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||
Establishing Basic Levels of Technology Transfer for
Sudan Documentation and Library Services:
Challenges and Opportunities
Paper Prepared for
The Sixth Scientific Conference On TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER FOR DEVELOPMENT, Khartoum, 8-10 April 2003
By: Rafaa Ashamallah Ghobrial¨
Information is the fifth factor of production that is by no means inferior to land, labour, capital and the entrepreneur. In fact, Brandin and Harrison (1987) observe "information wealth is now a new type of capital described as knowledge capital". In the same vein, Drucker (1969) alerted us to the systematic and purposeful acquisition of information rather than science and technology is emerging as the new foundation for work, productivity and effort throughout the world. In what sounds like a confirmation of Drucker's prediction, Bergdahl (1989) posits that information has become such a precious resource that the fate of modern nations in all essentials is connected with their capacity to develop and exploit it. El Naeimi Tia and El Rabei (1998) predict that in future, Arab countries that do not develop this capacity will be left behind in the cultural, scientific and economic development. Apart from suffering from dependence on others, such countries will neither be partners in the global production of information nor will they contribute meaningfully to the common future of civilization. Bergdahl's future is already here.
Perhaps, it is such considerations as the need to share information resources between the information rich and the information poor across cultures for mutual benefits. According to Pejiova and Kavcic-Coiic (1974), "improved performance, better quality, competitiveness, environmental protection, rationalization, better deployment of resources and almost all other contemporary management and technologies issues today call for better handling and more efficient utilization of information This Study discusses intensively the challenges and opportunities, which are considered as basic levels of Technology transfer in Sudanese Libraries and Information Institutions.
2. IT, ICTS AND TT CONCEPTS
By definition, Information technology (IT) is various technologies, which are used in creation, acquisition, storage, dissemination, retrieval, manipulation and transmission of information. IT (core of technology) includes computers, various telecommunication devices, media, broadcasting, press, audio- visuals, and micrographs, etc. Whereas Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) include electronic networks - embodying complex hardware and software - linked by a vast array of technical protocols. ICT are embedded in networks and services that affect the local and global accumulation and flows of public and private knowledge. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, ICT cover Internet service provision, telecommunications equipment and services, information technology equipment and services, media and broadcasting, libraries and documentation centres, commercial information providers, network-based information services, and other related information and communication activities; quite an expansive definition. It is not uncommon to find definitions of ICT that are synonymous with those of information technology (IT). For example, Foster defines IT as 'the group of technologies that is revolutionizing the handling of information' and embodies a convergence of interest between electronics, computing and communication. Therefore, in this review, the terms IT and ICT will be used nearly synonymously and in a somewhat broad sense. The terms designate the information processing interaction between providers and users of information and also the development and application of information-processing systems that may not be regarded as part of the development of telecommunications/telematics per se. It is important to emphasize that these technologies only provide new mechanisms for handling an already existing resource: information. Therefore, to understand ICTs, one must first understand information practices and needs.
Recently, the term "technology transfer (TT)" has fallen out of favor among many who view the term as outmoded or too narrow in scope, and who prefer terms such as technology collaboration, technology deployment, technology utilization, etc. These are, for the most part, semantic differences, which do little to increase our understanding of these closely, related phenomena. The term "technology transfer" encompasses such a broad range of activities that a general definition brief enough to be useful is impossible to develop. However, operational definitions of technology transfer are easier to devise in a specific context, and are best constructed in terms of specific mechanisms of transfer. A number of different definitions are in use by various institutions and groups, and two of them are included below
· The Technology Transfer Society's brochure defines technology transfer as "a strategy for achieving organizational goals, as "a process leading to actual transfer." and as "a discipline involving a multiplicity of skills."
· The American Federal Laboratory Consortium defines technology transfer as "The process by which existing knowledge, facilities or capabilities developed under federal R&D funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs." That means "Technology Transfer consists of efforts and activities intended to result in the application or commercialization of Federal laboratory-developed innovations by the private sector, State and local governments, and other domestic users. These activities may include, but are not limited to:
o Technical/cooperative interactions (direct technical assistance to private sector users and developers; personnel exchanges; resource sharing; and cooperative research and development agreements);
o Commercialization activities (patenting and licensing of innovations and identifying markets and users); and
o Information exchange (dissemination to potential technology users of technical information; papers, articles, reports, seminars, etc.)."
