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Communication and Information Sector's news service

UNESCO supports training for building digital libraries in Africa

20-12-2005 (Cape Town)
UNESCO supports training for building digital libraries in Africa
Building digital library collections using the Greenstone software suite was on the agenda of a training workshop held at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, from 30 November to 1 December 2005.
The meeting that was co-organized by UNESCO, the Coalition of South African Library Consortia (COSALC) and Sivulile, a South African open access initiative, brought together 30 participants from Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, New Zealand, Swaziland, Sudan and host country South Africa.

This workshop was the third in a series of activities organized by COSALC and Sivulile (“we are open” in isiXhosa) aimed at raising awareness on open access models for information exchange, and ICT capacity building of information professionals in Africa institutions. These efforts are aimed at supporting the creation of digital libraries and providing archivists, librarians in Africa with skills to utilize electronic information tools and resources in their work and enhance access to online resources.

The Capetown workshop, conducted by Ian Witten of Waikato University, has extended this process by offering hands-on training in creating and customizing digital libraries. Professor Witten is a member of the Greenstone development team.

The preliminary findings of a joint UNESCO-Waikato University on digital libraries in Africa was also presented at the workshop. Over the past months African researchers across the continent have been investigating the current level of awareness/usage, training needs and sustainability of digital libraries. On this basis, recommendations for promoting awareness, providing training and technical support to enable digital libraries to play a larger role in addressing development challenges on the continent have been tabled. Particular attention has been given in the study to localization and support for African languages. The full survey will be available in the first quarter of 2006.

Across Africa information on a variety of issues – health, agriculture, education, history, culture and more – are needed to help citizens, governments, civil society and others address daily challenges and improve their lives. Greenstone digital library software responds to this gap by allowing individuals to quickly and easily collect, organize, present, and disseminate information relevant to their needs via the web or CD-ROM.

The Greenstone software suite was developed by the University of Waikato, New Zealand, the Human Info NGO of Belgium and UNESCO. Greenstone enables users to organize, create and publish digital collections of electronic files on the Web or on CD-ROM. Greenstone is an open source product, available free of charge with a user interface that currently supports 38 languages. It is being used by growing number of academics, civil society organizations, governments, public institutions and others around the globally to disseminate information on a host of topics ranging from e-books to innovative agricultural practices.
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