Why Open Access Matters for Developing Nations

I know there is a lot of information available on this issue and most of it is based in pretty sound research about the inequalities created by the controlled access model in this knowledge economy or cognitive capital.

My option is based in personal experience rather than hard empirical research. I got involved with Open Access when I decided to launch an open access journal. Since the journal (Pakistaniaat) was about Pakistan, I wanted to make sure that its content was freely available to Pakistanis. This requirement made open access the most rational choice for my publishing venture. And since I was interested in open access, my quest led me first to Open Journal Systems and then, of course, to the larger open access movement. However, in my search for hosting my journal, I learned that while most universities were not willing to give me hosting space (Even my own university sent me on a wild goose chase), those who had commercial hosting platforms, using OJS, were charging quite a lot of money just to host the journals. Now that we have our own hosting platform, I have learned that it does not really cost $1000/year to host a journal especially if you are not providing any special technical help. But to go back to my main point.

Open access is extremely important to developing nations not just in being globally competitive but also in educating their youth. Think of it this way: in humanities, there are about three major controlled databases. They all cost thousands of dollars annually depending upon the bundle that a library orders. Recently, as a project director for a partnership with a Pakistani university, I looked into acquiring one such database, concerning humanities only, for my partner institution. I soon learned that even with the so-called “developing nations” price, we could not afford to purchase the database.

Instead, we went looking for open access journals and are now building a search engine that will collect and offer data from more that 4000 humanities academic journals. This is only possible because thousands of journals are published as open access, some of them from lucrative fields such as medicine and biology.

So, in my personal experience the developing nations will benefit more if they fight for open access and if they challenge every global policy that attempts to enforce the copyright policies of the developed nations. The developed nations are already cognitive economies and most of their profits now are reaped by them  as purveyors of controlled knowledge. So, the fight for open access is not just about the knowledge and access, it is also to ensure that controlled knowledge is not used to maintain the current unjust and lopsided global order in place.

 

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