Launch of Institutional Repository seen as “Milestone in the access and diffusion of information on Africa”

Addis Ababa, 02 May 2011 (ECA) - The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) launched a unique Institutional Repository on Monday during a workshop on Open Access Publishing at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The development and launching of the ECA Institutional Repository marks a milestone in the access and diffusion of unique and authentic economic and social information on Africa”, said Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of ECA’s ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD).

The website provides visitors with knowledge and information not available elsewhere including flagship publications, journal articles, conference proceedings and working papers as well as technical, mission and annual reports which were collected in the past 50 years. The publications are freely available to users worldwide.

“Access to ECA’s information resources has for many years been available mainly to visitors to the ECA Library”, explained Opoku-Mensah. “ECA has seized this opportunity offered to ensure a systematic collection, management, preservation and dissemination of its intellectual property.”

According to documents provided to ECA’s Information and Communication Service, the repository represents the corporate memory, providing historical evidence of the Commission’s actions and decisions.

The workshop held, on the theme “Promoting Innovation Development and Diffusion in Africa through Open Access Publishing” was organized as a pre-event of the Second Session of the Committee on Development, Information, Science and Technology (CODIST II) and brought together over 70 participants including chief librarians from the UN, the African Union and from Universities across Africa as well as Knowledge Management experts and Scientific Officers.

In subsequent sessions on the broad range of experiences and challenges facing content providers in Africa, Gracian Chimwaza, Executive Director of Information, Training & Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA) spoke on the topic Capacity building in library services, influencing innovation and competitiveness”. He said that since 2005 the centre has delivered 80 Trainer to Trainer courses in 28 countries.

“Libraries need ICT infrastructure and relevant staff skills”, Chimwaza emphasized.  However, despite ITOCA’s commitment to training, the centre has faced many challenges, such as limited funding, human resource budgets and low prioritization. “If we are to invest in training programmes, we need the support from the top”, he underlined.

A presentation by Jacinta Were from the University of Nairobi on Innovation through Knowledge Networks sought to explore the extent to which Africa is exploiting her innovation potential. She said that although Africa is rich in knowledge and culture, “potential innovators face a lot of challenges and there is a need for access of all the indigenous knowledge of the continent. “Knowledge networks have proved the most effective platforms for sharing knowledge and promoting innovative development in Africa,” emphasized Were.