Open Access and Open Data for the Information and Knowledge Economy

Archive for the ‘ICTs’ Category

Locally available useful information matters, so says the latest web index report

Posted by infokelele on December 27, 2013


Posted in ICTs, Internet Access, Open Access, Open Data | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The e-city as a development anchor?

Posted by infokelele on December 26, 2013

Here’s one business model among many –

Posted in Broadband, ICTs, Internet Access, urban development | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Interplay between Open Access and Public Access

Posted by infokelele on December 19, 2012

A part of the ongoing justification for Open access is that Open Access content available online through Public Access channels have a multiplier effect on development hence the need to expand Open Access at the same time as Public Access to information.

Below are findings on two recent studies on this claim.

A. Public access, private mobile: The interplay of shared access and the mobile Internet for Teenagers in Cape Town

Discussion is structured around five claims:

1. Public access and private mobiles offer different affordances, and teenage users have developed complex, fine-grained practices which help them to negotiate the respective strengths and weaknesses of the affordances.

2. The public access venue provides non-substitutable impact to resource-constrained users, even those with “the Internet in their pocket.”

3. Public access supports the development of digital literacies associated with hyperlinked media and large-format documents, while mobile access supports everyday social literacies and messaging.

4. Teens can use a combination of mobile and public access Internet resources to participate in networked media production and grassroots economic mobilization.

5. Public access venue operators can improve venue rules and skills to encourage the complementary use of the mobile Internet.

Full research report

Recommended Citation – Walton, M., Donner, J., 2012. Public access, private mobile: The interplay of shared access and the mobile Internet for teenagers in Cape Town. Global Impact Study Research Report Series. Cape Town, South Africa: University of Cape Town.

B – Public access and development: The impact of public access venues and the benefits of libraries


Public access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play an important role in development. Communities benefit when people can access information and communicate with experts and people in their social networks to learn about health, jobs, education, leisure activities, or whatever inspires them. When access to ICTs is public and available to everyone in the community, such as in public libraries, telecenters, and cybercafés, it can be an effective tool for those that need it most. The findings in the brief are evident at all venues in the public access landscape, including libraries. However, in some instances, libraries may offer users unique benefits.

Clark, M., Sey, A., & Sullivan, J. (2012). Public access and development: The impact of public access venues and the benefits of libraries. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.

About the Study

The Global Impact Study of Public Access to Information & Communication Technologies is a five-year project (2007-2012) to generate evidence about the scale, character, and impacts of public access to information and communication technologies. Looking at libraries, telecenters, and cybercafes, the study investigates impact in a number of areas, including communication and leisure, culture and language, education, employment and income, governance, and health. The research is supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn more at

Posted in Development, ICTs, Open Access, Public Access | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Open Access: The Good, The Not So Bad and The Ugly?

Posted by infokelele on August 22, 2012

In May and June 2012, two significant Open Access recommendations came hot on the heels of one another. Many people may not have noticed. Industry insiders however took note.

The first was the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and the Publishers Association’s joint report titled “The potential effect of making journals free after a six month embargo’’. The report warned quite unflinchingly that only 1 out of 2 journal subscriptions currently would survive a six month Open Access embargo mandate.

The picture above fits like a T for Scientific, Technical and Medical publications according to this report. Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences publications would suffer even worse. They would retain only about 3 out of their 10 current subscriptions. The long and short of the report was that a 6-month embargo period applied universally for all journal publications would imperil the publishing industry to the point of driving them out of business. (In ‘plainspeak’, an embargo policy means that peer reviewed journal articles become free for online access after a certain predefined period of sales).

The ALPSP/AP report essentially took a cynical stand on the long term reliability of institutional repositories. Open Access enthusiasts smelling that their goose may be targeted for cooking did not take this lying down.  Predictably, they cast the publisher’s group as self-serving interested only in defending their status quo of higher profits and low marginal costs.

The second set of recommendations came from the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings otherwise known as the Finch report. This report underlined the potential social, economic and political benefits of expanding Open Access such as enhanced transparency in governance, more room for economic growth and increased public returns on research investments. It also enumerated the obstacles that impede Open Access’ adoption chief of which is the competing and sometimes deep conflicting interests of the different stakeholders. These mostly revolve around competing interpretations about costs, revenues, value and quality. This notwisthstanding, the Finch report still fell short of fully endorsing Open Access. Instead, it calls for further analysis on the best ways to expand Open Access globally.

Some in the Open Access movement have dismissed the Finch report as a diplomatic maneuver that could postpone or create systemic delays in the current momentum towards Open Access adoption but not everyone agrees with them. Others have seen it as being too lenient to the for-profit journal publishing industry! Yet still, others have viewed it as either too broad or too accomodating of the different stakeholders with the potential for decision paralysis.

