Providing Access to Electronic Theses and Dissertations: A Case Study from Togo
Open access has become a significant part of scientific communication. With regards to dissemination of scientific production, the green road, i.e. self-archiving of scientific work in an open access repository, is often considered as the choice for developing countries because of lower investment and operational costs. This paper will provide a review of relevant literature on the topic, followed by a short overview of open repositories in sub-Saharan African countries, a region facing serious political, economic and social challenges. The main section will present a project for the digitizing of PhD theses of two universities in Togo, and we will then discuss questions and problems related to the specific conditions of the project, in order to contribute to the understanding of the dynamics and rich diversity of the open access movement. Is there an option for sustainable development of open access in these countries? The future will show whether open access contributes to reducing the digital divide between sub-Saharan Africa and other countries or whether it will instead consolidate this divide.
Open access, defined as "a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community"1, has become a significant part of scientific communication. Today, digital scientific literature articles, dissertations, communications, book chapters and other papers is increasingly freely available online via open repositories (green road) and/or open access journals (gold road). Freely available means, "free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions" (Suber, 2012, p. 4).
The access principle (Willinsky, 2005) is generally considered as a global movement, without national or regional frontiers. Open access to scientific information includes research from developing countries. Under the open access perspective, the scientific world often appears as if it were already a global village with the same cultures, technologies and infrastructures. Yet what may be right and desirable on an abstract level, as an idea or goal, can be misleading on the field because of different conditions and needs.
Peter Suber, one of the leaders of the world-wide open access movement, acknowledges the access gap in scientific information ("serials crisis") as a global problem particularly alarming for developing countries: "Several Sub-Saharan African university libraries subscribed to zero, offering their patrons access to no conventional journals except those donated by publishers" (Suber, 2012, p.31). Also, he regards the need for open access to scientific information as most pressing in developing countries.
The need for open access means on the one hand that scientific communities need access to scientific information for their research and teaching activities, as a matter of content accessibility, infrastructures and computer networks, hardware, information behaviour, digital divide and awareness.
On the other hand, the need for open access also means, the dissemination of local scientific production on the Internet, "free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions", via the green or the gold road, or both. Here, questions are more about visibility and impact, referencing, access to publishing technologies and communication channels, attitudes toward open access and copyright.
With regards to this second aspect dissemination of scientific production the green road, i.e. self-archiving of scientific work in an open access repository, is often considered as the choice for less wealthy institutions and developing countries because of lower investment and operational costs.
Our paper will focus on this second aspect. We will provide a review of relevant literature on the topic, followed by a short overview of open repositories in sub-Saharan African countries, a region facing serious political, economic and social challenges. The main section will present a project for the digitizing of PhD theses of two universities in Togo, and we will then discuss questions and problems related to the specific conditions of the project, in order to contribute to the understanding of the dynamics and rich diversity of the open access movement.
The crucial role of scientific and technical information (STI) in the development of countries in Africa is highlighted by different authors and institutions. For instance, Justin Chisenga from the FAO Regional Office for Africa insists that STI "could assist in finding solutions to most of the problems, such as inadequate food supply, poverty, water pollution, diseases, environmental degradation, deforestation, and many others besieging the continent today (...) It is an indispensable factor in the rational use of natural resources, scientific and technological advancement, progress in agriculture, industry and services" (Chisenga, 2006). Citing a UNESCO statement, he adds "assimilation of scientific and technological information is an essential precondition for progress in developing countries".
"Information is essential to meeting challenges" (McBean, 2005). But STI is not enough. Other conditions must be met for STI to become "assimilable", e.g. information literacy, technological capacity and financial resources (ibid.). A recent overview of African STI initiatives underlines the role of physical infrastructures (Derfoufi, 2012). Her survey on Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal shows that even if the offer of STI increased because of open access and international initiatives such as HINARI, access remains fragile. The reasons are expensive (or lacking) connectivity, insufficient hardware, frequent electricity cuts, non-optimal coordination between national and regional infrastructure projects etc. The same factors are mentioned by Lor & Britz (2010) in their critical reflection on the notion of access to knowledge: "sub-Saharan Africa lags far behind other regions of the world in internet access (...) Copyright restrictions and linked fees for access may be too expensive for the user."
