THU: Digital Inclusion in Sub Saharan Africa (Janet Turner)
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8 January 2017
The Conference presentation will introduce the topic of mobile access to academic journals in sub-Saharan Africa and will aim to address the subject under the theme of inclusion. The question for enquiry is whether students in some higher education establishments in Senegal (Thies), South Africa (Stellenbosch) and Tanzania (Dar-es-Salaam), can read contents of their university libraries on their smart and cell phones. Reading material on a smartphone is a realistic option in terms of time to download material and the available screen area, which can be as much as 20cm. Use of cell phones is unlikely to be significant learning tool, unless used for reading abstracts, short articles and e-mailing small amounts of material.
The ten-minute report will be delivered in two formats. One will be a spoken commentary and the other will be a background of slides. It is expected that the voiced presentation will be accessible to those with low vision, and those who are dyslexic. The slides will be presented as an audience prompt and particularly those with hearing difficulties or where there is a compromised audio connection. It will provide a short explanatory phrase or sentence and offer an element of the voiced commentary.
As it is likely that the research phase will not be completed by 9 February only available evidence will be presented at the conference. This will include statistical information that has not been presented in the poster but was published in the last eighteen months by the Pew Research Centre (2015). Pew’s 2015 data includes accompanying analysis on internet use and ownership of smart and cell phones focusing on a range of African countries. As other data has been released that explores correlations between mobile phone ownership and education, among other factors, that will also be introduced (Pew Research Center, 2015).
While the ownership of cell phones in Africa is reported to be running at the same levels as that in the US at 89%, ownership of smartphones is far more modest, Senegal 15%, South Africa 34%, Tanzania 8% (Pew Research Center, 2015). The three sub Saharan countries each have the services of several commercial telecommunications operators and evidence suggests that the necessary infrastructure is now available, although it may not provide the same speed of use enjoyed for example in some north African countries. The universities libraries which are now the subject of further enquiries all have an internet presence, make journals available electronically and provide e-learning of some description to local populations. Information about their libraries and a proportion of their holdings is available to view and can be compared with information from UK university libraries on resources readable on mobile systems. It is therefore possible to construct an outline of the information students might access electronically. What is not clear from the material and studies already consulted, is if their viewing experience is adequate and is related to their institutional learning.