 as well as on the obstacles to publishing, promoting, aggregating and finding African research outputs. The participants worked together on a wiki platform where they could get access to a series of modules and provide feedback. The modules examined which new approaches showed promise both for searching , dissemination and promotion.
In the video below Benoît Diouf, a University librarian in Saint-Louis de Senegal, talks about his expectations of the workshop:
After the workshop Benoît reports in this blogpost about the outcomes.
Although the workshop was practical with an emphasis on hands-on work very lively discusses emerged, both spontaneously and because they were planned in the program.
Some of the key findings included:
1. The bias produced by Google’s PageRank does not favour many of the research institutes represented at the meeting. Instead it puts emphasis on publications by larger international bodies.
2. Other scientific search engines (Scirus, Pubmed, Scholar) do not index much of the research material published on the web. More active steps can and should be taken to ensure these indexes and sources like Google books include African research. One of those steps is digitization of existing resources.
3. For delivery and creation of information one needs to take into account the realities of developing countries such as limited access to computers and the net. Paper and offline version of products are necessary to avoid excluding people.
4. There was much concern about the quality of information. It is necessary to develop new measures for this quality in an electronic environment.
5. African scientists have long been deprived of access to relevant resources. Access has been improved recently but these opportunities will not be used to their full potential unless they become part of the daily way of working. There is an urgent need for capacity building, both for information professionals and scientists. Information literacy should be part of curricula.
6. Intellectual property rights are an important issue in this context. There are doubts what one can do with the information provided by others (and for that reason it is sometimes decided not to use it). Likewise it is unclear what others can do with the information that one provides.
7. Folksonomies and traditional controlled vocabularies were discussed extensively as approaches to make information easier to be found.
[We will extend this post when more materials and videos become available]