Librarians, Research scientists and ICT adoption in research institutes in Ghana.

Author:Atiso, Kodjo
Position:Information and Communications Technology - Report
 
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From the 1990s, the world was poised towards witnessing of two important revolutions: first was the fall of the Berlin wall which ended communism in Eastern Europe and Germany with a history of cold war, superpower and European integration, (Maier 1999). The second is the advent of Information and Communications Technology, which came in to impact every aspect of human endeavor. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) a general term that englobes mostly communication devices or applications including radio, television, cellular phones, computers and its networks such as the internet, satellite system and many more services associated with them. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on its part has defines ICT goods as those items:

"intended to fulfill the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission or display, or which use electronic processing to detect, measure, and/or record physical phenomena, or to control a physical process".

As a result of increased communication, this era re-awakened post-colonial Africa as dictatorial regimes were set to suffer a devastating defeat to multiparty democracy, with pressure from Western donors. Consequently, some of these developing countries took bold steps toward embracing ICT as a way of doing business.

Statement of the Problem

The role of Research and Development (R&D) in a developing country is well documented. In this paper, we focus on two groups: librarians and research scientist working in research institutes in Ghana whose work have a direct bearing on R&D in their quest to contribute to national development. Librarians are critical players in the information industry, standing between the information creator and the user. Their actions or inactions can impact information flow positively or negatively which can have a dire repercussion on industry. In this 21st century, the least they require is the right technologies for optimum delivery. Available literature suggests Africa doubled up its research output over the last decade, a move towards knowledge based economy. Working on Africa's scholarly and research contribution, Schemm (2014) writes:

"From 1996 to 2012, the number of research papers published in scientific journals with at least one African author more than quadrupled (from about 12,500 to over 52,000). During the same time the share of the world's articles with African authors almost doubled from 1.2% to around 2.3%."

In a continent abundant in both natural and human resources, the role of science and technology to improve the life of the people must be a priority. Librarians and scientists play a critical role, and need to be equipped with the latest technologies for research and development. However, managing information or seeking it comes with a territory in a developing country like Ghana in terms of challenges associated with conducting library management and information-seeking functions. ICTs have the capacity to change the information landscape in Ghana's research organizations. ICTs could augment traditional library functions such as those of the online public access catalog, reference and bibliographic services, document delivery, current awareness services, and audiovisual services, which may in turn affect users' access and ability to use information. Nonetheless, there are factors that work against the increased adoption of ICTs, which hinders both information management and information-seeking process. These challenges include low funding, poor ICT infrastructure, low bandwidth, intermittent power cuts, and bureaucracy. These factors are not unique to Ghana but are also experienced in many other developing countries.

Significance of the study

Studies on ICT on various sectors have received some attention in the literature, notably Atiso (2007), Badu & Markwei (2005), and Dadzie (2005). Dadzie & Dzandu (2012) investigated the technology's impact on a single population: research scientists. This study on the other hand explores how the technology is accepted amongst our two populations: research scientists and librarians, two prominent professional groups who work together in providing and using information towards R&D in the country. In addition, this paper explores whether indicators as age or qualification have any bearing on ICT adoption on both populations in the selected institutes. The findings, it is hoped, will help Ghana's policy makers in predicting and supporting ICT availability in Ghana.

Background

Ghana is a sovereign state and a unitary constitutional republic since 1992. As a former British colony, the Ghanaian education system was similar to the British education system. In 1962, the Ghana Library Association was founded as an offshoot of the West African Library Association (WALA), to help in the areas of teaching, learning, and research. The association has chalked up several success in regrouping members under one umbrella, organizing continuing education for library workers and above all, providing high level library service by providing leadership and direction for the profession. Despite these achievements, industry professionals the sector is performing below the expected capacity in this century. Lamptey & Corletey (2011), state that the shape of some African libraries in the recent past has not been ideal. As a developing country, funding is of course one of the main challenges. As a result, most libraries, especially rural public libraries, are limited in their abilities to effectively discharge library functions. Poor funding drives other opportunistic challenges. Libraries are unable to fully deliver services due to a lack of infrastructure and/or qualified personnel. Another serious challenge to the library and information profession in Ghana is that of image. Bani (2003) conducted an in-depth study of academic libraries in terms of their image projection in society, and he concluded that the image of libraries or librarians is pretty low. An industry with a low societal image in society has many problems, including the inability to attract highly qualified new entrants, poor remuneration and high attrition rate. Another result of low image is that fundraising becomes more difficult thereby make libraries ultimately remain dependent on central government for funding, which is almost invariably inadequate. Analysts have suggested that the availability of ICTs may help Ghanaian libraries perform at a higher capacity.

The Internet in Ghana

The origins of the Internet can be traced back to 1969, with the development of ARPANET aimed at sharing and communicating information O'Leary (1997). In 1995, Ghana was one of the first countries south of the Sahara to get an Internet connection, and since then there has been a proliferation of Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country. The advent of the Internet has significantly impacted the way librarians and information professionals work. Internets technologies come in handy to collect, store, manage, retrieve and disseminate information (Badu et al, 2005). Abels et al (1996) believe that due to the information age, the library and the information profession is experiencing a drastic transformation whereby materials hitherto available only in print format are now also available in electronic format. Services which were manually done can be done electronically with greater ease and greater capacity for shared labor. In sum, there is a revolution in the information landscape, which affects professionals and users alike. The only way out, is to brace up for the 'new world order' in the new 'information age'.

ICT research in developing countries

Since the inception of ICTs, there has been concern about the position of developing nations in relation to the technology. Whilst some studies opine that developing nations would be marginalized, other studies see a real opportunity for explosion through the technology. Indications are the technology can be a potential boon, if well managed or burden if not given the right attention. Indeed, several sources suggest that current ICTs provide a way for developing countries to leapfrog over developed countries in terms of technology adoption, skipping the middle stages of development to most recent technologies. Hilbert (2014) finds, however, that while access to ICTs is becoming more equal between developed and developing countries, the differences in infrastructure to support ICTs are critical for the digital divide. The literature on this subject continues to receive attention as Avgerou (2008) confirms what we already know: that developing countries lack the finances and infrastructure to fully incorporate ICTs. As a result, mobile telephony is the main ICT in use in most developing countries. Studying this environment, Gilward et al. (2008) state that mobile telephony is the bridge between those who have voice and those who have not. However, they also state that the situation is not the same with the internet, citing cost of communication equipment to assess this facility.

Referring specifically to Nigerian libraries, Nkanu (2007) believes the importance of ICT in libraries is no longer in doubt, but the issue is how to derive the maximum benefit from them. Nkanu argues all aspects of library activities have been affected by ICTs. In most developing nation, the issue is generally similar: the need for infrastructure to make use of ICTs, and more importantly, low funding.

The development and expansion of ICTs has had a great effect on Africa. Howells (1995) says ICTs have been instrumental in research and development, especially for international research networks as evidenced in the various national and international collaborations. Muriithi et al (2013) reveal that there is an increased productivity of scientific collaborations in Kenya as a result of ICTs. Likewise, the Global Information Technology Report of 2013...

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