Corporate social responsibility: challenges of implementing MTN digital libraries in Nigerian universities.

Author:Chigbu, Emmanuel Dickson
Position:MTN Foundation - Report


In 2005, a multinational communication giant in Nigeria (MTN) initiated her Foundation of Corporate social responsibility intervention in three key areas namely: health, economic empowerment and education. The education portfolios include scholarship for outstanding science, engineering and medical students in Universities in Nigeria. It is vital to situate the development of the virtual Libraries they instituted against the backdrop of corporate social responsibility, (CRS). Mac Williams, Siegel and Wright (2004) have defined CRS as "situations where the firm goes beyond compliance and engages in actions that appear to further some social good beyond the interest of the firm. Most corporate law regimes would require every firm to maximize dividend returns to shareholders rather than disperse the firms profit to non shareholders (Friedman 19970). But Carool (1979) provides brooder framework of CSR to include the philosophy of social responsiveness. Along this line of thought, Hopkins (2004) took a perspective look beyond their firm's duty to shareholders and rather brought stakeholders into focus of corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to him stakeholders exist both within a firm or outside it. He perceives the natural environment as a stakeholder. Therefore he saw the wider aim of social responsibility as creating higher and higher standard of living while preserving for peoples both within and outside the corporation (Hopkins 2004).

Stretching this argument the Stewardship theory of CSR argues 'there is a moral imperative for managers to do the right things without regard to how such decision affect the firm's financial performance' (Donaldson, 1990). But the consideration of the firm's financial performance is in issue, because CSR can only be effectively performed from a firm's performance in terms of profit level. The argument is stretched further by Barron (2001) who tried to differentiate socially and privately responsible action. He argues that if the motivation of CRS is to serve society, at the cost of profit, such action is socially responsible but where the action is to serve the bottom line, then it is privately responsible.

Amaeshi et al (2006) provide a critique for CSR. Their study found that "indigenous firms perceive the practice of CSR as corporate philanthropy aimed at addressing socio-economic development challenges in Nigeria". This finding therefore confirms that CSR is a construct that is localized and socially embedded. It is a little wonder that corporate executives in Nigeria define CSR from the perspective of philanthropy. One of the definitions see CSR as "the corporate act of giving back to the immediate and under community in which organizations carry out their business in a manner that is meaningful and valuable and relevant to the community" (Amechi, 2006). This author also stated that CSR is a way a company tries to reach out to their host communities by impacting on their environments positively. It was seen also as a means of saying "thank you" to the community in which the company had operated--to show them a sense of belonging.

The issues that arise from these various positions of scholars are as follows. Is CSR truly a philanthropic initiative of the rich multinationals handing down few carrots of goodwill to the beneficiaries? Are CSR initiatives aimed at promoting some social goods? Is it a payback action designed to give out so little from the so much gain/profit made by firms? Is CSR an economic advancement or empowerment programme? Is CSR intending to translate into corporate economic responsibility (CER)? While all these questions are germane to any discourse on CSR, they cannot all be addressed here. What can be discerned from the literature is that CSR as a concept means different things to different authors. It, nevertheless, has been the approach of many CSR initiatives where firms think they know what the beneficiaries needs are and then strive to provide what can be regarded as CSR solutions. But where these solutions do not solve the beneficiaries' problems, real challenges emerge and new strategies become imperative.

Statement of Problems

One aspect of MTN Foundation education portfolios was the development of digital Libraries. The project consisted of providing 128 networked computers with three server drivers, printers and a 100 KWA power generator. In terms of online resources, the project paid for two years subscription to e-resources--journals, books etc. They installed the enabling environment for research and study. Years into the implementation of this project, it is vital to examine the challenges that the digital libraries in two Nigeria's first generation universities are facing. It is of importance that such an investigation be carried out from the stakeholders' perspective, while at the same time examining the strategies in the light of indentified challenges. This will contribute to the literature of CSR initiated projects.

Purpose of the Study

The general purpose of this study was to investigate the challenges facing the MTN Foundation Digital Libraries in two Nigerian Universities as well as to identify the strategies that would enhance their effective and efficient operation. Furthermore, a critical review of relevant literature enabled the study to be situated in the context of developing countries. This study is therefore significant because the findings will have implication for policy formulation, CSR initiatives and managers of CSR programmes.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided this study:

  1. What are the challenges facing the implantation of digital Libraries of MTN's CSR in two Nigeria Universities?

  2. What strategies could engender the Digital Libraries effective and efficient operation?

Literature Review

The concept of digital library came into existence in the 1990s (Saracevic & Covi 2000) . Brown (2005) traced the origin of digital Libraries to Vannervar Bush's 'memex dream' publication. Citing Lesk who assured that by 2015 "We will have the equivalent of a major research library on each desk. And it will have searching capabilities beyond those Bush imagine." Digital Libraries can be traced to the initiative established through funding in 1994 by the National Science Foundation, the Advanced Research Project Agency, and the National Aeronautics and space Administration in the United States. Under this funding, six U.S Universities were granted a total of $24.4 million for digital library research. The two events that motivated this funding were the sudden explosive growth of the Internet and the development of graphical web browsers (Harter in Brown, 2005). These two developments significantly increased the viability of extending library resources and services beyond their current walls and communities, facilitating the sharing of scarce resources and reaching of under-served populations.

So many definitions have been used to describe this complex information system. Such concepts as virtual Library, Electronic library and library without wall have be used to describe a digital Library. Winifred Lancaster, the Library Science Professor, extended this concept beyond the functions of the Library, using the term paperless society (Brown, 2005). The definition adopted by the American Digital Library Federation appeared most popular to researchers: Clevelan, (1998). Weech, (2007), Issa, Daura and Blessing, (2009). They defined digital libraries as that which "Provide the resources including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities (Waters, 1999: 1).

A digital Library can be understood as an Information Center with no sense of physical location for an end user. The user can access from anywhere and information can be held anywhere. This is characterized by great computer systems and telecommunication systems in the storage and dissemination of Information. A digital Library offers facilities for accessing collections of automated libraries online (Magara, 2000). A variety of phrases has been used to denote this concept such that there is some confusion in understanding it. Cleveland (1998) noted that the Library community has used several different phrases to denote the concept namely: electronic Library, virtual Library, and Library without walls. It was not clear what each of these different phrases meant. He observed, however, that Digital Library is the most current and widely accepted term used at conferences, online and in the literature. Confusion is that the Internet is also seen as a digital Library or a traditional Library (Harter in Brown, 2005). This author noted that the internet has no physical or logical location; no quality control and no entry barriers; no organization scheme, authority control, or surrogates. He added that it had no concept of author and is fluid and transient. It is accessible to everyone but access may require payment and purchase of equipment by the individual user. Daura and Blessing (2009) corroborated the fact that there are many definitions of digital libraries and that term such as "electronic Library" and virtual Library are often used synonymously.

Digital Library Development in Nigeria

Serious application of information technology to library process started in Nigerian University Libraries in early 1990s. The National Universities Commission (NUC) spearheaded the implementation and use of ICTS in Nigerian University Libraries. Akintunde (2010) traced the development of ICT at the University of Jos to 1998 when the University benefited from the University of Iowa e-Grannary digital Library. The e-Grannary Digital Library was an off-line educational information store. It was...

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