Digitization Initiatives and Knowledge Management: Institutionalization of E-Governance in Teaching, Learning and Research in East African Universities

Digitization Initiatives and Knowledge Management: Institutionalization of E-Governance in Teaching, Learning and Research in East African Universities

A. M. Chailla (Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania), F. W. Dulle (Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania) and A. W. Malekani (Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-230-5.ch017
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Digitization initiatives and Knowledge Management have become a part and parcel of each other in the changing global information society. Where as Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge, digitization initiatives refer to either jointly or collaborative efforts to translate existing library holdings whether in print, graphical, audio or combination of all, into digital format commonly known as electronic resources. Digitization initiatives have become a corner stone for KM in today’s electronic environment. The term ‘digital library’ emanates from ‘digitization’ referring to the libraries where some or all of the information sources are available in electronic format and are made available electronically over the Internet for user access. East African university libraries, through digitization should provide coordinated access to digital information contained within their libraries creating conducive electronic environment in all universities for access to e-resources and provision of universities’ generated literature on-line to users outside campuses. Furthermore, incorporating data mining techniques, access to these resources could be improved and the system could be made more efficient in making intelligent decision. The chapter discusses the problems of digitization, challenges and future opportunities for East African university libraries with focus on collaborative efforts and strategies backed up with policies for investments in ICTs training and integration of ICTs into the core university activities for effective Knowledge Management (KM) and information dissemination. It is argued in the chapter that digitization of library information will add value to more effective university KM, information access and use in multidisciplinary fields including local content.
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Knowledge Management (KM) (which according to Wikipedia comprises a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge) activities are worldwide; in industries, organizations, institutions and involve building databases, establishing libraries, building intranet, developing training program fostering collaboration and sharing of resources and best practices among institutions and organizations. The ICTs being the major facilitators in KM, university libraries have undertaken some of the most significant digitization initiatives in the past 25 years (Haule, 2007) for better management and dissemination of resources. The application of ICTs in KM has also been integrated in national strategies, policies and implementations processes as part of e-governance practices. The acquisitions of computers and associated software, faxes and modems, scanners, creation of intranets, and searchable Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACs) particularly in university libraries signified the beginning of advanced knowledge management and implementation of e-governance in higher learning institutions in East Africa. Developments in the aforesaid aspects have enabled the higher learning institutions to implement digitization of both implicit and explicit knowledge in libraries. The intranets for example in many universities have become powerful tools of communication of knowledge and knowledge base. They have become portals for sharing information among universities, forums for discussions and so on.

As stated above, KM comprises of elements of information acquisition, creation, renewal, archival, organizational, dissemination and sharing. KM in higher learning institutions focuses on the sharing of information among themselves and other institutions and community outside them for the purpose of enhancing learning, research, consultancy and outreach activities. To meet these capabilities ICTs have bridged the gap that existed before in the accomplishment of these tasks. One development that has been made possible in the path to achieve the information sharing has been the possibility to turn implicit and explicit knowledge into electronic formats for easy of archival, processing, dissemination and sharing. This is digitization.

There have been many digitization projects and initiatives running over the world and many initiatives have provided digital information in different formats. There are also private digital collections such as those being maintained by DIALOG1, Mead Data2 and Micro media3 that could offer a lot of opportunities in information access. East African Universities and research institutions together can explore the potentials of accessing and subscribing to world scientific and social databases offered by DIALOG, Mead Data and Micro media companies. DIALOG offers online information and retrievable databases to private, academic and business corporations. Individually though it is unlikely for East African higher learning institutions to afford subscriptions to full text information compiled by DIALOG, Mead Data and Micro media companies. Hence the need for a consortium of East African Universities and research institutions is critical to exploit the electronic resources offered by such companies. For instance the two primary services of Mead Data (LEXIS and NEXIS) could create the capacity of East African University Libraries to join the global information search unit and benefit from legal research services of LEXIS and full text news and business information from NEXIS. Use of digital resources has increased following the rapid advancement in technology development. The developments have had a greater influence than expected on the current trend of establishment of digital libraries to contain materials that are born digital such as e-journals, e-books, Internet resources, databases and other materials originally produced in another form but subsequently digitized to become part of digital library collection. Access to digital resources to a greater extent, has brought about the development of high quality teaching and research, and added value to traditional teaching in institutions of higher learning in Africa.

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