3. SUDANESE LIBRARIIES AND INFORMATION INSTITUTIONS:
Sudan is the biggest and vast agricultural and pastoral country with rich cultural diversity in Africa and Arab regions. It has a variety of climate zones, which have great effect on the distribution of natural and national resources of development activities in twenty-Six states covering total area of 2.5 million square kilometers with total population of 30 million. Sudan is in dire need for development if it can only to free its citizens from civil war, hunger, diseases and ignorance among other vices. All these individually and in combination have a great influence on information needs of people involved in diverse ways of development activities. It can constrain or support information generation, capture, processing and dissemination as well as the development of the related information Infrastructure and policies.
Thus, Sudan information institutions, which provide a measure of the relative numbers, size and capacity of the information infrastructures in the country and indicate the intensity of the economic activities devoted to information. In the past, Sudanese libraries were small collections of books and manuscripts owned by religious leaders and tribal chiefs. They consulted them for information on different social, economic, political, and religious matters. At the beginning of 1990s, libraries with small collections of books were established in schools and for British senior administrators and officers. Science Libraries (special libraries) were also established to support research in Wellcome Chemical Research Laboratories, the Stack Medical Research Laboratories, and Agricultural Research Library and also in some of ministries and other governmental bodies in the Country respectively. Presently, they can be classified as follows:
1- Academic libraries which include:
· University libraries that are located in 26 governmental universities (university library /state) which branch into faculty libraries. Therefore, the number of libraries depends on the number of faculties or compounds of faculties per university; and 53 private universities and colleges, i.e. single library per university.
· School Libraries are very rare and affiliated to Student Activity of State (Province) Education Administration while very few collections are located in private schools
2- Public libraries, which are few private, special, scattered and poor infrastructed libraries in the country excluding the British council libraries and cultural centres.
3- Documentation and Information Centers and small collections are embodied mainly in Ministries bodies, non-governmental and international organizations working in Sudan and private institutions.
4- National Records Office, which has the authority to dispose of the records belonging to the different government departments. Recently it finds a great appreciation of government, restarts its restructuring based on international standards and norms, and collaborates with local government offices in Sudan States.
There are over 500 Libraries, and documentation and information centers, cultural centers, and archives whereas National Library under construction. Most of them are located in Khartoum. They have been created to ensure the long-term accessibility of recorded information. That is what they do now, and that is what they will do in the future. This means they acquire, catalog or process, organize, offer for use and preserve publicly available material irrespective of the form in which it is packaged in such a way that, when it is needed, it can be located and used. This is the unique function of the library, and no other institution carries out this long-term, systematic work. They play a very important role, one that will far surpass the simple conservation of a patrimony and become mediators in the Sudanese Knowledge Society. They contain variety of information, which covers different sectors of national resources, which are: agriculture, education, economy, industry, finance, natural resources, social welfare and research and development depending on mission of the library. Their collections are well organized traditionally following mostly Dewy or UDC classification schemes and Anglo American Cataloging Rules (AACR2). These collections are acquired by donation (89%), exchange (7%) and purchase (4%) depending on the allocated budgets for the library. In the last decade, most of their parent institutions have introduced information technologies specifically computers and Internet connectivity into their institutions but not used mainly for information activities and services.
· Severe financial constraints compounded by lack of strategic planning, i.e. unclear/ineffective national documentation and information policies as well as well of Sudanese dormant role Library and Information Association
· Inadequate facilities infrastructure: very few libraries have good information buildings which did not follow the library building standards and specifications whereas others have neither purposely built nor equipped and well furnished; and some did not possess any facility.
· Most of Information institutions are run by unqualified and computer illiterate personnel and directed by professionals not specialized in field of Library and Information Science and also lack awareness with the basics of information technology. There is dire need for staff training opportunities and adequate training on technologies related to libraries facilities
· Harsh environmental conditions damaging collections and accelerating equipment depreciation
· Illegal aspects of circulation and use of rare and precious collections and also ineffective role of legal deposit which states that the printer of ever published in Sudan and every Sudanese author who publishes his work/ internally or externally shall within one month of the publication, therefore deposit at his own expense a copy of the work to each of the three specified institutions. These institutions are University of Khartoum library, The Central Records Office, and Documentation and Information Center of National Center for Research (NCR-DIC)
· Inadequate salaries and difficult working conditions e.g. Library and Science Graduates in National Centre for Research are recruited as Technicians.
