Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Networks & CD-ROMs Aid Research, Development and Education in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Networks & CD-ROMs Aid Research, Development and Education in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Zimbabwe has sent a number of its citizens to be trained abroad, many of whom are reluctant to return and lose contact with colleagues. It has also seen a steady stream of outside experts coming in, who take months to acclimatize to our culture and to form professional contacts, then leave, taking their store of experience and acquaintance "network" with them.

Zimbabwe has shortages of both teachers and up-to-date instructional materials for the tremendous number of students enrolled in its schools. The University of Zimbabwe has scant funds for journal subscriptions and those they can afford are delayed in delivery. Many university staff would like to collaborate with their counterparts in other countries of the region. But mail is slow and unreliable; faxes are garbled, go missing and are expensive in any case; phone discussions are impossible or prohibitively expensive; and travel budgets are extremely limited.

A major ingredient in the solutions to all these problems is the use of computer-based information transfer via telephone network links and CD-ROMs. This paper briefly discusses the great promise of these technologies as applied to research, education and development in Zimbabwe. A proposal for rural agencies with e-mail to incorporate rural schools in worldwide education networks is also suggested.

* E-Mail: Connections & Possibilities

Zimbabwe has e-mail-only connections to all surrounding countries - South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia - and others as well. E-mail service is provided by two separate systems. The first is a Fidonet network of Zimbabwean machines comprising MANGO, HEALTHNET and ESANET subnets. MANGO serves Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs); HEALTHNET serves health care workers; and ESANET is an academic network. This countrywide Fidonet is linked to an Internet provider in South Africa via a high-speed 14.4 bps modem dial-up several times per day.

The other provider is a UZ Computer Centre link (uucp) to the Internet via Rhodes University in South Africa, generally called Zimbix after the name of the mail machine. Zimbix has direct-access terminals on campus and three dial-in lines as well. Both the Fidonet and Zimbix networks are increasingly used. While the two systems currently can communicate with each other, ironically, only through long-distance telephone calls to South Africa, a direct gateway between them is planned.

E-mail has become so important to researchers and students, that it has been suggested that supplying e-mail to returning Zimbabweans (as well as competitive salaries) is the way to lure them away from the foreign countries many currently prefer.[1]

Increasing numbers of researchers and assistance workers coming to Zimbabwe from other countries are using e-mail to find out about the country, starting their cultural adjustment well before arrival. They also remain in contact with their colleagues in Zimbabwe after they return.

* UZ Medical Library

The University of Zimbabwe's Medical Library serves the Medical and Nursing Science schools at UZ, as well as clinics in rural areas and any medical professional in Zimbabwe who requires its services. The library has, like other African medical libraries, severe underfunding for new books and periodicals. While interlibrary loans with other countries has been possible for some time, one has to know what information is available in order to ask for it.

The Carnegie Foundation has supplied the library with computers equipped with CD-ROM drives plus subscriptions to monthly CD issues of Medline and other databases. Now users or librarians can perform Boolean searches for keyword combinations to find suitable articles. In some cases requested articles are forwarded by fax. In other cases, HEALTHNET Fidonet e-mail is used to request articles, which may be returned by fax or e-mail. News feeds, such as AIDS Update and Mednews, also arrive via e-mail; they are printed out and archived on disk for searches. …

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