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Monday, July 21, 2008

Accessing research information: Views from the South

The EADI Information Management Working Group organised a session on research communication at the recent EADI General Conference in Geneva.

Pinkie Mekgwe of CODESRIA opened by suggesting that the Internet is becoming a place where only the knowledgeable meet, benefiting a select few. She went on to consider the implications for African scholarship.

Whilst many initiatives now put African academic materials online, she observes an increase of new types of publishing. Zeleza.com is an example where scholars set up their own blogs; the Pambazuka Newsletter is widely read, while Thoughtleader provides opinion from African academics. Some of the new technologies overcome traditional barriers. However, commercial pressures mean that scholars in the south are in danger of selling their copyright. Many web pages appear to be useful but can be asking for payment of research, for example sites like academia-research.com, writers.com (a private university) and gradesaver.com where students can buy answers to set tests. These ways of buying answers to exams and progressing by paying discriminate. She was further concerned that people currently using the Internet have no say in its development. Openness is not necessarily good for knowledge production and requires a special approach to interrogate the Internet to ensure more balanced results from the sources available.

Pinkie Mekgwe on communicating research:




Vikas Nath began by explaining the special position of the South Centre in supporting the G77 countries in Geneva. The South Centre has embraced new media, it runs a digital tv channel and several blogs. But Vikas is concerned that knowledge portals still talk about the old development paradigms, and these ideas are still being reinforced. He wonders how much space there is in the public domain for alternative approaches. How independent can development research be when it is funded by the donors. Moreover, policymakers in the South continue to be educated in the North and have the viewpoint of North. The Internet appears to be used to reinforce paradigms. There is also the question of who speaks for the south? Are they in fact just voices of the south that the North wants to hear.

Vikas Nath on breaking Northern hegemonies on knowledge:




by Chris Addison

More:

Euforic newsfeed on information and knowledge

Read more stories from the conference and visit the conference blog.

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