· Lack of standardization, norms, cooperation in their systems.
In spite of the myriad of problems in the way of libraries in Sudan to apply modern information technology techniques, they are likely to have very little choice in this 21st Century. As Sudanese are clamouring for development so is the world focusing more attention on the potentially dangerous situation in Sudan, albeit, for diverse purposes. To meet the legitimate aspiration of the people for rapid socio-political and economic development, the libraries, being engines of development are faced with serious challenges are basic levels of technology transfer. These include:
4-1 Power Sources
are basic requirement at even initial level of technology transfer in information institutions. Basic electricity is necessary to provide power for IT infrastructure. There are various ways to generate a stable source of Stability. Sudan has currently installed electric generation capacity of 500 megawatts (MW). Of this, around 60% is accounted for by thermal (mainly oil) and 40% by hydropower. Hydroelectric power generation varies greatly over time, however, according to rainfall patterns. Sudan's total electricity generation was 1.760 billion kilowatt hours (kwh) in 1999. Also Sudan has plans to add additional generating capacity. This is considered, as popular and cheapest source, in addition, solar and diesel energy are more reliable for rural areas of some parts of Sudan and to run mobile libraries. Both sources are graceful in powering IT system in case of power failure and scheduled programs of distribution of electricity. So distribution and reliability are other factors are to be considered. Typically to improve these factors, IT infrastructure was equipped with UPS (uninterruptible power supply) which provides protection against power and line noise which could be harmful to sensitive electric and mechanic part of the system. It is also used in powering the IT system from batteries.
4-2. Information Technology:
The libraries need to be at the vanguard of technology transfer from the developed world to the developing economy of Sudan. To meet this expectation, the Sudanese libraries must provide a link between local researchers, lecturers and scholars and their counterparts in other parts of the world. Internet connectivity, for example, is about the surest way of achieving this objective. All users of the Internet enjoy a whole range of services such as electronic mail, file transfer protocol, database access, and so on.
Unfettered access to databases around the world through the Internet offers a great opportunity for scientists and technologists in Sudan to acquire knowledge from their colleagues elsewhere. The Internet could also afford Sudanese scientists and technologists the opportunity to collaborate with their counterparts around the world on research projects.
The author calls attention to the fact that, increasingly, research is carried out by multinational teams. According to citation analysis of Sudan Bibliographical database and International Databases (CD-ROM and Internet) of NCR-DIC, there has been an enormous increase in recent years in the number of research papers resulting from international collaboration. Whereas the number of papers with international co-authors rose by 201% from 1981 - 2002 more than 80% of such co-authored articles involved writers from the developed countries while only 0.08% involved authors from Sudan.
For Sudanese researchers to be able to collaborate more significantly with their counterparts in other parts of the world, they need access to the Internet especially through their local libraries. It must be reiterated that such collaboration between researchers from African as well as Arab and their counterparts in the West and North is highly desirable as it can promote technology transfer.
Moreover, NCR-DIC set up Microfiche Technology in 1988 to facilitate the acquisition of documents related to Sudan, which cannot be easily obtained in hard copy. These include government document, theses, existing special library Collections of older documents now out of print, and the documents from Libraries outside Khartoum such as Gezira. Its system fits into the computerized cataloguing system very easily through the microfiche accessioning system. Each document on the fiche is given an accession number and this is added to the Catalogue record on the computer when the document is catalogued. If an online search identifies references on the fiche can be retrieved from the Storage cabinet by using the accession number, as the fiches are stored in accession number sequence.
Also NCR-DIC had introduced Microcomputer Technology using CDS/ISIS based Library system that is advanced non-numerical information storage and retrieval software developed by UNESCO since 1985. CDS/ISIS is an integrated and Multilanguage package offering all the basic features demanded for a database management system including: database definition; data entry; indexing; retrieval; printing, some utilities; database management and data exchange. CDS/ISIS has become the software of choice for the developing world, but it also enjoys extensive use in Canada, Australia, and Western European countries. Cuba, Vietnam, and China have also used and developed the software for their national libraries and archives. Some of Library institutions of UNSECO members have succeeded in encountering CDS/ISIS databases on the Web.
