The Sixth Scientific Conference On TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER FOR DEVELOPMENT, Khartoum, 8-10 April 2003: Establishing Basic Levels of Technology Transfer for :Sudan Documentation and Library Services:Challenges and Opportunities /By: Rafaa Ashamallah Ghobrial||
Sudanese Librarians and Information Scientists in different workshops lamented the inability of Sudanese libraries to obtain information about publishing in Sudan. Sudanese libraries need to have closer interaction with developing countries by way of information sharing for our mutual benefit. We are aware of the new technologies and their application to library processes as explained by Cochrane (1992) and Henderson (1992). There is an urgent need for us to begin to exploit these facilities otherwise the rest of the world would leave us behind. It is a fact that it is costly but neglecting to take advantage of them would cost us more. Each of our libraries must begin to use them and build up gradually to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of information collection, processing, storage, dissemination and preservation. Indeed, any meaningful co-operation would depend on the use of these facilities. In Sudan, we determine that it is "forward ever and backward never" for librarianship and libraries in Sudan. Indeed, there are high prospects of modern information management by Sudanese libraries in the 21st Century. Such prospects are predicated on several factors, including:
5-1. Improved Economy of Sudan: With a stable policy, the economy of Sudan is expected to greatly improve in the New Millennium. On the domestic front, Sudan government appears to be determined more than ever before to take bold steps at economic reconstruction. Once the economies improve, many problems of library automation like high cost of hardware acquisition and inadequate funding, everything being equal, will be reduced to the barest minimum.
5-2. Improved Information and Communication Infrastructure: The deplorable state of information and communication infrastructure in Sudan is known to be a major bottleneck to modern information technology management. This led Sudan to witness a breakthrough in the telecommunications with the liberalisation of the sector by the sharp increase of connected telephone lines from 64,000 in 1993 to 150,973 in 1997. So NICI Infrastructure and Policy based on the following:
Sudatel is a private company where the government has the majority of shares but only 20% of the voting power and control. Sudatel is in charge of the provision of a national backbone, including national and international telecommunications services, and it has a 15-year lease with effect from 1994. Sudan is currently traversed by communication lines consisting of over 2,500 kilometers of optical fibre where 2 Mb is reserved for data; SUDOSAT (Sudan Domestic Satellite), which has 36, ground stations in remote towns; Intelsat, Arabsat satellites; and over 60 VSAT stations. Sudatel has also a well-set-up Telecommunications Training Centre. It also initiated Sudatel Electronic Library Project for establishing a multi-purpose broadband databases in multi-disciplinary system to store, update, transfer and retrieve all forms of data as well as full access to local foreign knowledge-based resources. The project targets academic, educational and professional groups and foundations. The information data received by the library and those dispensed to customers shall be in multimedia digital forms. It aims to ensure all necessary academic and professional periodicals in all branches of knowledge; and connect interested users to world reputed libraries. Sudatel is interested to invest this project in the following sectors: distant Learning Courses, digital centers, electronic publishing centers, electronic consultation, electronic digital advertising and Promotion, and I.Q and psychoanalysis Tests
5-2-1-1 Mobile cellular networks:
The GSM cellular network operator is Mobitel (1997) whose shareholders are Sudatel (40%) and local investors (60%). Mobitel main switch is co-sited at Sudatel central exchange, using optical fiber links to Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), with a 2 Mbps Sudatel line for international traffic. Its current coverage is Greater Khartoum, approximately 40 square kilometers, and there are plans to expand Mobitel services to Medani (180 km away) and Port Sudan (800 km away). Mobitel is working toward establishing international roaming with neighbouring Arab countries.
The coordinating ministry for local governments has established a national network consisting of a LAN in each of the 26states. The network provides management and statistical information on health, agriculture, food, and other matters related to local governments to the centre. In addition, National Information Centre of Council of Ministers has started to implement the second phase of National Information Network.
A modern network using frame relay technology now covers Greater Khartoum and the major cities. It links banks, universities and other organisations, and it has a speed of 2 Mbps and supports remote logins, FTP, e-mail and teleconferencing.
The establishment of a Higher Education Network is underway. Currently, it is an administrative network connecting 26 government universities. For example, the University of Gezira established an e-mail service at the Faculty of Medicine and also linked with the Centre for International Health (CIH) at McMaster University in Canada. The system connects twice a day with the GreenNet Internet gateway in London. There is an operational HealthNet [http://www.healthnet.org/hnet/sud.html] node at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Khartoum.
Information and Communication Hardware: The tax levied on imported computers and communication equipment has been reduced from 20% down to 6%. Computers are being assembled in Sudan. A local private factory, for example, Saria, produces annually 10,000 PC monitors, 1,000 HF communication equipment and 2,500 VHF.
5-3. Progress in IT Application in Sudan: Though the pace of IT application in Sudanese libraries has not been encouraging, concerted effort is being made all over Sudan to implement the technology. A significant number of the notable libraries especially NCR-DIC and over 12 academic and special libraries have implemented IT to varying degrees. Many more plan to automate their services in the near future. The rate of library automation in Sudan is still relatively very low, considering that the country has over 500 libraries. However, the success recorded by the few that have automated their services is expected to motivate others to apply IT in the near future.
A questionnaire was sent to fifteen university libraries, two research centers and one to the British Council, which were thought to have implemented automated systems in their libraries. Thirteen copies of the questionnaire were completed and returned. Most of these libraries were computerized part of their functions. The study also reported a limited use of CD-ROM technology and various Internet databases in the libraries. Also this study shows that libraries that have implemented IT. Consciousness of all the Sudan information institution, the need for IT application in library information management was also found to be very high. There is no doubt that the momentum will be sustained in the coming decade.