This edition of the African Journal of Information and Communication addresses an aspect of 'information society' discourse that has taken shape in the world of universities, research, publishing and creative works. Given the potential offered by the Internet to leapfrog the divides that currently inhibit the reach and impact of African research, this thematic edition explores an African perspective on scholarly communications in the 21st century. In a continent increasingly linked through the Internet and through telecommunications infrastructure, the flow of information and knowledge across national boundaries presents an opportunity to universities, academics, students and researchers to increase the volume, quality and relevance of their knowledge outputs. However, this opportunity may remain 'theoretical' and beyond the reach of many universities in the region, based on a range of challenges in a number of spheres. These challenges include using Internet-based journal publishing platforms and publishing under Open Access licences such as Creative Commons.
(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2010-02-15) Chetty, Prialoshni
South Africa’s Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and
Development Act, Act No 51 of 2008 (the IPR Act) was passed on 22 December 2008. The Act’s
main object is to ‘make provision that intellectual property emanating from publicly financed
research and development is identified, protected, utilised and commercialised for the benefit
of the people of the Republic’ (IPR Act, 2008: s. 2(1)). The Minister of Science and Technology
published corresponding draft regulations (the IPR Regulations) for comment on 9 April 2009
(DST, 2009b).1 To date, the legislation and its attendant draft regulations have been dogged by
criticism from lawyers, academics and commentators, who have, inter alia, labelled the IPR Act
‘unconstitutional’ and ‘unworkable’ (Rens, 2009) and queried whether the IPR Regulations are
a ‘death knell for open science in South Africa’ (Gray, 2009).
This review explores critical issues that recipients of public finance for research and
development, including academics, researchers and universities, are confronted with, arising
from the IPR Act. The issue is raised regarding the compatibility of the IPR Act and draft
regulations with South Africa’s position as a developing country. The review argues that, while
the Act has many flaws and may require review, there is an opportunity for the regulations to
address some of the identified weaknesses.
(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2010-02-15) Nyamnjoh, Francis
It is common in discussions of open access to limit the issue to publications and dissemination. This conflates accessibility with recognition and representation, and supposes that competing
and conflicting knowledge systems and ideas would be equally available and affordable if room
were created for multiple channels of accessibility. Such enthusiasm and euphoria, while
understandable, do not adequately account for the prevalent power relations that structure
knowledge production into interconnecting hierarchies at local and global levels.
CODESRIA has some lessons to draw on from its experience of the past 37 years – lessons
about the need to privilege and prioritise recognition and representation of the perspectives,
epistemologies, and contextual and methodological diversity that inform knowledge
production globally and locally; and lessons about the need to widen our understanding and
discussion of ‘open access’ to go beyond just enabling access to knowledge and research
results through a multiplicity of dissemination possibilities. It is important to discuss opening
access up to different races, places, spaces, cultures, classes, generations, disciplines and
fields of study.
This review presents CODESRIA, and its ever-evolving publications and dissemination policy,
as a possible model to inform and inspire institutions interested in a comprehensive idea of
open access in an interconnected world of local and global hierarchies, where producing and
consuming difference is part and parcel of everyday life.
(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2010-02-15) Kotecha, Piyushi
The ‘digital divide’ is both an infrastructural reality and a metaphor for Africa’s position in the global economy. We live in an era that defines itself by the extent to which it interacts, creates and shares knowledge globally, using the network of
advanced telecommunications, the Internet.
Southern African countries, their universities and research communities, are recognising that focusing purely on basic network
infrastructure is inadequate to the needs of scholarly research and higher education in the 21st century. Southern African
universities must acquire the means to participate effectively in global knowledge production. In particular, they must adopt and
use advanced telecommunications infrastructure in the form of National Research and Education Networks or NRENs and a
regional REN to connect students and researchers across national borders.
Yet the means to share knowledge is not sufficient to bring about a healthy knowledge economy. A paradigm shift has to be
made from a purely technological view of the issues, to a full recognition of the interplay between technological infrastructure
and the developmental and knowledge purposes to which it is put.
This article provides an overview of the emerging NREN landscape, noting developments under way that are intended to promote
and facilitate excellence in scientific networking in the region. It discusses the constraints and enabling conditions for overcoming
the digital divide in the Southern African higher education context. Finally, it proposes a rudimentary performance indicator
framework for assessing progress.