Magazine article Information Today

International REPORT

Magazine article Information Today

International REPORT

Article excerpt

Internet Access and Zimbabwe

In an address given on July 20 at the opening of the fifth session of the fifth Parliament of the Republic of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe announced the introduction of a security of Communications bill. The speech is published in full by The (Harare) Herald and posted at the allAfrica.com Web site (http://all africa.com/stories/200407210529.html). Reporters have interpreted Mugabe's statement that the bill would "bolster the security of our nation" as an indication that the new law would lead to a crackdown on the use of telephones and the Internet, much in the same way that press and other media are already controlled.

A group of Zimbabwean journalists and lawyers have set up an independent news service called Zim Online (http://www.zim online.co.za). The site is registered in South Africa, but the journalists are described as a network of experienced correspondents operating throughout Zimbabwe. This new site was launched with a four-fold mission statement: to provide a source of accurate, balanced, and in-depth information about Zimbabwe; to tell the real Zimbabwean story; to offer an independent, people-oriented news service; and to help expand the democratic space shrunk by the closure of mainstream newspapers in Zimbabwe.

In a welcoming introduction to Zim Online on July 8, spokesman Daniel Molokela said: "Zim Online will comprise an online newspaper and a news service, called the Zimbabwe News Service (ZNS), through which relevant stories will be provided to other mainstream media around Africa and the rest of the world for reproduction. In addition, Zim Online will serve the Zimbabwean exile community as a reliable source of information from home, and provide those living in the country with an alternative to the state-controlled media."

Partnership with Al Sharaka

Access to information is slated for a big improvement in Iraq due to a $5 million funded cooperative relationship between U.S. and Iraqi universities. The goal of the Al Sharaka program is to establish and sustain supportive and collegial relationships between the administration, faculty, and students of the Iraq University Partners and the universities of the Oklahoma Higher Education Partners (OHEP). The funding comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Aside from a range of cooperative scientific work and staff training projects, the program includes the provision of computers and Internet access, the distribution of online materials and coursework, and assistance in rebuilding library collections.

Among the electronic services offered by Al Sharaka through the agreement is unlimited access to full-text articles via EBSCOhost. The databases, which will be made available at public and private libraries across Iraq, include Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, Master-PILE Premier, MEDLINE, and the Ultra Online Package.

The OHEP partners comprise the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, Cameron University, Langsten University, and the University of Pittsburgh. The Iraqi partners are the University of Basrah, the University of Salahaddin, Al Anbar University, the University of Technology, and the University of Babylon. For additional details see the Al Sharaka Web site at http://www .cameron.edu/~abbasj/alsharaka/about us.html.

Extra Funding for U.K. Libraries

Earlier this year, I reported that Libri, a charity campaigning for improved funding for public libraries, had issued a paper critical of U.K. government policy titled "Who's in Charge?" During the ensuing debate, the government minister responsible, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, scheduled a June 21 conference on the topic. Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh chaired the meeting. He reported a 5 million increase in library visits in 2002 and 2003 and announced an extra $3.67 million in funding over the next 2 years to help improve services.

In July, Britain's Finance Minister, Chancellor Gordon Brown, presented his annual spending review. …

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