Botswana

“Restrictive access policies drastically reduces readership of electronic research journal articles. Open Access (OA) provides an environment within which literature and scholarly research articles are made freely accessible online without license restrictions and without charging users subscription or access fees. OA is a vital means of dissemination of information which is crucial for national development and in achieving Millennium Development Goals, given the crucial role that information plays in achieving social, economic, cultural and political development.” Professor Frank Youngman, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Botswana.

Botswana is working to promote OA to research output and information to reach out to all members of the society. Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) and the University of Botswana have become active in the promotion of OA through a number of activities, which include running OA advocacy workshops for researchers in universities and research institutes, librarians and ICT specialists, research managers and policy makers, journal editors and publishers; starting OA digital repositories, and training of library professionals to understand the concept of OA, OA and policy environment, OA repositories and journals platforms/software, digital repositories workflows with specific examples from the University of Botswana Research Innovation and Scholarly Archive (UBRISA). Initiatives on OA in Botswana were based on experiences demonstrated by lack of or little knowledge about concepts of OA and institutional repositories, hence the need for advocacy workshops and other initiatives to sensitize researchers in universities and research institutes, librarians and ICT specialists, research managers and policy makers, journal editors and publishers on the benefits and strategies of OA. The first OA workshop was organized in Botswana from 1st to 2nd September 2010, followed by another workshop in July 2011 and a planned OA Week coming in October 2011 from 24 to 30.

Researchers from Botswana publish articles in OA journals, for example 28 articles have been published with BioMed Central – an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the Open Access publishing model – by researchers from African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership; Department of Public Health, National AIDS Coordinating Agency; Tshepo Clinic, Botswana Harvard Partnership; Tau Consultants; and University of Botswana, Department of Chemistry and Department of Population Studies. PLoS ONE – an international, peer-reviewed, OA journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) - published 5 articles by researchers from the Center for AIDS Research and Botswana-University of Pennsylvania Partnership.

Enabling Environment

Botswana has enabling environment for OA to research output and information. This has been realised through the formulation of the National ICT Policy for Botswana, referred to as Maitlamo ICT Policy, to “create an enabling environment for the growth of an ICT industry in the country and provide access to information and communication facilities in the country”. Through the National ICT policy Botswana plans to provide free access to information and knowledge that will help improve socio-economic development of Botswana. Development of ICT is seen by the government as enhancing access to e-governance and local information relevant to communities. Areas of need for ICT include, among others, ICT usage in homes and communities; a national HIV/AIDS awareness, public education and basic education to enable citizens to actively participate in the information economy.

Botswana has a well developed modern telecommunications infrastructure, which remain underutilized (Sesigo Project, 2011). The fixed line and fibre optic infrastructure is adequate to provide wired telephone lines, mobile telephone, radio, television and internet to communities in Botswana. Development of ICT build public libraries through a collaborative partnership between the Sesigo Project, Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture (MYSC), the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation (Sesigo Project, 2011) is meant to provide free internet access to increase access to information as well as e-government services in communities in Botswana.

The University of Botswana (UB) has developed an e-learning environment to enhance research, learning and teaching. UB developed its Information Technology policy in 2003 “to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure and quality support for research, scholarship, teaching, learning, and administration and management, seamless access to datasets, information and information resources (Information Technology policy, 2003). In addition UB has developed a Research Strategy to intensify its research performance. “One of the key pillars of the University of Botswana new strategic plan “Strategy for excellence” is “Research Intensification”. OA will help the University of Botswana, Government, and research institutions to achieve this pillar by ensuring online accessibility to public funded research output that can be freely shared by everyone, enhance research quality, and improve visibility of the institution and the nation globally.”  Professor Frank Youngman, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Botswana.

Potential Barriers

Despite enabling environment, there are still some potential barriers to OA. Amongst them include:

Fear of plagiarism

There is fear, by authors, of copyright infringement; fear of ‘loss of copyright’ (not realising that in the meantime they have already ‘lost’ or signed off their copyright to publishers); and fear of plagiarism of papers. Therefore, in the mindset of authors, OA is viewed as encouraging plagiarism.