This paper refers to the development of a microcomputer-based system using the Micro CDS/ISIS (English and Arabic versions). It comprises the application interfaces for creating a machine-readable catalogue and for information retrieval. The CDS/ISIS software is distributed free to libraries and information centers all over the world by UNESCO where in Sudan, NCR-DIC coordinates the distribution of the software and provides training on it. CDS/ISIS has a wide application as an indexing tool but its flexibility has extended its use to library automation applications like cataloguing and information retrieval. This is because CDS/ISIS comes with a built-in subset of the Pascal language that allows local customization and development of user applications and interfaces. Many such customized applications have been reported in the literature (Ghobrial, 1992). Some good interfaces have also been developed to complement the information retrieval capability in CDS/ISIS.
NCR-DIC system developed whose machine-readable catalogue based on the standard Common Communication Format (CCF). It is complemented with the information retrieval interface, which has full search and retrieval functions, including keyword searching. The electronic catalogue created form the resource database that can be used to teach and give hands-on experience on on-line information retrieval.
Conversion of record formats of other databases, which are either on CD-ROM or floppy disks to NCR-DIC databases, which is accomplished through conversion programs. Such type of conversion is very limited as compared to keying from keyboard including data elements not available in the imported databases. Generally conversion of original records can be made to suit NCR-DIC database format, which is ISO 2709.
This results in development of following NCR-DIC systems:
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT COLLECTIONS
-Support research and development projects
-Develop library policies, the structure and procedures for acquisitions and technical processing
-Enhance information culture
NCR-DIC Library (R&D Library)
-Sudan Collection database (Scientific Sudanese heritage) whose online catalogue (in Arabic and English) can be retrieved.
-Accession Bulletin for New Publications
-Identifies, abstracts, and indexes studies and research paper s of relevance to Sudan currently published or presented at conferences or accepted for high degrees by scientists in Sudan or aboard
-Disseminates Scientific and technical, social and economic findings related to Sudan
Sudan Science Abstracts (SSA) which are extracted from National Bibliographical database
Biannual Journal and 26 volumes were issued.
ON-GOING RESEARCH SYSTEM
Identifies current researches, active sources of expertise among researchers
-Facilitates communication among researchers, managers of research and Funding agencies
National Register for Current Researches (NRCR) database
Serves as conduit for sharing, disseminating and using information in support of R&D projects in different phases
_ Malaria Bibliography (unpublished), 1991
-Water Resources in Sudan List (unpublished), 1998
- Health Database for Ministry of Health, 1998
-Bibliography of Sudanese Medicinal plants database (1999)
- Records of Researchers of National Centre For Research database (1999)
- Records of Researchers of Ministry of Science and Technology database (at Stage of data Collection)
UNION CATALOGUES FOR PERIODICALS IN SUDANESE LIBRARIES
-Facilitates Periodical acquisition and consequently national cooperation among Sudanese Libraries
- Enhances better periodical delivery policies in the country
-Provides a cost effective necessary
Union Catalogues for Periodicals in Sudanese Libraries database
The development of the Windows version was the result of a strategic development policy decision aiming at maintaining the leading role CDS/ISIS has played and is still playing on the international scene, which resulted:
· The complete rewriting of the software in C++, in order to provide a common standardized language for all the versions (MS-DOS, WINDOWS, and UNIX), thus reducing maintenance costs;
· The adoption of a multi-platform software development system in order to increase the level of portability to different hardware and operating systems (covering therefore a whole range of computers from stand alone PC's to powerful mini-computers);
· The implementation of a client-server architecture using market-standard interfaces.
No conversion is needed when moving from CDS/ISIS DOS to CDS/ISIS for Windows. However, formatting language functions are just 95% compatible. In some cases you may find some syntax errors appearing: you may have to adapt your display format to the new one. In terms of search engine, the two versions are totally compatible: both can use the same I/F (inverted file). The data entry worksheet is also compatible but the screens will appear different. CDS/ISIS for Windows (WinIsis) is 100% compatible with all Windows Operating Systems, which can be used as a platform for developing simple applications using its powerful formatting language. New commands for handling nice presentations are now available as well as hypertext capabilities.
A number of tools for making CDS/ISIS databases on the Internet are available. Some of the tools are distributed free-of-charge and available for downloading e.g.
· JavaISIS 3.0 Client/Server suite for CDS/ISIS databases (UNESCO) databases on the Internet. It provides its clients with advanced remote database management functions such as: browse, query, data entry, export and print.