Regardless, the report has not been without immediate impacts.

The Research Councils UK (RCUK) apparently reacting to the report, for instance, has updated its Open Access policies. Under the new policies, RCUK’s funded peer reviewed research papers must provide information on how to access the underlying research data among other provisions. The works must also be licensed to allow for use and re-use including for commercial purposes where publishers have been paid through article processing charges.

Additionally, the RCUK appeared to have taken a markedly different stand from the main recommendations of the Finch Report although I stand to be corrected on my understanding of this. While the Finch report favors Open Access through peer reviewed journals (what some people refer to as Gold), the RCUK prioritizes access through institutional repositories (in what is mostly referred to as Green). RCUK has a blog at for those interested in understanding more and or in engaging in discussions with the council about its Open Access policies.

What I however find missing in these reports is the broadband question which needs to be a key supporting pillar of the Open Access equation. The reports assume that there is already a widespread global information infrastructure that would support public information access. This is simply not the case for any given country. For many countries broadband has been strongly associated with significant growth in national GDPs and anecdotally with bridging of income inequalities. Without affordable broadband Internet access, Open Access will not deliver fully on its social, economic and political promises. For what goal would granting people access to research findings achieve if a majority of them remain fundamentally unable to access those results in the first place?

So what do you think? Did you learn or discover something new about Open Access?  Did it help improve your understanding of the findings in the reports and their coverage? What would you add to the Open Access debate?

Blogger’s note: Open Access as referred to here are scientific literature that undergo the usual rigorous peer review process made available online for access without charge under specific licensing arrangements.

Posted in ICTs, Open Access | 4 Comments »

Open Data: How transparent are the kings’ garments?

Posted by infokelele on May 11, 2012

Big data can improve innovation, competition and productivity. This is true for both the public and private sectors but with a caveat – only if harnessed in the best possible ways.

Open Data (OD) is increasingly becoming part of big data. This post will focus on Open Data.

There are many sources and types of Open Data. Many are governmental but international organizations such as the World Bank are also major players.

Governments tend to be the ones most in the spotlight because after all, the democratically elected ones are supposed to be answerable to their citizenry. It is for this reason that many country’s constitutions begin with the declaration “We the people ……” But this notion is sometimes more an ideal than a reality.

If governments are such a major player in individuals’ lives, it should come as no surprise that citizens demand appropriate access to all the wealth of information and data that governments collect from them and store. As a matter of fact, governments should always be in the forefront of proactively providing access to these kinds of information and data.

Legitimate questions that emerge for governments to perform this role include whether the technical components of the data at their disposal encourage easy usage, wider sharing and reuse. This would enable the maximum number of people possible to gain productive access to this data. Along with this requirement goes the data quality because if it is not reputable then there is no credibility and if it is not credible then it is of no value. But before you even begin to talk about any of these, the data needs to have been digitized.

The source code is also just as important because if the data is not easily editable then it cannot be classified as open even if access is being granted readily and freely and legally. Proprietary data sources can also not be classified as open because re-use is severely limited. So standards specifications is obviously a big thing.

The legality of this data is also a major concern. Lest governments remain shrouded in a cloak of mystery because the legal provisions are inadequate to authorize wider sharing of data within their confines.

But let’s say the government has gotten right all the above factors, the journey would still not be complete unless there is an affordable and widely accessible communications platform. Pursuing policies that lead to wider adoption of broadband services and other technology products and services seem to be the answer. The mobile smart phone is already proving to be a great asset in this direction. Creative public private partnerships have been used with telecom service providers in some countries to make this a reality.

In many societies, there have been at least three forces pushing for open government data with varying degrees of success. Civil societies tend to do this through the way they know best – mass action advocacy but also through collaboration with governments. Internal champions within the public service have been the other change agents and in some instances, political leaders have provided the much needed putsch against institutional inertia. Political will remains a much needed asset.

These seem to have been the common thread within many governments that have already opened up their data to the public such Kenya and the United States.

Progress is being made but a lot is yet to be known about the economic, social and political impacts of opening up data to the public.

Posted in ICTs, Open Data | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Harnessing information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address urban poverty: emerging open policy lessons for the open knowledge economy

Posted by infokelele on April 27, 2012


Urban poverty is a complex socio-economic problem. The expected doubling of the urban population relative to rural areas by 2050 without a corresponding economic and infrastructure growth will worsen the problem, especially in emerging economies. Poor urban residents face rising unemployment and underemployment, constrained access to financial services, market exploitation, poor housing, crime, unsatisfactory health services and scant education opportunities. Several players have attempted to address these problems through information and communication technologies. This paper isolated a few of these to determine critical success factors on the economic empowerment front.

Posted in Economic Development, ICTs, Information Economy, Innovation, Knowledge Economy, Mobile phones, Technology, Urban Poverty | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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