DIGITAL DIVIDE AS THE GREATEST HURDLE FOR OPENSCIENCE IN AFRICA

UNESCO treats Openscience as a human right issue and its recommendations can help governments, institutions and stakeholders to transition to the emerging Openscience standards ( see UNESCO  recommendations). This is symbolic as it helps to build systems and knowledge infrastructures that are not only for scientists but for facilitating citizens science. There is a remarkable quicker adaptations to the imminent transitions to Openscience culture by developed nations because their societal systems have been advanced compared to their less developed counterparts.

As an Openscience advocate, my biggest concern about Openscience implementation in Africa is the digital divide between Africans and the developed nations. This is the gap between those that have computers and Internet access and those that do not have. There is an ongoing digitisation and digitalisation of knowledge and there is a need to access globally accumulated knowledge in their digital forms.

Associated with the digital divide, data cost in many African countries is probably the costliest consumable in such countries. There are many locations yet to be covered with at least 4G network.  Where Internet is available, network may be so poor that it cannot surf the net effectively, or stream videos required to hold meetings or make presentations with international collaborators.  Meanwhile,  the emerging Openscience global ecosystem requires international collaborations, which Africans can join barring digital divide.

The governments in Africa should urgently implement or work on implementing the recent UNESCO recommendations on Openscience as a strategy to empower their citizens to participate in the upcoming Openscience framework. If the 21st century thrives on knowledge economy,  it follows that the primary preoccupation of African governments is to create a holistic knowledge infrastructures so that their citizens can  participate in Openscience because it will change the configurations of the knowledge infrastructures in the near future.

From entrepreneurship perspective, telecommunication companies (new or existing) that design products to facilitate Openscience in Africa could make huge societal impacts and also reap the economic rewards therefrom. In the UK for instance, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, BT, and other have different unlimited data plans for customers to facilitate Internet access. Africa has a young population that would need Internet access for personal, business and educational purposes. However,  starting with solutions that can grant students and educational institutions Unlimited access to Internet to join up with the world could be pivotal for African telecommunication companies and governments. This could facilitate the link between research,  Innovation and commercialisation of innovations across Africa.

My name is Destiny Chukwuma Ogbonnaya and I am an advocate for Openscience. Read my previous articles and reflections on Openscience as follows:

1. A new world of possibilities- reflecting on OpenCon2018

2. Publishing my PhD work would have cost jaw-dropping 11,832 in open access

3. Openscience: open to who, opened by who?

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