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AFRO-NETS> Providing Journals to Developing Countries (2)

Providing Journals to Developing Countries (2)
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Hello Ronald LaPorte,

A couple of days ago I read your posting to AFRO-NETS with a lot of
interest and I feel strongly that I should make certain comments. First,
being a physician and resident in Africa and having taken a keen interest
in the developments in the area of information provision to health sector
in the region, I find your objectives quite fine. However, I would like to
make the following observations about your proposed project:-

1. It is very presumptuous of the existing work on the ground; the
technologic infrastructure; the political background and above all the
prevailing economic circumstances.

2. It further suggests a vertical approach to implementation.

3. It promotes a unidirectional flow of information, from the North to South.

Your proposal principally echoes the objectives of SatelLife as formulated
in the late 80s. Yet, I find it difficult to believe that there is not even
a single mention of the work SatelLife has been doing in Africa for the
last 5 years. Most of the historical facts about SatelLife can be read from
their Web site (http://www.healthnet.org). However, it suffices to state
that SatelLife is now actively working with health workers in about two
dozen nations in Africa providing e-mail connectivity; access to up to-date
medical literature; promoting physician to physician connectivity;
assisting health workers to access the increasing health resources on the
Internet and above all promoting South to South dialogue amongst health
workers.

To have achieved all these, SatelLife has had to carry out information
needs assessments in many of these countries, chosen the appropriate
technology tools, negotiated with several internationally reputed journals
to carry their info, collaborated with local universities, ministries of
health and librarian associations like AHILA among many others. Your
proposal seeks to re-invent the same!

Another very important factor donor groups intending to support real-time
connectivity ought to understand about Africa is that it is too expensive
for health workers. Undoubtedly, where it is affordable this would be the
best way to go. We must be realistic about the technological environment in
Africa.

Your project, as I understand from the exposition below, has no
consideration for a dial-up systems. This is a major drawback because you
risk to reach a smaller financially privileged lot. The way forward is to
set up a server that can be accessed by dial-up as well as real-time users.
And that is the way SatelLife is going.

Just to keep my comments brief, since I will be writing about the same
subject in a different fora, I should hasten to add that any useful
information and connectivity project in Africa today MUST endeavour to make
health information generated in Africa availed to the Africans. Most
research done and published in Africa never gets to the Africans. This is
simply because International journals do not come from this continent. This
is the sad story that we continue to witness today on the CD ROM databases.
Your project does not propose to do anything about this.

I hope my thoughts will help your future direction. I am further willing to
answer any queries.

Fred.
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Dr. Fred Bukachi, MD
SatelLife Regional Director for Africa,
P.O. Box 19387 Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-724543/714757 (Healthnet Office)
Fax: 254-2-724590
E-Mail: fbukachi@ken.healthnet.org

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