Category Archives: RAHE

Challenges of facilitating research access in Bangladesh

– Dr M. Nazim Uddin is the Head and Senior Manager of the Library and Information Services Section at icddr,b, an international health research organization based in Dhaka. He gives a librarian’s perspective of the challenges of research access in Bangladesh

What should a library look like? For me, it should have five basic components: a building, professional staff members, resources (such as furniture and print and e-literature), budgets and users. In Bangladesh, the two most difficult components for librarians to manage are budgets and resources.
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Data, dialogue and development – why the last kilometre matters

IT Network Engineers in action at Uganda’s Gulu University

This is co-written with
Sara Gwynn, INASP Associate

The last kilometre – or even the last 100 metres

Picture this. A kilometre from your desk there is a warehouse where the world’s most relevant, timely and credible data and knowledge are instantly available… but you can only access or contribute to it one page at a time.

To add to your difficulties, each page has to be carried along a long, meandering path, and the path is poorly signposted, badly maintained and crowded with other people. There are no rules and, even if there were, there are not enough people to enforce them. When you do eventually transport a page, you have to do the whole journey again for the next one.

It is a tortuous process that wastes time, money and opportunities for you and for those who could benefit from your work. And for many people this is a frustrating daily reality.

Laying the foundations

Years of effort and investment mean that the books, journals, databases, cables, servers, software, laptops and mobiles are largely in place, ready to go. Researchers, academics and students are ready too. But things grind to a halt in the kilometre between the backbone and the desktop if campus networks are not properly configured and managed.

This means students don’t get to develop their digital skills and academics can’t harness the power of online technologies to drive new research in new directions for development.

As we’ve written before, there’s a certain degree of hype about the potential of technology to transform African research and higher education. But there’s also huge potential, if the right foundations are laid – and, while the hardware matters, skilled people to manage it are vital.

In 2013, the UbuntuNet Alliance— including the Network Startup Resource Centre (NSRC) and AfricaConnect—and INASP identified a shared interest in the issue, and agreed to work with National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to try and find a sustainable solution through a pilot project. We’ve just published a final learning report which highlights what we’ve achieved together, and what we’ve learnt.

Faster networks, more data

IT engineers developed their knowledge and skills, a core team in each country developed their skills to train others, and greater confidence and collaboration led to engineers across countries solving problems together. But perhaps most importantly there were tangible improvements to the speed of IT networks – enabling students and researchers to access journals and online books, to share data and to communicate with colleagues.

And as each NREN has improved internet connectivity for universities and research institutes, their memberships have grown, and they’ve been able to offer new services. The Research and Education Network of Uganda has now built a data storage facility, and developed secure data passport services which will enable Ugandan researchers to collaborate more effectively with their partners across the world.

To find out what we did, what we achieved and why, and what we learnt, you can read more here.

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Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

Participants in Ghana celebrate the end of a productive and inspiring two days.

Sustainable access to cutting-edge research information is essential for any strong research and knowledge system. Strengthening southern library consortia has been an important component of INASP’s work for many years.

‘Leading in the Library: A learning lab for sustainable access to knowledge in developing countries’ is a collaborative partnership between INASP and Caplor Horizons working with library consortia to inspire organizational change. The project helps strengthen leadership, strategy and influencing skills by providing space for blended learning, where a combination of online, face-to-face and other training approaches are used.

This work will strengthen the organizational effectiveness of institutions (library consortia) that play a pivotal role in the knowledge economies of Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda by enabling access to cutting edge research from around the world.

The ‘learning lab’ is an iterative and constantly evolving approach. It requires a great level of flexibility by the team to develop and adapt the project as it develops in unique ways in each country. However, being able to respond to these emerging themes and challenges is what provides an added dimension of depth and alignment with local needs.

Earlier this month, Ian Williams (Executive Director) and Lorna Pearcey (Director of Development) from Caplor Horizons together with Kemal Shaheen (Programme Manager, INASP) and members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) reflected upon the current situation at CARLIGH and on the potential barriers and opportunities for future sustainability. The key insights and participant feedback make for an interesting read:

Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

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The importance of self-awareness in addressing unconscious bias

–  Blog post by Vanessa Fairhurst, Programme Assistant, INASP The question is not “do we have bias?” but rather “which are ours?” – Howard Ross We all like to think we are open-minded and non-judgemental. In fact each of us tends to believe we are more fair and hold less prejudice than the average person. However, unconscious bias is something that affects us all. Our brains are wired to see patterns in order to quickly make sense of the complexities of life; a skill which helped our ancestors in distinguishing from friend and foe. These patterns are learned from birth; our biases and preferences shaped by the people around us, cultural norms and our personal experiences. Our brain is a complex machine, constantly processing vast amounts of information, like a computer with thousands of tabs open simultaneously, so we use these patterns as mental shortcuts to provide order and aid decision … Continue reading

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Humphrey Kombe Keah on access to research, the SDGs and challenges in Kenya

Humphrey Kombe Keah is an Information Management and Digital Services Specialist at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.  He will be speaking with Dr Beatrice Odera-Kwach on issues relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the national supply of information in Kenya at the Publishers for Development meeting on 13 September. What is your main area of work? My main area of work is in research support through information management and facilitating access to online electronic resources. How does your work relate to the SDGs or international development more generally? The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is part of a Consortium of 15 international agricultural research centres known as the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The CGIAR mission is to advance agricultural science and innovation to enable poor people, especially women, to better nourish their families and to improve productivity and resilience so that they can share … Continue reading

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Who drives research in developing countries?

This piece was previously published on Jon Harle’s Medium blog site, republished here with his permission. To what extent is research on development issues done by researchers in developing countries? To what extent do those researchers actually decide what research needs doing and what questions need asking? And if developing country researchers do decide, to what extent do they do so in collaboration with the people who might ultimately have a use for that knowledge ? These aren’t new questions, but they re-emerged for me recently in a series of studies we commissioned of research and knowledge systems in Somalia and Somaliland, Liberia and South Sudan. And they’re echoed in a series of essays on the ethics and politics of knowledge production in fragile states. It’s a well-worn maxim that appropriate solutions require local knowledge. Yet although this is well recognized, it often seems to be missing when research is commissioned … Continue reading

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