Re: Access-Denial, Impact-Denial and the Developing and Developed World

From: Subbiah Arunachalam <>
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2003 12:21:50 +0100


I read with interest Rahim Rajan's posting to the CSTD-UNIVERSAL list. The
point that the Internet and high bandwidths provide a large enough pipe
but what is important is what flows through the pipe is well taken. Also
all of us will agree that it is not enough to provide the hardware and
Internet connections, but one may also have to think of helping new
users to use them effectively and efficiently. This was the case even
before Internet came on the scene. In the early 1970s I have conducted
several 'user education' programmes at important higher education and
research institutions in India using tape-slide programmes produced by
some polytechnics in the UK. I have also used material produced by the
Chemical Abstracts Service in my programmes.

Unfortunately technological advances have exacerbated the gap between
the advanced countries and poorer countries in the area of scholarly and
scientifc information. One reason for this is the increasing stranglehold
private interests have on the 'content'. Take for instance scientific,
technical and medical (STM) journals. For profit companies control
a large part of the market. The subscription costs of these journals
are increasing at a rate faster than the general inflation rate. As
a consequence even libraries in the United States felt the pain of the
'serials crisis'. Most developing country academic and research libraries
take fewer journals now than before. Except PubMed, no major secondary
service is available for free access on the Internet. Of course, there
are a few contents page services available for free.

This problem of access to literature of science can be solved easily,
but somehow we are not trying hard enough. Ask Stevan Harnad and he will
tell you how by setting up institutional archives and making them all
interoperable (for which the tools and technologies are already available
and at no cost) we can make everyone having access to the Internet
obtain access to all the world's emerging scientific knowledge. Indeed,
he is a true crusader!

One problem would still remain. How are we going to provide inexpensive
Internet access to scientists and scholars in the poor countries? Bruce
Alberts, President of the US National Academy of Science, suggests that even
if it means heavy subsidies we should provide the computers and Internet
connections to ALL scientists. We should persuade organizations like Unesco,
Foundations such as the Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations, and donor
agencies such as DFID and USAID to consider a joint programme that would
provide low-cost Internet access to scientists and scholars in the
developing world. The forthcoming WSIS is a wonderful opportunity to put
forth such a proposal.

Together, archiving all worthwhile research papers in an interoperable
system and providing computers and Internet connections to those scientists
who do not already have them would cost much less than many libraries around
the world subscribing to thousands of toll-access journals. There is the
issue of peer review now provided by journal editors and publishers. But
then, physicists do have informal peer review in the well known archives
'arXiv'. There are also newer models of journal publishing where the costs
of producing and distributing the 'journal' is absorbed by someone on the
authors' side (e.g. the funding agency which supported the research) and the
readers don't pay anything. BioMed Central is a good example.

I have articulated my views on this subject in an article I published in the
Bulletin of ASIST a few months ago.

[Subbiah Arunachalam]

-----Original Message-----
From: Jesus Martinez-Frias []
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2003 10:40 AM
To: UNCTAD - Universal Internet Access
Subject: [CSTD-UNIVERSAL:2] active discussion

Dear colleagues,

I was informed that in our discussion list there are about 60 people,
who represent 20+different countries, the academia, private sector and
governments and NGOs (ICSU). There are also a number of participants
from intergovernmental organisations such as the "Digital Divide" group
from the World Bank, UNDP, UNESCO, IADB, I think it is
important to activate the list and any suggestion or remark will be
welcome. I encourage you all to "break the ice" sharing your experiences,
case studies, practice examples, etc.

Best regards,

Jesus Martinez-Frias
Vice-Chair, UNCSTD
It is estimated that by 2003- almost all decisions made in science and
technology, economics and business development will be based on information
which has been generated electronically. Many experts have stressed that
ICTs are not a magic potion for development or a replacement for real world
processes. But the evidence also suggests that ICTs are opening
opportunities for renewing democracy, promoting innovation, social and
economic development, and making available all citizens with resources and
opportunities previously out of their reach. This is the global scenario in
which the promotion of universal Internet access at affordable costs and
building strategic partnerships in the field of science and technology for
development and capacity building for competitiveness should be constructed.
At present, a great part of the present model for it is based on a USA
centric model. But this should be just a starting point given that, as the
Internet becomes more pervasive outside of the USA, this model will change.
Contributions by many point of view and different "cultures" are crucial to
improve the model, considering the indigenous problems of developing
countries. Inputs from different sources will make the model stronger and
more usable for everyone.

Dr. Jesus Martinez-Frias
Laboratorio de Geologia Planetaria
Centro de Astrobiologia (CSIC-INTA)
Associated to NASA Astrobiology Institute
Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial
Ctra de Ajalvir, km 4
28850 Torrejon de Ardoz, Madrid (Spain)
Tel: +34-91-5206418
Fax: +34-91-5201621
e-mail: <>
Received on Sat Sep 06 2003 - 12:21:50 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:03 GMT