Inadequate funding of libraries is another problem because low financial support reduces the libraries' capacity of resource acquisition and of spending for the development of an efficient relevant information technology infrastructure inside the library computers, telephones, networks, software etc. and of professional training programs for the library staff (Ani et al., 2005). Together, these and other factors create and maintain a digital divide that challenges economic development (Mutula, 2005, 2008). However, Mutula reveals another aspect of what he describes as "under-utilization of available infrastructure facilities" and calls for "application programs (that) should fit in well with the cultural realities and sensitivity of the people of Africa" (ibid).
Education and training of information professionals is essential for the development of information literacy, but also resource sharing and development of shared standards. Kavulya (2007) highlights the need "to train information professionals in the management of electronic information by giving them skills such as designing and administration of electronic networks, electronic reference services, skills for electronic information literacy teaching, and evaluation of internet information. Even more important would be training in digital library management activities such as supply models, searching, downloading, document delivery, archiving, software, copyright, licensing and managing and access." The adjustment of international programs to local conditions has been described in terms of re-contextualization, internalization and "indigenization" that "give rise to the need to address the local environment in the discourse of knowledge society" (Magara, 2010, see also Chan et al., 2011).
How does this political approach apply to the open access movement? With regards to developing countries, Mavodza (2013) distinguishes between open access as a tool to access (and consume) scientific information and as a way to disseminate national or institutional research output (production) but doesn't discuss aspects of "indigenization". In her case study on Uganda's Makerere University, Kakai (2009) describes initiatives to improve the visibility of local papers and projects on the Internet, addressing specific local conditions as problems or opportunities for the dissemination of research results. Alongside with publishing in OA journals, Kakai suggests the creation and diffusion of metadata via websites, catalogues and databases. She also outlines a policy on the submission of ETDs that includes a digitization program for print documents and a mandatory approach or at least, implementation guidelines and procedures for self-deposit and voluntary archiving of digital files (ibid).
The question of re-contextualization, in terms of local contents and conditions for open access is tackled by Ezema (2013) in his survey on institutional repositories in Nigeria. In particular, he reveals lack of awareness and lack of required skills by researchers and librarians as main barriers to open access and argues for an acquisition policy in favour of local content materials, especially theses and dissertations but also other types of grey literature. The self-deposit of academic publications in open archives is generally considered as the cheapest and quickest way to increase accessibility, visibility and impact of research output of developing countries (Derfoufi, 2012). But what do we really know about this research output, especially on academic publications?
"African countries produce plenty of research papers, although many appear in local journals. Those published in internationally visible journals are often produced in collaboration with researchers in other countries and focus on areas such as public health and agriculture" (Nordling, 2010). Some figures: "Between 2004 and 2008, Nigerian scientists were co-authors on nearly 1% of agricultural science papers published in international journals, and Kenyans co-authored nearly 0.5% of the world's immunology papers and more than 0.3% of environment/ecology papers. Overall, scientists across the whole of Africa publish about 27,000 papers in international journals per year, which is only about the same volume as the Netherlands, although the African number has doubled since 1998" (ibid) 2.
Nevertheless, a significant part of the scientific research output from Africa does not find its way into the world's well-established international scientific journals. One part is published in the small number of local journals with often poor distribution and visibility. And the rest is grey literature, i.e. "unpublished information and knowledge resources such as research reports, theses and dissertations, seminar and conference papers (often) produced in limited numbers, and with limited circulation even within the institutions where they are produced" (Chisenga, 2006). This statement consolidates Ezema's conclusion about the interest and professional support of theses and dissertations as main local content source that should be valorised through acquisition mandates and deposit in institutional repositories (Ezema, 2013).
