Thinking about path pollution in the context of the developing world

There’s a very interesting article in the latest issue of ACM Interactions, titled Digital Libraries for the Developing World. I think it’s a must-read for people interested in education, in opensource or in the developing world. [While I am a member of the ACM, my access to this article was on a public-domain basis using Google, so I believe I’ve done the right thing in linking to it.]
Written by  Ian H. Witten of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, it makes a number of very important points :

  • The failure of “traditional” publishing and distribution mechanisms in the developing world, in the context of making useful, often critical, public domain information easily accessible
  • The sheer waste this represents
  • Why decoupling publishing and distribution costs from intellectual property charges is an imperative as a result
  • The sheer complexity of dealing with obsolescent software, obsolete hardware, sparse network and internet connectivity and multiple languages
  • The problems of having to design for fixed and removable media
  • The problems of having to design for online and offline
  • The problems of inadequate power
  • The issues that come up in training and maintenance
  • Why opensource software becomes an imperative as a result

Ian, I am told, is Director of the  New Zealand Digital Library Project, which brought us Greenstone. If you haven’t seen what they do, it’s worth a look.

The issues raised by this article are stark, given the backdrop they are painted against. In the developed world, it is sometimes difficult to see all this with the correct perspective. We get hung up over the commercials related to “the internet” and digital rights and intellectual property. The context provided by Ian is a good and pragmatic explanation of why the internet needs to be saved, why paths shouldn’t be polluted, why we have to get DRM and IPR right, why opensource platforms are critical.

The so-called “commercial” world can learn from all this as well. Necessity and Mother and Invention all in the same sentence. Instead of Not and Invented and Here.

Thank you Ian. Thank you ACM.

Let me know what you think

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