Infrastructural Issues

Although the Botswana government has embarked on efforts to improve ICT infrastructure connectivity through the EASSY (The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) the reality on the ground is different. Many academic and other institutions are still faced with access and connectivity challenges resulting in low usage of Internet resources that are essential for OA activities. The ICT facilities and infrastructure remain a big challenge with most libraries still not computerised. Of all the Botswana Library Consortium members, only two members, the Botswana College of Agriculture and University of Botswana have relatively developed ICT facilities. Funding for ICT projects is limited and the number of computers available for use by the students and learners is low.

The libraries must have good ICT infrastructures at local level to be able to develop related projects. Those that are computerised experience periodic breakdown caused by the poor ICT infrastructures.

The infrastructural issues also have to do with low bandwidth which limits institutions on embarking on ICT projects and OA.

Lack of Leadership in Libraries

Libraries are anchors that should embrace and lead the OA activities. Therefore there is a need for a strong and sound leadership that will be able to drive these initiatives. However, Botswana has a big library leadership vacuum that needs to be urgently addressed. The National Library that has been mandated to lead and direct the library growth in the country has no capacity to do so resulting in loss of opportunities that could have improved the sector. This is seen by the traditional library service that continues to dominate most of the libraries in the country; save for the Sesigo project that had to be outsourced.

As government improves and makes available ICT infrastructures, it seems that the leadership is unable to align these improvements to introduce innovative library services. The national ICT policy naturally lacks direction concerning how libraries will benefit and use the new technologies.

Lack of leadership in libraries have negatively affected growth of library professional associations, library policy formulation, budget and financing of libraries, skills and capacity building of librarians, new ideas for innovative library services etc.

And there is not enough engagement of policy makers who are always willing to embrace new developments.

Research Libraries and Building of Knowledge Base

Research activities are related to good libraries that house the research output. There is need for researchers and librarians to work together to create good knowledge base. However at national level the libraries have no relationship with the research community.

Research culture in most institutions is not well developed. Most research activities are carried out by outside consultants and the research output is seldom shared, only to be shelved and collect dust.

Insufficient Budgets

With the economic meltdown most libraries faced insufficient budgets to fund some of the new projects. At institutional or departmental level decision makers do not appreciate the need to budget for library services. The difficulty also lies in the fact that departmental libraries are headed by junior staff who is not involved in decision making especially with regard to budgeting.

Major Projects/Initiatives

There are a number of initiatives that have been undertaken in Botswana, particularly by the University of Botswana, to provide Open Access to institutional research and national research. At the national level, the legal deposit law has designated the National Library Service, the National Archives, and the University of Botswana Library as designated repositories of the nation’s research output and with a mandate to preserve, and provide access for research purposes.

In 2009 the University of Botswana implemented the Digital Repository Policy referred to as University of Botswana Research, Innovation and Scholarship Archive (UBRISA) with a goal of being a research intensive institution through capturing, preserving, and providing free access to the intellectual output of the institution in pursuance of research excellence through a wide dissemination of research findings, hence increasing the national and institutional visibility. Digital operational guidelines have been developed for UBRISA to guide various processes of article submission, copyright clearance, and metadata issues.

University of Botswana continued to participate at OA workshops, which include the UNESCO OA regional workshops hosted by ASSAF in November 2010 and March 2011 to share experiences on benefits of OA for research dissemination, usage, visibility and impact. UB was represented by Dr Mogodisheng B.M. Sekhwela from the Office of Research and Development who presented on the national perspective of OA in Botswana.

The Botswana Library Consortium hosted its first OA advocacy workshop in September 2010 at the University of Botswana organised by EIFL, the University of Botswana, Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) and Public Knowledge Project and funded by Carnegie Foundation and EIFL. The workshop, targeted for researchers, deans, educators, graduate students, journal editors, policy makers, library professionals, was meant to sensitize the audience about OA concepts and the role of institutional repositories.

The 2nd workshop, targeted for library services professionals, was also held at the University of Botswana in August 2011. The workshop was meant to provide hands-on skills to help library professionals to start OA repositories in their libraries. The workshop covered a number of topics which include OA concepts, OA and policy environment, OA repositories platforms/software, digital repositories workflows with specific examples from UBRISA and and staff requirements. BLC FOSS team has been tasked with overseeing the creation of institutional repositories in BLC member institutions.