· The WWWISIS server, versions 3 and 4
· ISIAM, publication on NT servers - free (built with ISIS_DLL)
In addition, the CD-ROM technology affords libraries in Sudan a unique opportunity to acquire information materials to meet the needs of their users. Ghobrial (2002) has extolled the virtues of the CD-ROM and highlighted its potentials for researchers in Sudan. Apart from storage space economy, the CD-ROM provides access to information held by important databases without laying cables. This is very significant considering that lack of good telephone services is one of the major obstacles to computerization and networking by libraries in Sudan during those decades. Furthermore, the full text compact discs might also prove more secure than print copies; it is impossible to mutilate them by cutting out pages to be taken home. Mutilation and stealing of information materials is known to be a serious problem facing libraries all over Sudan.
One sometimes hears the Internet characterized as the world's library for the digital age. This description does not stand up under even casual examination. The Internet and particularly its collection of multimedia resources known, as the World Wide Web was not designed to support the organized publication and retrieval of information as libraries are. It has evolved into what might be thought of as a chaotic repository for the collective output of the world's digital printing presses. So, Digital Technologies enable ultra rapid access to the richest sources, wherever they are located in the world's collections, and the rapid exchange of commentaries in electronic forums or videoconferences. These new possibilities favour an 'extensive' reading, the comparison of diverse texts and viewpoints, multidisciplinary transversality, a "conversation" between readers. They are beginning to have a considerable impact, as much on the individual mechanism of the appropriation of texts, as on the sociology of reading. True polytextuality - in which diverse types of texts and images, sounds, films, data banks, mail services, interactive networks may mutually resist or interfere with one another - this process of reading generates progressively a new dimension - polymorphic, transversal, and dynamic. We may call it 'metareading', which is becoming a new driving force of culture. Instead of aprioristic strategies that envisage cataloguing every document using a universal classification, hypertextuality prefers a tactic of using small steps, capable of binding them together after the event, whole corpora generated from research and particular points of view. It wagers, in short, on the plurality of the world of documentation. In other words, the ideal of coherent and convergent, unified knowledge (of which the library would be the microcosm). At the same time that it explodes the limits of text, hypertextuality revives one of the founding questions of culture: by what mediations can private experience and collective practices enter into an exchange?
4-3. Automated information services:
The economy of Sudan has so seriously declined that it is unable to provide basic teaching and research facilities in its tertiary institutions and research institutes. To provide its users access to the best of teaching and research materials available in the world, timely, and at least cost, Sudanese libraries must automate their services and form networks. Most of the problems associated with acquisitions and collection management in general would be over for Sudanese libraries once they are on the web.
4-4. Sustenance of electronic Publishing:
As publishing goes electronic, many primary journals and secondary services previously acquired by libraries through normal subscription to hard copies can only be accessed through the Internet (Arunachalam, 1999). Due to the lack of appreciation of decision makers has hinted that publications such as Current Contents Connect, SciFinder (Chemical Abstracts) and multidisciplinary citation indexes such as Web of Science are available on the World Wide Web, though at a fee that most university and research libraries in Sudan cannot afford.
Grant led the cost implication to libraries of Sudan to access to journals published on the Internet is very high. However, of even greater concern is that any library that is not computerized has, as it were, automatically cut off its users from access to important journals available only on the World Wide Web. This development poses a great challenge to Sudanese libraries that have the onerous responsibility to meet the information needs of the users especially for research and development.
4-5. Information networks and Internet Connectivity Projected Sudan to the World:
Sudan is very rich in culture and has great tourism and investment potentials. While documentation and other records on Sudanese cultural heritage and investment potentials abound locally, such information is yet to be sufficiently marketed to the outside world, which are discussed intensively in workshops and seminars individually or collectively. With the opportunities offered by modern information technologies, Sudanese libraries have a great chance of projecting Sudan positively to the world thereby attracting foreign investments and promoting tourism. In spite of everything, abundant indigenous knowledge, the outcome of local research efforts into various fields of life, including agriculture, medicine, science and technology abound all over Sudan. These are scattered on library shelves and in private offices in form of grey literature and are largely unutilized. Since such materials can easily become part of the collections of libraries in Sudan, such indigenous knowledge could be projected to the rest of the world through the Internet. For this to happen, Sudanese libraries must embark on aggressive acquisition of Sudan collections, including grey literature, computerize their information management and form library networks. Such library networks in Sudan will surely boost development through the provision of serious development information appropriate to the Sudanese environment.