Open repositories in sub-Saharan countries
Open archives, in particular institutional repositories are considered to be valuable for African research and development because "they can offer instant access to information and knowledge resources being generated on the continent. The universities and research institutes in Africa are the major centres of research and consequently the major generators of research based data, information and knowledge. The scientific and technological information and knowledge which they are generating should be easily accessible, and the creation and use of institutional repositories could be the first step in this process" (Chisenga, 2006). They could increase the visibility, accessibility and impact of African research and help to maintain and preserve (the) scientific production (see also Chalabi & Dahmane, 2012). In other terms, "open access should be viewed in Africa as a development imperative" (Nwagwu, 2013).
But the reality is different. The international OpenDOAR directory of open access repositories3 contains only 57 repositories from fifteen sub-Saharan countries. South Africa is listed with 25 sites. Together with Kenya (seven) and Nigeria (six), it represents 67% of all sub-Saharan open archives while the other countries count three or less sites. Several other sub-Saharan countries about two thirds have no open repositories at all; at least, they are not recorded by OpenDOAR.
Most of these repositories are institutional archives, created for the deposit of the scientific production of a local institution, e.g. a university or a research structure. DSpace (MIT) is the software of two thirds of all sites, followed by Eprints from the University of Southampton and the Greenstone digital library software developed by the New Zealand University of Waikato in cooperation with UNESCO and the Human Info NGO.
Nearly all sub-Saharan repositories (more than in other regions) are multidisciplinary but there are also specialised platforms, for instance from the University of Ghana (history and archaeology), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (agriculture, food and veterinary) or the Sudan Libraries & Information Association (library and information sciences).
The most frequent language of these repositories is English. Yet there are some servers with French, Afrikaans (Dutch), Portuguese, Arabic or Amharic content or interface. Most repositories hold several content types. Two thirds hold journal articles and electronic theses and dissertations, one half holds conference proceedings but one can also find multimedia files, unpublished works, learning objects and datasets. Compared to other regions, repositories with ETDs and conferences are slightly overrepresented.
Thirty-nine repositories (= 68%) contain electronic theses and dissertations, a percentage that may reflect the focus of universities on "digitising and providing access to (...) ETDs rather than setting up full-scale institutional repositories" (Chisenga, 2006). These are mainly multidisciplinary institutional repositories, often with DSpace and in English4.
Even if OpenDOAR may not be exhaustive, it is acknowledged as the most representative international directory, compared to alternative lists like ROAR, BASE or the Webometrics ranking list of world repositories. The sub-Saharan repositories represent only 2.5% of the OpenDOAR database. This is very few compared to other continents and regions (Europe 48%, North America 21%, Asia 17%, South America 8%), and is roughly at the same level as India, Canada or Taiwan.
The Togo context
Togo is a small tropical country in West Africa, with a land area of 56,785 km2, a population of 7.1 million (population density 125 pop/km2), a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 1,096$ and an annual real GDP growth of 3.1% (average over 2003-2011).5 Togo is bordered by Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin and has a short coastline with the Gulf of Guinea. The country is a member of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. The official language is French. Its economy is dominated by agriculture (cocoa, coffee, cotton...) and phosphate mining. A free trade zone has been opened in the port of Lomé, Togo's largest town and capital.
Togo has two public universities (University of Lomé and Kara University) and two private universities (University of Science and Technology of Togo and the Catholic University of West Africa-University of Togo Unit). The University of Lomé' maintains faculties of sciences and medicine and schools of engineering and agriculture. The two public universities comprising 56,000 students (2012-13) are part of the Network for Excellence in Higher Education in West Africa (REESAO), a francophone institution6. The REESAO was established on 11 October 2005 in Lomé in order to promote a new policy of university cooperation, with priority emphasis on the modernization of the supply of university education in order to facilitate the mobility and employability of students. Member universities should also increase their efficiency, become regional centres of excellence and support their country's development.
