Magazine article Information Outlook

Access to Information Improving in Africa, but Challenges Remain

Magazine article Information Outlook

Access to Information Improving in Africa, but Challenges Remain

Article excerpt

A study of four universities in eastern and southern Africa found that librarians at these institutions have secured access to a growing number of journals and other information resources in the past several years, but many of these materials are underused by their staff and students.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities, a group of approximately 500 schools of higher learning on five continents, surveyed nearly 250 researchers (academics and postgraduates) and 23 librarians to determine the availability of the latest peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly materials at Chancellor College at the University of Malawi, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the National University of Rwanda, and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Using 20 leading journals from major international publishers as a proxy measure, the ACU judged that the four schools are almost on a par with most major European universities. But the journals are rarely used in research and teaching, for a multitude of reasons.

For example, the study found that while most academics have reasonably good computer access, students, particularly postgraduates, do not. Investments in e-resources have secured significant content, but without associated investment in facilities and training, the money spent on journals risks being wasted.

Relatively low levels of research activity, at least of a scholarly nature (rather than consultancy work), also help explain the paucity of journal use. …

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