Access to ICT during training workshops, a lesson from AGORA/TEEAL workshop in Nigeria

On 18 August 2015, I walked into a meeting room at the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. The room was to be the venue for The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL) / Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) Training-of-Trainers Workshop, 18 – 20 August 2015, which required the use of computers connected to the Internet (for AGORA) and local intranet (for TEEAL). The only ICT facilities available in the room were an LCD projector and a laptop belonging to my co-facilitator, Ms Olanyika Fatoki from the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. There were no computers in sight for use by the 35 participants we were expecting to take part in the workshop.

I feared for the worst.

Since 2004, one major challenge that I and colleagues at the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA) have experienced, when planning training workshops on using Research4Life electronic resources, has been finding a room or venue with adequate ICT facilities to accommodate the more than 30 participants that usually attend such workshops.  Searching, viewing and retrieving PDF versions of scientific journal articles are a major component of the training AGORA training workshops.

Walking a training room without computers connected to the Internet was not re-assuring at all.

I was wrong and worried for nothing.

On the second day of the workshop, when most of the practical work and exercises on retrieving online resource from AGORA and TEEAL database were scheduled to take place, the training room had 35 participants in attendance and most of them had access to computing devices connected to the Internet.

Most of the participants brought their personal laptops and broadband modems (and wireless broadband routers) to the workshop, and were enthusiastically following the presentations/demonstrations and taking part in practical exercises requiring them to conduct online searches on AGORA. About four participants, who did not have laptops, used their smartphones to access AGORA, conduct searches and retrieve PDF versions of journal articles.

This development, where individuals have personal access to mobile ICT facilities should also make it relatively easy to organize training workshops requiring the use of ICT facilities. The cost of hiring ICT facilities, and sometimes sophisticated computer rooms, can now be reduced.

This also should have an impact on the provision of digital-based library and information services to users especially in academic institutions. If potential users of scholarly online resources have access to ICTs, potentially allowing them to access digital resources anytime from anywhere, librarians in Africa should re-think their information services’ provision strategies. There is no need to continue focusing on providing digital-based information services to users within the four walls of library buildings.