Created in 1965, the National Institute of Scientific Research is the central scientific coordinating body. "Several French research institutes have branches in the capital, and there are pilot farm projects throughout the country. In 1987-97, expenditures for research and development totalled 0.5% of GNP. For the period 1990-2001, there were an estimated 102 scientists and engineers (same level as in Kenya or Nigeria), and 65 technicians engaged in research and development per million people7." Many academic teachers come from bordering countries or from Europe.
Describing current strategies "for bridging the digital divide in sub-Saharan Africa", Mutula (2008) mentions with regards to Togo, the ECOWAS information and communication technology policy framework promulgated in 2006 in Lomé which includes "harmonizing national ICT policies and plans, developing an enabling environment, building a regional infrastructure/backbone, and developing local content and financing mechanisms for the information society."
Togo is also part of the HINARI program group A countries. HINARI is a public-private partnership sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), with access to a large collection of biomedical and health literature (11,400 e-journals, 18,500 e-books, and 70,000 other sources such as seminars, databases or encyclopaedias). Via HINARI, six Togolese institutions have free access to selected medical e-journals and databases8. Other institutions have free access to e-journals etc. via the AGORA9 and OARE10 programs.
Scientific output: In 2009, the Scopus database contained 58 publications signed by Togolese scientists. Again, this is a small number compared to the leading countries by output - Kenya, Nigeria or South Africa; but when indexed against GPD, Togo performs quite well, and is at the same level as Nigeria. "Indexing output against GDP provides further interpretation (...) South Africa (and) Kenya (...) all have significant relative productivity, as do a number of other countries in East Africa (Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania) and West Africa (Cameroon, Ghana)" (Adams et al., 2010). Co-authorship analysis shows collaborations with the francophone countries Benin, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast (Irikefe et al., 2011). "A West Africa group (Benin-Togo) pivots around Cameroon, a relatively research-productive country. The common factor within this group is almost certainly their common use of French as the cross-national business language" (ibid.).
In June 2013, the Scopus database indexed 453 documents signed by authors affiliated to the University of Lomé, most of them journal articles in agricultural and biological sciences and in medicine written in English (71%) or French (28%), with an increasing annual output of around 60 papers today.
According to the major international directories OpenDOAR and ROAR, Togo has no academic open archive so far. Also, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) does not index any Togolese title. Only one PhD thesis from Togo seems available via the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) and the search engine Scirus, even if others may be hidden in open repositories like TEL (HAL) for instance, when co-directed by French and Togolese scholars.11 Togo also joined the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD)12 but does not seem to be really integrated so far.
Some final remarks on the two main academic libraries: The library of the University of Lomé was created in 1970 with four departments (law, sciences, medicine, and humanities13). Since 1987, all collections are stored in a new main building, except for agronomy, education, medicine and pharmacology. Today, the central library conserves about 70,000 documents books, journals, reference works, theses and dissertations and other grey literature, such as report collections from the European Union, the World Bank, the International Labour Office and UNESCO. The library also holds a special collection on Togo.
The library of Kara University three departments in social sciences and humanities, economics, management and political sciences was created in 2004 from a collection of the former National Institute of Education. It is a small academic library, designed for 1,500 students on the campus.
The "Theses@Togo" project
The following section will present the main characteristics of an open access project that was submitted to the Togo ministry of higher education in 201314. The project is conceived as a follow-up to the automation and computerization of both libraries of Lomé and Kara Universities. In fact, both libraries implemented an integrated library system with three modules (cataloguing, circulation, OPAC). While Lomé opted for the UNESCO database software CDS/ISIS and GenISISWeb for web publishing in 2004, Kara chose the French PMB software (PhpMyBibli). But so far neither of the two libraries has set up a digital archive, a document or publication service. At the moment, the universities of Togo are implementing a new information system for the management of students, programs, budget etc. in order to comply with the three-cycle Bologna process (BA, Master, doctoral degree). This major project is the opportunity to introduce new technologies of information and communication to the libraries in order to share resources and facilitate access (including new workspace such as internet cafés), and to submit the present/existing digitization program.
