Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Open Access in Latin America, are there lessons to be learned?

Ms. Carolina Rossini wrote a good paper entitled “The Open Access Movement: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries. Let them Live in interesting time”. In the introduction, She wrote clearly that “the internet has created a revolution”, and further added borrowing from Yohai Benkler that “the change brought about is deep and structural”.

She defined Open Access (OA) as “a knowledge distribution model by which scholarly, peer-reviewed journals articles are made freely available to anyone, anywhere over the internet”.

Her main argument is that “OA represents the best method for the flow, interchange and production of scientific knowledge- and that it is crucial for innovation and innovation is crucial for development”. The paper gave a summary of what has been achieved in terms of OA on the international arena. Among the OA projects that are mentioned in the paper are: HINARI and AGORA.

Although Ms. Rossini mentioned on several occasions the importance of this movement to both developed and developing countries, but did not differentiate between the two. I think we should be specific on how OA could help developing countries in attaining their goals of prosperity and development. It is important to concentrate particularly on what is exactly needed to achieve these goals and what are the priorities for developing countries in terms of achieving OA?

Some of the projects of OA taking place in Latin America particularly Brazil include: Socielo Scientific Brazilian Electronic Library Online, The Brazilian Institute for Information and Science (IBCIT)  and The Open Access and Scholarly Information System (OASIS). Ms. Rossini did not tell us whether there is a systematic organized effort in Latin America to bring OA to this part of the world? I suspect this not currently happening, and this is because having limited projects here and there does not amount to a real movement.

I was hoping to see thoughts on OA projects that have been conducted in Brazil and how they could be implemented in other developing countries? What are the problems that founders of these projects faced and how did they overcome them? What are the lessons that could be learned? Which mistakes were made in the implementation of these projects and how they could be rectified and not happen again in other developing countries?

Answering those questions could help Arab countries that have just started their own OA projects such as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Library in Egypt that have launched recently the Digital Assets Repository (DAR) (contains Over 50,000 books and 35,000 images). I think that OA organizations in the Arab world should follow closely what is happening in Latin America to further enhance their capabilities and experiences.

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