Friday, June 26, 2009

Connectivity and Research Dissemination in Malawi (My speech at TERENA Conference)

I am Kondwani Wella, the College Librarian of Kamuzu College of Nursing here in Lilongwe. Kamuzu College of Nursing was the first home of UbuntuNet Alliance! Here we provide high quality nursing education up to MSc level. Extending learning opportunities beyond our walls through e-learning is an important component of our plans.

As librarians, our work is to assist students, lecturers and researchers to access research information. To achieve this we subscribe to a wide range of electronic journals. The success of the electronic journal service depends on the availability of good connectivity. The challenge that faces most institutions in Malawi is to contribute to Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO) towards electronic journal subscriptions and at the same time buy adequate bandwidth to support the service.

While the international and African electronic journals we subscribe to include research information from Malawi, the strategic direction is for us to create institutional and national repositories. Several Colleges especially in the University of Malawi have started building institutional repositories. While the repositories will improve the visibility of researchers and their institutional, the research information contained therein is an important national and international resource. Therefore, availability of reliable and affordable connectivity will add value to the repositories.

These two examples are demonstrating how reliable and affordable connectivity can influence research in Malawi by improving access to research information. The Malawi NREN, MAREN is working to provide excellent Internet connectivity for the Tertiary Education and Research Sectors in Malawi primarily through the fibre that is coming. MAREN has raised high expectations among librarians, researchers, students and faculty as it builds on the VSAT project implemented by MALICO, which provided connectivity but at a cost beyond the means of the institution.

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