The main objective of the project called "Theses@Togo" is to contribute to the visibility, accessibility and impact of the Togo scientific output. It is a project primarily on the supplier side of scientific communication, in order to improve the dissemination of academic papers. More specifically, the project is meant to promote the PhD theses of the Togo academic holdings, to facilitate their dissemination to a wide audience, to raise awareness about published topics and prevent plagiarism, to solve the problem of physical deterioration of documents and ensure better protection and conservation of this scientific heritage, to facilitate reproduction of print copies (print-on-demand), to support and encourage research by PhD students and scholars, and to valorise young scientists and jury members. Also, this project should increase the impact of PhD theses and scientists from Togolese universities and their number of citations, and help, through distant and multiple accesses, prevent problems of interlibrary loan and empower users. The project should also contribute to the resource-sharing program of the REESAO countries. In fact, the project is a mix of dissemination, conservation and scientific marketing that reaches far beyond simple documentation choices.
Why PhD theses? "Theses and dissertations are the most useful kinds of invisible scholarship and the most invisible kinds of useful scholarship. Because of their high quality and low visibility, the access problem is worth solving" (Suber, 2012). They represent an institution's research activities, and often they contain the results of at least three years of individual scientific work, accomplished in a laboratory, a research team or an institute, school or company. They are produced and published by universities as part of so-called academic grey literature (Juznic, 2010), considered as "library material" and disseminated in limited numbers outside of commercial publishing, with a specific legal status. As stated above, they have special interest for African countries as a significant part of their scientific output.
Also, "sharing theses and dissertations that meet the school's high standard reflects well on the institution and benefits other researchers in the field" (Suber, 2012). Each year, the University of Lomé delivers PhD diploma in social sciences and humanities, applied sciences, sciences, technology and medicine. The PhD theses are deposited at the university library of Lomé, some with a copy for Kara. Their total number is estimated at 8,325 theses, with altogether about 16,650 copies in Lomé and Kara. All these documents are only available in print format. This raises the issue of accessibility and preservation. It should be noted that users of academic libraries often face difficulties to access some of these items. Those especially from the University of Kara often face difficulties in accessing theses of which the Lomé library has only one copy. Also, sometimes interlibrary loan requests are not fulfilled on the grounds that the only remaining copy at the Lomé library is deteriorated and/or excluded from interlibrary loan.
So far, university libraries of Togo have no gateway or federate portal that could serve as a single point of entry to their bibliographic records and information resources. There is no document server either. Therefore, the project must include the implementation and configuration of an open access platform. After a benchmarking and a feasibility study, a decision was taken in favor of the DSpace software.15
Why DSpace? Since 2002, this open source software has proven its worth, reliability and evolutivity. Developed by MIT and the HP Labs, the system is regularly updated; the most recent release is 3.1. It is free of charge, easy to download and to implement, and the set-up options satisfy most of the basic needs of an open repository. DSpace is already the software of nearly two-thirds of all African open repositories which facilitates exchange of experience and know-how with the DSpace community. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, three countries (Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal) use DSpace for the dissemination of their PhD theses, conference proceedings and other scientific papers.
The software will be installed on a server at the University of Lomé, independent of the library system. The new service and its content will be referenced in international directories and discovery tools, such as the NDLTD gateway or DATAD, and metadata harvesting will allowed through the OAI-PMH protocol.
All documents will be digitized on site in the library of Lomé. This will largely simplify the management of the circulation of items and reduce the risk of losing documents.