The event took place within the EIFL-funded national OA advocacy campaign "Advocacy for OA to Researchers/Deans/Graduate Students/Editors/Policy Makers/Educators/Library Professionals" implemented by Botswana Library Consortium and University of Botswana. The workshop is among the strategies of national advocacy campaign to reach out to the research community and policy makers to inform them of the importance of OA.

Art Preservation and Conservation Consultancy has signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative – a major declaration in support of Open Access. 

National and Institutional Level Policies/Mandates

Botswana has responded to the call through the formulation of the National ICT Policy for Botswana to “create an enabling environment for the growth of an ICT industry in the country and provide access to information and communication facilities in the country”. Through the National ICT policy Botswana plans to provide information and knowledge that will help improve livelihoods of Botswana society in terms of socio-economic development. Development of ICT will enhance access to e-governance and local information relevant to communities.

The University of Botswana Digital Repository Policy referred to as University of Botswana Research, Innovation and Scholarship Archive (UBRISA) in alignment with the research policies and the Research Strategy of the University of Botswana. UBRISA is used to capture, store, preserve and provide OA to institutional research output. It is meant to “promote and encourage the dissemination of research findings and increase the visibility of the University of Botswana nationally and internationally in scholarship and knowledge creation, application and exchange” (Digital Repository Policy, 2008). The content of the repository covers various forms that include: peer reviewed published articles, pre-prints, monographs, electronic books, book chapters, vetted conference papers, theses and dissertations, other research outputs that are not necessarily meant for publication, computer programmes, and artistic works. The policy encourages self archiving by university staff, students and their collaborating researchers. Contact details regarding development of UBRISA include botlhole(at)mopipi.ub.bw; UBRISA(at)mopipi.ub.bw; and sekhwela(at)mopipi.ub.bw.

Further, the University of Botswana has developed guidelines on implementation of e-theses to increase the visibility of its research essays, theses, dissertations for masters’ and PhD degree programmes through UBRISA. The guidelines cover issues of intellectual property produced by a student during studies at UB, OA initiative, and roles and responsibilities for submission of the electronic theses/ dissertation, as well as instructions on submission.

The Office of Research and Development (ORD) has implemented a Research Management System (RMS) as a tool to electronically monitor research from proposal to submission of completed papers. The workflows enable easy monitoring of every stage of research including the Library being able to identify completed research for collecting and providing access through the digital repository.

Details of Key Organizations

Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) is currently implementing the projects that include promoting OA, implementing Free and Open Software Systems for digital repositories such as DSpace, and advocating for balanced approachers to Intellectual Property Rights focusing on copyright. The contact person for BLC is Mrs Naniki Maphakwane nmaphakwane(at)bocodol.ac.bw.

Office of Research and Development (ORD), in line with the University of Botswana Research strategy, has a mandate for coordinating and implementing the Research Strategy. ORD coordinates research across Faculties and Centres of Study as well as building research capacity and ensuring quality of research. The contact person for ORD is Dr Mogodisheng SEKHWELA sekhwela(at)mopipi.ub.bw. 

The University of Botswana Library (UBL) is a Learning Resource Center (LRC) providing an integrated learning environment where print and electronic information resources are easily accessible. UBL is responsible for the overall management of UBRISA: populating; metadata quality and adherence to proper copyright standards. UBL mandate is to preserve and provide enhanced access to research output through UBRISA. The contact person for UB Library is Ms Molly Botlhole botlhole(at)mopipi.ub.bw and Ms Oarabile Rakgamanyane rakgamanyane(at)mopipi.ub.bw. 

Past and Future OA Related Activities

The Open Access Leadership Summit of the Southern African Regional Universities’ Association (SARUA) was held in Gaborone, Botswana on the 20-21 November 2007. The Summit brought together the finest minds on Open Access and experienced practitioners. Vice Chancellors were told it is important for Africa to generate new knowledge and contribute to internationally knowledge-based development and innovation. The Minister of Education for Botswana, Jacob Nkate, was giving a keynote address and said that through research and innovation, tertiary education provides the basis for the society to adapt and advance in this era of modern technology. "Open access approaches and models promote universal unrestricted free access to full-text scholarly materials and scientific research via the internet which in turn accelerates knowledge transfer," he said, adding that public good requires the removal of prevention barriers to this research and its publication. (From the EPT blog).

 

 

(Modified on October 2013)

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