The Development Equation/ICT4D and A2k/OA

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Learning and Knowledge in the 21st Century : The Development Equation
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ICT4D (ICT’s for Development)

"History bears witness," writes a sociologist, "to the cataclysmic effect on society of inventions of new media for the transmission of information among persons. The development of writing, and later the development of printing, are examples." - N. St. John, Book review, The American Journal of Sociology 73 (1967): 255

Though by now the internet has become ubiquitous in the West, this is not the case globally. The concept of the digital divide examines the divergence in capability that ICT’s have created, granting vast opportunities to those who have access to these technologies who then move further ahead of those who do not. As the significance of ICT’s to opportunity increases, so does the significance of the divide and the need to address information poverty before inequalities become rigid, particularly with regard to the divide between rich and poor countries (Norris, 2001). Kofi Annan has long been a champion of ICT’s for development, and in March 2001, the U.N. Economic and Social Council launched the U.N. ICT Task Force devoted to transforming the digital divide into digital opportunity for all humanity (U.N. ICT Task Force, 2008). Attention has been given to ICT for development in university contexts through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). NEPAD provides definitions of ICT development and ICT’s for development in this particular context.

ICT Development in the university context refers to building media and digital facilities to support university internal functions, along with an academic and research programs that prepare students to function effectively in an information society - in both the public and the private sectors;

ICT for Development refers to the university applying ICT in programs outside its walls in the service of communities and the nation. (Quoted from NEPAD in Colle, 2005).

<In light of these definitions, some alterations to the use of ICT4D may be warranted for precision and consistency.> Arif

The relationships in between internet access, access to literature and research capacity for universities are ultimately straightforward and simple. The activity of getting on the internet and accessing research can be very straightforward and simple as we are used to in the West. This is promising as it allows stakeholders to envision opportunities that are likely within their reach. However, the implications and the surrounding issues present a great many challenges discussed within mountain of literature that now exists on ICT4D. These issues will be examined further in this study, as they caution us against moving forward without giving attention to the complexities that will arise in implementation and that will follow from that point.


The Access Principle - a commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit (Willinksy, 2006, pg. xiii).

The World Health Organization conducted a study in 2003 which found that 56% of research and academic institutions in least developed countries (per-capita GNP < $1000) carried zero subscriptions to any academic journal, and 21% carried an average of 2. In the next income-tier (per-capita GNP < $1000-$3000) countries 34% of institutions carried no subscriptions, and 34% carried an average of 2 to 5. Researchers and academics identified ‘priced literature’ as their most pressing information problem (Ochs, Aronson, Wu, 2004). As a result of the recognition of these needs, the environment, health and agriculture organizations of the U.N. (WHO, UNEP and FAO) now provide free access to thousands of journals to the poorest countries, with the permission of the publishers. The price barriers to literature have also been the motivation behind the Open Access movement and are one of the key intellectual property concerns of the Access to Knowledge movement (A2k draft treaty, 2005). In terms of development, access to knowledge is particulary critical to knowledge workers – a nation’s doctors, nurses, librarians, civil servants, lawyers, civil society workers, entrepreuners, etc. These knowledge workers’ effectiveness is dependent on the ability to combine local and global knowledge (Stiglitz, 1999).

Price barriers also constrain public funding to library budgets in the North, a structure where public money is spent on research in a system that limits public access to the results. According to the E.U.’s study on the technical evolution of scientific publishing markets, the crisis orginally occurred before the digital revolution when libraries faced increase in prices of journals 300% beyond inflation, a problem only partially corrected by on-line closed access publishing. Even after libraries formed into consortia to increase their bargaining power “researchers themselves have become dissatisfied that their libraries can no longer afford to buy back their research output and that of their co-workers, even though this was provided free of cost to the publishers” and “organizations that fund the research have become concerned that the published results of their funding are largely unread and that scientific progress is retarded through inadequate access to related research conducted globally.” (European Commission, 2006). The E.U. study’s first recommendation was that government funding agencies should mandate that the research they fund be made available without charge on the internet. The recommendation became a campaign and is supported by a 27,000 strong petition from the global research community including many high-profile scientists and several Nobel Prize winners. The Budapest Open Access Initiative that began in 2001 (2008), the Bethesda (2003) and Berlin (2003) Declarations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Final Communique (2004), the Geneva Declaration on the future of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) (2004), the Access to Knowledge Draft Treaty (2005), the mandates on open access of the American National Institutes for Health (NIH) (2008) and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) (2008) are among many national and international pronouncements and actions that have been taken in support of greater access and policy change. As a final example, the Government of Canada’s Task Force National Consultation on Access to Scientific Research Data (2005) released its final report in 2005 urging ‘immediate and pressing consideration of our Report, and recommend the earliest possible implementation, as a national priority, of the step-by-step approach proposed that will lead to early and effective implementation of a national plan for open access to publicly funded scientific research data'.

According to UNESCO (1982), “the research base of a country has a profound effect on its economic development and its ability to address problems in such areas as public health, infectious diseases, agriculture, environmental management, or industrial progress.” Researchers from the developing world comprise a fraction of participation in research, even though they are best positioned to contribute on the key challenges facing the world, resulting in a growing recognition of gaping holes of ‘missing knowledge’. The 1990 Commission on Health Research for Development (2006) estimated that less than 10% of the global health research resources were being applied to the health problems of developing countries, which accounted for over 90% of the world’s health problems – an imbalance captured in the term the ‘10/90 gap’15. A 2004 study found that 31 countries contribute 98% of the world’s mostly highly cited research output with eight of those contributing 85% while another 162 countries contribute less than 2% (King, 2004). In Africa, only South Africa ranks in the top countries at 29. UBC author John Willinsky theorizes that what he calls the ‘Access Principle’ is the natural ethic of the research author, since every author’s contribution depends on their role as a research reader and user (Willinsky, 2006).