The first step will be an inventory of the PhD theses under consideration. So far, there is no catalog or inventory for these items. Some theses of the Lomé holdings are unique copies; others are held in two or more copies. Also, we have no precise information about binding and paper quality, number of pages, complementary materials, color photographs, maps, etc. Along with the main bibliographic information, this inventory should contain at least the following elements: number of pages, existence of special pages (maps etc.), digitizing option (see below) and subject (Dewey classification). Also, the inventory should support the workflow management and the follow-up and reporting of the whole project.
The project recommends two different ways of digitizing (destructive/non destructive): unique items should be digitized with a book scanner (non destructive) while items with two or more copies in particular copies of theses held by the Kara library could be processed with a high speed scanner (destructive), except for items with bad or fragile paper quality that do not allow for this kind of feeding.
In order to reduce the size of scanned files, the project recommends scanning with 300dpi and in black and white, except for special materials, and to produce the image files in TIFF format (when in colour, in JPEG), for preservation. The quality of all image files should be controlled and if necessary, enhanced with the usual software. In order to allow indexing and searching in the full text, the project also recommends producing text files with non-corrected OCR and depositing PDF text files along with the image files. The deposit includes the creation of metadata on the DSpace server.
Metadata and indexing
A set of descriptive and administrative metadata is assigned to each item, together with a persistent identifier (URI, handle...). Every item is represented in an indexed form that employs the means and methods of the non-qualified Dublin Core element set. This minimum dataset includes thesis title in French and English, university, academic department, year of defence, grade, the student's name, the full names of the members of the jury, abstract and keywords in French and English, number of pages, date of deposit. A verbal subject indexing with uncontrolled keywords is done for every document, and all items should be classified with the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC).
The project team will then produce a written policy containing the indexing regulations for documents and define who does the indexing (library staff, or the authors in case of self-deposit, or if it is done automatically). Later, these metadata should be mapped to the French rich and standardized TEF metadata format in order to enhance interoperability.
These metadata will be available for access, exchange and harvesting through an OAI-PMH compliant interface on the DSpace platform.
The DSpace platform will contain at least five indexes, allowing for browsing items by title, author, issue date, subject, and community (institution) with sub-communities if wanted/needed (for instance, University of Lomé, faculty of sciences), perhaps also by collections in communities (institutions). This may be settled definitively during the inventory of theses. Anyhow, most important is the standard and feasible character of metadata and indexing.
Planning and budget
The first part of the project includes 3,500 PhD theses from 2000 to 2010, from all disciplines held by the Lomé university library, some with a copy on the Kara campus.
The preparation of the project validation of technical aspects, acquisition of equipment, staff training, inventory, and tests should be completed between September 2013 and April 2014. Production should start in May 2014 and continue until April 2015 when it will be evaluated against the defined objectives and adjusted, if necessary.
The best projects are worthless if they are not realistic. As Mutula (2005) recalls, "in sub-Saharan Africa, most university research and development is under-funded". Therefore, this project builds on existing resources (equipment, infrastructures, and human resources) and on limited investment. The overall project budget for the first year has been estimated at 65,000 Euros. This budget will cover the following expenditures:
The preparation of the project and its risk analysis reveal a couple of challenges, some of which are specific to the sub-African context.
PhD theses are works of the mind and protected by intellectual property rights (Schöpfel & Lipinski, 2012). Thus, scanning and dissemination on the Internet are subject to prior authorization. The project team will try to obtain a licence for each thesis. In case of refusal or no reply/response (orphan works), access to the digital files could be limited to the academic campus.
The project suggests dissemination on the Internet not only free of charge (gratis open access) but also free of some copyright and licensing restrictions ("libre" open access, cf. Suber, 2012). This means minimal protection, mainly limited to moral rights (citation of source and author name, integrity of the work...) but relative freedom in subsequent reuse. The priority is clearly on dissemination and impact of the local scientific output.
