Witten, I. H., Loots, M., Trujillo, M. F. & Bainbridge, D. (2001). The promise of digital libraries in developing countries. Communications of the ACM, 44(5), 82-85.
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Although knowledge is critical for development, few developing countries are participating in the information revolution. Just as industrialization and globalization have increased the gulf between the haves and have-nots, so information and communications technology is creating a chasm between the knows and know-nots. For dissemination of humanitarian information, traditional publishing and distribution mechanisms have failed tragically. Whereas a U.S. medical library subscribes to about 5,000 journals, the Nairobi University Medical School Library, long regarded as a flagship center in East Africa, receives just 20 journals. In Brazzaville, Congo, the university has only 40 medical books and a dozen journals, all published before 1993. Digital libraries, by decoupling production and distribution costs from intellectual property charges, offer a desperately needed lifeline.
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This article is available online at the webpages of Communications of the ACM.