So far, much of the information on Sudan in the world's information networks tend to project only the negative tendencies and situations of Sudan and Sudanese. It is noteworthy that such tendencies are found with all peoples and nations. While Sudanese libraries should not be merely out to counter the negative information about Sudan, there is serious need to project to the whole world the positive sides of Sudan and the achievements of Sudanese often swept under the carpet. Sudanese in various fields of life have performed many feats but these are hardly given publicity by the Western press.
Sudan can benefit of network development programs as discussed by Ghobrial (1999, 2000) which include:
1- PADISNET (Pan African Documentation Centre Network) - This is a project to interconnect centres performing research on planning of development in some African countries into a network for data and information exchange and NCR-DIC acts as national focal point;
2- CABECA - (Capacity Building for Electronic Communication in Africa) - This is a project to promote computer networking throughout Africa. It is sponsored by the Pan Africa Development Information System (PADIS) of the United Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). CABECA is funded by the IDRC, Canada to achieve low cost electronic connectivity in some countries of Africa. It has already established nodes in some parts of the Region.
3- SLDS (Strengthening Libraries and Documentation Services in IGAD States). The Netherlands Government sponsors it. NCR-DIC designated as National Information Node.
4- RAIN (Regional Agricultural Information Network for ASARECA states. It is designed to remove the isolation suffered by agricultural researchers in the sub-region by integrating them via network with their counterparts in other parts of the globe and to create linkage among the researchers themselves.
There are certainly many other networks all over the world but not listed here. Considering the existing regional and international information networks, there is no doubt that the networking capabilities of Sudanese libraries will be greatly enhanced in the coming decade. Once the libraries can put their houses in order and establish local networks, these can under proper arrangement be interconnected with the existing networks. A major criticism of the information networks in Sudan is that they have been initiated and entirely funded by bodies outside Sudan. The implication of this is that whenever such sponsoring bodies do withdraw their support the systems are most likely to fail. For sustainability, it is important for Sudan to take the initiative on information networks and to be committed to funding them, at least, jointly with donor agencies and nations. It is only then that whatever networks established can serve the best interest of Sudan in terms of priority and sustainability.
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.
6. MANPOWER DEVELOPMENT:
Shortage of manpower for the implementation of IT programmes of libraries in Sudan has been a big problem. Many attempts at library automation in Sudan are known to have failed because of the high turnover of systems analysts who abandon the computerization programmes mid-stream in search of greener pastures. One of the findings of Ghobrial (2002) is that out of the 18 libraries found to have computerized their services, only one (0.7%) had qualified library systems analysts in their establishment. The rest made use of external consultants for the computerization projects.
Conscious of the manpower problem, libraries all over Sudan have been exposing their staff to computer literacy programmes. Some have also been sending selected staff to specialized training on computer information management locally and outside Sudan.
Another good development is that library schools in Sudan are bracing up to the challenge by revising their curricula to strongly accommodate practical education and training in IT. The Department of Library, in Archival and Information Studies, University of Neelan, for example, has recently acquired fifty computers for teaching and practice purposes by the lecturers and students. Effort is also being made to acquire more to meet the high student population. The curricula at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels are also being overhauled to be strongly IT biased. Accordingly, in 2002 Neelan University director resolved that the library school should strongly teach IT to their students and provide facilities for computer practicals. Once this type of resolution is widely implemented by library schools in Sudan, the problem of manpower shortage for library automation programmes will be greatly reduced.
Sudan has much to offer to the world just as the world has much to offer to Sudan. One therefore expects Sudanese libraries and Information Institutions in the 21st Century to do more in developing information infrastructure and institutions. It is interesting to note that the United Nations and World bank are greatly concerned about the wide disparity in access to basic communication and information services between the developed and the developing world. In a statement issued by its Administrative Committee on Coordination in 1997 (United Nation, 1998), they laments that the information technology gap and related inequities between industrialized and developing nations are widening and that a new type of poverty, information poverty looms. The statement therefore commits the organizations of the United Nations to assist developing countries in redressing the present alarming trends. We hope that the UN''s statement will be matched with positive action so that Sudan will be empowered to become active participants in the new world information order.
As development issues, especially science and technology are international, there is need for Sudan to access and utilize information for development, no matter the format, no matter the source. The challenge to do this is much for libraries in Sudan and their sponsors as indeed, it is for governments and stakeholders outside Sudan.
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