Nevertheless, there may be another problem with intellectual property. As Chisenga (2006) points out, there may also be a general concern, "based on the history of exploitation of indigenous knowledge from Africa by the West, that if outputs of scientific research in Africa, i.e. research into plant medicine, are made accessible via institutional repositories and Open Access archives, the West will exploit the knowledge for commercial gain without compensation to the institutions/countries that generated the knowledge". As a result, it may be difficult to convince some scientists and institutions to provide open access to some kinds of content.
We already talked about inadequate technical infrastructure. "Development and provision of access to institutional repositories and Open Access archives requires access to adequate ICT facilities, especially the Internet and intranets through which access to the resources is provided. Although Internet access is now widely available on the continent, the speed and reliability of Internet connections is a major challenge faced by most institutions" (Chisenga, 2006). For some structures, this may include a problem of reasonable pricing.
But there are other questions related to infrastructures that have to be addressed, such as uninterrupted power supply (Ani et al., 2005), the link to the local library system, the integration into a regional or international network, workflow management, and long term preservation. This last point is crucial for the future of open access and the solution may not be found on a local or national level but together with other countries from the region, or with institutions from the francophone network.
No open access project can survive without institutional support. Institutional support is a key success factor and crucial for global information management strategy (policy), funding, and provision of resources (staff, hardware, infrastructure, office space, etc.). Two institutional levels can be identified for this project: the universities of Lomé and Kara, and the university libraries, with specific and different roles. The Togo public universities started to develop policies and strategies supporting the management of digital information resources. These strategies include support for open access in general and for an institutional repository for their theses and dissertations in particular. What is needed now is an explicit policy that will encourage or request deposit of research output (mandate), following other African models16.
The library support is essential for the preparation and management of the project. The project team is part of the library staff. Digitizing, deposit and preservation will be realized in the library facilities, with library material and collections. And it is also essential for funding. In the past, lack of funds has been put forward to explain the low uptake of institutional repositories. "Digitization projects, especially when they involve retrospective digitization of printed documents, are time and labour intensive and generally expensive. A large number of institutions, especially public-funded institutions in Africa, including many public universities and research institutes, do not have the staff with relevant skills and money to implement digital institutional repositories" (Chisenga, 2006).
Chisenga's statement is corroborated by Irikefe et al. (2011): "(...) interviews with scientists and governmental officials across sub-Saharan Africa suggest that funding levels remain low. (But) money is just one of many problems (...). Many labs are poorly equipped (...) Financial and logistical support for science is typically divided between many ministries with little coordination (...). Even when research is successful, it is hard to push developments to the marketplace. And poor governance from corruption to ineffective bureaucracy stymies progress in many nations".
Again, the context in Togo appears to be more favourable, and the development of a new Higher Education system may be the right opportunity to obtain institutional support and funding from universities and libraries. Yet, the project management must be aware of uncertainty and risks related to acquisition of hardware and software, to characteristics of items in the holdings, and to infrastructure, and should adopt an agile, highly flexible, reactive and interactive approach, able to anticipate and to adapt to upcoming problems.
A couple of years ago, Chisenga (2006) criticized a general lack of awareness and understanding of the concepts of open access in Africa: "The new trends are not filtrating into the continent due to lack of adequate advocacy and appropriate capacity building relating to these technologies. Many people still do not know about the Open Access Initiative". Due to political and scientific efforts, the environment started to change and today, research scientists, policy makers and information professionals appear better prepared "to push for investment and development of digital-based information repositories and services" (ibid).
Yet, in order to achieve and maintain community support and acceptance, the project team must be clear on the significance of community. For whom are they working? Who are the users? Several community levels seem entangled: the students and scholars on the local Lomé and Kara campuses, the Togo Higher Education and research community, the West African academic network REESAO, French-speaking countries, the network of African universities... Will the project team seek support from the worldwide ETD community (NDLTD), the DSpace network, and/or the Electronic Information for Libraries initiative (EIFL)?
