Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Cooperation between Librarians of a North-South Network of French-Speaking Demographic Research Centres

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Cooperation between Librarians of a North-South Network of French-Speaking Demographic Research Centres

Article excerpt

Introduction

The North-South cooperation presented here does not only concern libraries and librarians. It concerns cooperation within a network of institutions in which librarians are working and whose main objective is to promote the adoption of information and communication technologies by demographers in French-speaking Africa.

1. History

(a) Centres involved and origins of the network

This cooperation was implemented between six demographic research centres of which five are located in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa and the other in Paris. Their activities are quite similar. Affiliated to national universities, they develop research activities in the area of population-development and train students in demography; most of them have a library managed by a professional. They are relatively small, with less than fifty employees (teachers, researchers and administrative staff) and welcome PhD students.

Most of the French-speaking African centres were created in the 1970s, with CEPED the most recent in 1988. These centres include:

- Benin: Centre de Formation et de Recherche en matière de Population (CEFORP) in Cotonou

- Burkina Faso: Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population (ISSP) in Ouagadougou

- Cameroon: Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographique (IFORD) in Yaounde

- Côte d'Ivoire: École Nationale Supérieure de Statistique et d'Économie Appliquée (ENSEA) in Abidjan

- France: Centre Population et Développement (CEPED) in Paris

- Togo: Unité de Recherche Démographique (URD) in Lomé

Cooperation between the different centres has been in existence for a long time. Research centres in French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa are few and their researchers often attended the same training centres in France, Belgium, Quebec or IFORD (Cameroon). One of the missions of CEPED, in addition to research projects jointly carried out with partners from the South, was provision of library support if necessary. Ever since the creation of CEPED, there were regular contacts between myself and the librarians of each of these centres for exchange of documents, training, audits or the implementation of computerisation of bibliographical catalogues, but all were bilateral arrangements between CEPED and a specific centre.

The expansion of internet use transformed this collaboration some twelve years ago. Although the commercial use of the Internet was not so well developed and the Internet had not yet transformed our every day life, it was already clear that using the Internet in our work changed ways of retrieving scientific information, accessing databases and transformed communications through email. Contact with African researchers showed that without reliable connections, it was impossible for them to have proper access to this environment and that the so-called "digital divide" was getting wider.

International organisations have quickly realised the magnitude of this problem and have undertaken various initiatives to try to remedy it. The most publicised of them was certainly the United Nations Organization which approved at the end of 2001 the holding of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in two phases, the first in Geneva in December, 2003 and the second in Tunis in November, 2005.

The birth of our group of French-speaking centres willing to share and provide information on the Internet dates back to 1998 by means of a call for tender of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) to develop what was then called "new information and communication technologies" and to create content to constitute a "French-speaking Virtual University." The "Fonds Francophone des Inforoutes" (FFI) was created during the VIIth Francophone Summit at Hanoi in November 1997 to continue this initiative. It aims at favouring the appropriation and use of information and communication technologies by the creation of French-speaking digital content. …

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