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AFRO-NETS> providing journals to developing countries

---------- Forwarded message ----------

We just had a successful Global Health Network meeting at the World Bank, 
lead by Eugene Boostrom from the World Bank.  At the meeting we became 
convinced that it is feasible to break down the scientific information 
blockade for developing countries for not only medical journals, but also 
for the hard sciences, social sciences, agriculture, etc.  Tony Villasenor 
from NASA has developed the plans for a restricted access server which is 
described below.  Moreover, NASA has perhaps the best information on 
connectivity across the world, and Tony has been responsible for much of 
the connectivity in Africa and around the world.  We can bring his 
abilities to help us get essential information into developing countries.  
The timing is right as the British Medical Journal (BMJ No 7074 Volume 314) 
just published an excellent article on the problems of  obtaining 
information in developing countries. Using this methodology the journals 
lose almost nothing as they can provide their articles for free to 
developing countries who do not buy the journals anyway. The journals that 
we have approached have been very positive.  We need to obtain a small 
amount of funding to develop the server, during this time we will approach 
journals to start to have them open up their information to developing 


Patient: Developing Countries

Diagnosis:  Information Deficiency

Prescription:  An Internet Server with Limited Access

As pointed out in the editorial above, the developing world has only limited 
access to information in health.  However, this deficiency cuts  across all 
sectors including agriculture, education, social sciences, the basic 
sciences, etc.  How best can this  condition be corrected?   It can be 
ameliorated through the Internet.

The optimal way to channel journals into developing countries is the 
Internet.  The Internet is rapidly reaching third world nations.  All of 
the major health journals are moving onto the Internet.  Soon one will be 
able to obtain full text articles through the Internet at a price.  
However, the price is too high for developing countries.  Moreover,  
journals are afraid to put their work onto the Internet, thinking that this 
will be accessible to the world for free and that their paid subscription 
base would go down.

There is a solution: a limited access, country-selective Internet server is 
being developed.  Thus the British Medical Journal could permit Uganda, 
Bolivia, and Peru to read the journal on the Internet.  A Journal of 
Agricultural Research might permit Mongolia, parts of the Sudan, and 
Liberia to read their journal, and the American Journal of Psychology could 
be open electronically to Mexico, Rwanda, and parts of Poland.
This system is quite secure in that a person in London could not go 
electronically to Rwanda to read Nature for free.  Preparation cost will be 
very low, because much of the information is already on line or soon will 
be.  This mechanism is just opening up the door to developing countries a 
little bit.  It is unlikely to affect journal revenues, as the countries 
selected would be those to which there are few if any subscriptions, and 
little or no hope of future sales.  It is flexible, in that at any point 
new countries could be added or subtracted and the selection of information 
can be changed on the basis of what articles are called up by people in 
developing countries.  Finally, and  most important, it is humane.
The Global Health Network has already contacted certain Journals in health, 
and 10 have expressed an interest in "opening the door" to developing 
countries, to start the information in journals flowing.  We are 
connecting many countries in Africa, and we have the most up to date, and 
comprehensive data on connectivity. The Global Health Network  will  
continue to approach journals in all disciplines to open the door, as for 
the first time in history we have the opportunity to  bring up to date 
knowledge into the areas that need it the most.

There is the important decision as to what might be delivered into 
developing countries.  One approach would be to have the developed and 
developing countries decide what information might be needed in the 
developing countries.  A second would be to put as much information onto 
the computer as now information transport costs are approaching zero.  A 
third would be to put everything up, and then look to see which articles 
and journals are accessed, then one decides what areas are of most interest 
to developing countries, and these can be expanded, and perhaps those low-
usage areas could be dropped.  It is likely that researching the usage 
patterns will the best approach for determining the type of information of 
most use to developing countries.  This can be readily updated as the usage 
patterns change over time.

By the end of 1997 essentially all journals will be connected, and the 
information will flow.  If you would like to help in this effort, please 
contact a member of the Global Health Network on their home page.

The Global Health Network

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