The answer to this question is not irrelevant and will impact the selection of metadata, classification and indexing, referencing and communication. Also, the strategy of advocacy and information about deposit etc. will depend on the choice of community. One particular concern will be the need to adapt Western standards to the local and regional framework and the care for what has been called "indigenization", for local solutions that may be different from occidental/western models and initiatives. In this context, the main argument should be valorisation of local content and finding solutions for local problems.
As Peter Suber (2012) states, "the basic idea of OA is simple". Yet, our case study suggests that in spite of the global nature of open access, the challenges and solutions are local. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, open access projects should take care of regional or country-based priorities and specific partnerships and communication strategies (McBean, 2005). We can learn from global experiences but need to adjust them to local conditions.
This means that first of all, any project must clearly define its priority. Is it access to scientific information? Is it to increase the impact of local production? Or is it development of regional capacity for research and higher education? Is it a solution for local problems with poor holdings, preservation and interlibrary loan? Or is it all of them?
Second point, any project must be aware of the need for advocacy in favour of digital information and open access, especially for local content. Confronted with major economic and social challenges, for most of the sub-Saharan countries research may not be the political priority of the moment. Nevertheless, for all of them open access to scientific information appears to be an option of choice to foster scientific development and integration with the global research community. "Advocacy (...) should target government policy makers, senior management in universities and research institutes, research scientists, and library and information professionals. The importance and need for self-archiving and benefits of open access should be made clear (...)" (Chisenga, 2006).
Third, perhaps more than in other countries, advocacy must be accompanied by capacity building "in digital information management (...) including available standards for archiving electronic information resources (and) copyright issues" (ibid). International organizations like FAO or IFLA may play a significant role but the potential support of other networks (OA, ETD...) and local communities should not be underestimated, neither should the negative impact of intermittent foreign funding be limited.
Is there an option for sustainable development of open access in these countries? Are open repositories a solution for major local problems like language barriers, long-term preservation, funding and infrastructures? Or is the open foundation just another expression of occidental/western cultural and scientific values, ill adapted to local specificities? The future will show whether open access contributes to reducing the digital divide between sub-Saharan Africa and other countries or, at least, between the West African region and South Africa, or whether it will instead consolidate this divide.
Acknowledgments to Hélène Prost for her helpful advice. The paper was prepared with support from the French National Digitization Centre for PhD Theses, ANRT Lille.
1 Berlin declaration on Open Access to Scientific Knowledge of 22 October 2003.
4 See also the typical profile of an African open repository following a recent survey from the Algerian CERIST (Chalabi & Dahmane, 2012): university-based, English language, institutional type, multidisciplinary, less than 2,000 items, most often with theses and dissertations, DSpace software, submission by author, no statistics.
6 Réseau pour l'excellence de l'enseignement supérieur en Afrique de l'Ouest".
8 Centre de Formation en Santé Publique, Centre de Perfectionnement en Soins Infirmiers de l'Hôpital Baptiste Biblique, Ecole Nationale des Auxiliaires Médicaux, Faculté Mixte de Médecine et de Pharmacie, Herbier National du Togo, University of Lomé'.
9 Content in agriculture by FAO: Campus numérique francophone de Lomé, Ecole Supérieure d'Agronomie, Université de Lomé, Ecole Supérieure des Techniques Biologiques et Alimentaires.
10 Content in environment by UNEP and Yale University: Campus numérique francophone de Lomé, Campus numérique de l'université de Lomé, Herbier National du Togo.
13 With the holdings of the former Higher Education Institute of Bénin.
14 The project was prepared by Maebena Soukouya as part of his LIS Master studies at the university of Lille (France), supervised by Henri Stiller and Joachim Schöpfel.
16 ROARMAP, the Southampton repository of open access policies provides mandates from eight African institutions, including the Covenant University (Nigeria), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and University of Nairobi (Kenya) and the universities of Johannesburg and Pretoria (South Africa).
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All databases, directories and websites were accessed in June and November 2013.
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