Friday, October 22, 2010

Digital development: INASP

I had the opportunity to meet with Peter Burnett from INASP (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) yesterday, an Oxford-based development organisation supported by multilateral funders and INASP partner countries.

As is fondly said of many of the best British institutions, they seem able to punch above their weight. INASP's name itself certainly provides only a limited indication of the real scope of their work. Their basic mandate - providing access to electronic journals in the developing world - is not as simple as it sounds and requires five main areas of activity, very briefly:
  1. ICT training, including bandwidth management and optimisation, and associated online IT skills.

  2. Information delivery, negotiations with external publishers and the development of library consortia in-country.

  3. Library development, particularly surrounding digital collections, with long-term preservation and access.

  4. Open access, providing a platform for developing countries to publish their journals online and AuthorAID to provide support to individual researchers.

  5. Publishing support, facilitating websites that can host electronic publications created in developing countries.
As far as I'm aware, INASP is the only group looking to establish a digital knowledge infrastructure in developing or emerging countries in this kind of holistic manner. The follow-through on these initiatives is also quite something - the whole digital foundation is taken one step further by trying to connect national policy makers in partner countries with the research information delivered via the means decribed above, promoting evidence-informed policy making.

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