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Bridging the digital divide through

A proposal for Africa's libraries and information
The Authors
Stephen M. Mutula, Department of Library and Information Studies,
University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana

Purpose The paper aims to present the status of the digital divide in Africa and the implications for
libraries, and to demonstrate that, contrary to recent published findings, the digital divide is not
Design/methodology/approach A general literature review is undertaken, along with a case study of
the digital divide in an academic setting.
Findings Africa still suffers from rampant poverty, and consequently resources that could be utilised
to bridge the digital divide are directed at meeting peoples basic survival needs, including food, shelter,
health care, housing, etc. Additionally, governments are increasingly adopting e-government initiatives
that libraries could explore for automation.
Research limitations/implications More research is needed to show why given that the gap
between rich and poor countries is increasing, and that economic development is a good predictor of
ICT uptake that the digital divide between developed and developing countries is claimed to be
Practical implications Libraries have the potential to use e-government initiatives for automation, but
they need to exert influence on their governments through advocacy and other measures.
Originality/value Few studies, especially in Africa, have explored the potential of e-governance for
library automation. Similarly, issues of the digital divide have in the past been looked at largely from
international and national perspectives, with little attention being paid to the existence of the
phenomenon within libraries. Finally, existing studies on the digital divide largely use ICT metrics
without paying much attention to the totality of other variables that influence the digital divide. This
paper provides a proposal on how e-governance could be used to narrow the digital divide within
libraries in Africa.
Article Type: Conceptual paper
Keyword(s): Digital communication systems; Libraries; Library automation; Governance; Africa.
Journal: The Electronic Library
Volume: 23
Number: 5
Year: 2005
pp: 591-602

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Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ISSN: 0264-0473

The digital divide is always described in terms of the difference in the number of telephones, internet
users or computers per head between rich and poor countries. Kenny and Fink (2004), in their recent
study of the global digital divide, pointed out that the digital divide's size and importance have been
overstated and that current trends suggest that it is actually shrinking, not growing. They also proposed
that policies designed to bridge the digital divide may need rethinking. More succinctly, they suggested
that international aid for bridging the digital divide should be put to use elsewhere.
Kenny and Fink's (2004) view that the digital divide is narrowing is based on the fact that over the past
25 years, telephone penetration has been increasing faster in low- and middle-income countries than in
higher income countries because market saturation has been achieved in rich countries. They pointed out
that internet usage, for example, grew by around 50 per cent per year in high-income countries in the
late 1990s compared with 100 per cent growth per year in low- and middle-income countries. They
noted that rich countries were ahead, but that poor countries were also catching up very fast.
The digital divide in developing countries in general and Africa in particular is closely tied to the
contextual economic environment of the respective countries. Countries with thriving economies are by
and large associated with increased access to ICTs compared to those whose economies are doing badly
(Nua, 2002). African countries by and large epitomise the cradle of the world's poverty. For example,
Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004 was projected by the World Economic Forum to account
for 1.5 per cent of global GDP (World Economic Forum, 2003). Similarly, most African countries failed
to compete in global trade in 2003 as they depended almost entirely on primary commodities for their
exports, which accounted for more than two-thirds of exports in 16 of the 23 top priority sub-Saharan
countries (UNDP Human Development Report, 2004, cited by Kathuri, 2004). In addition, Africa's share
of trade during 2004 was estimated at 2.1 per cent, and the economic growth rate averaged less than 3
per cent (Dlamini, 2004). The 2004 UNDP Human Development Report cited by Kathuri (2004) noted
that in Kenya, for example, the income distribution gap widened in 2003, with 20 per cent of citizens
controlling more than half of the total national wealth. Similarly, the Report painted a grim picture
where 10 per cent of the richest Kenyans controlled a commanding 36.1 per cent of the wealth, while a
combined 20 per cent of the richest individuals controlled 51.2 per cent of the wealth, leaving 80 per
cent of the population to share the remaining 48.8 per cent of national wealth.
Kenya was grouped with South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ghana as countries with the poorest
income redistribution rate in Africa. Excluding South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where the richest
20 per cent controlled 55.7 per cent of the wealth, these countries had the worst income redistribution
rate in the continent. Kathuri (2004), again citing the 2004 UNDP Report, observed that sub-Saharan
Africa would not achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included halving
poverty by 2015, because all human development indicators showed a declining trend. In addition, he
pointed out that at the current pace, Africa in general would not meet the goal for universal primary
education until 2129. He further noted that it was impossible to set a date for Africa in matters of hunger,
income, poverty and access to sanitation because the situation was worsening and not improving.
Generally, 12 African countries including South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania had registered a
worsening human development situation over the last decade, with life expectancy falling to below 50
years in most countries (Kathuri, 2004).
Many African countries also face other serious concerns, including HIV/Aids (22 African countries have
prevalence rates above 5 per cent), and violent conflicts (which affected nine countries in the 1990s)
(Kathuri, 2004). Kathuri (2004) further noted that the biggest factor in the dramatic decline of overall
human development indicators in many countries in Africa was the AIDS epidemic. Quoting the UNDP
Human Development Report, Kathuri (2004) also noted that seven sub-Saharan countries Angola,

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Central African Republic, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe had experienced
a reduction in life expectancy to less than 40 years. In addition, Swaziland and Lesotho now have
prevalence rates that exceed 30 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 49 years. The situation
was no better in Zimbabwe and Zambia, where infection rates of 37 and 24.6 per cent, respectively, were
reported (Otieno, 2004).
The UNDP Report was quoted as pointing out that in 46 countries, most of them in Africa, people were
poorer than they were in 1990, while in 25 countries, more people went hungry than they did a decade
ago. Comparatively, European countries like Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium and Finland
had the best income distribution, where the richest 20 per cent controlled an average of 35 per cent
(Kathuri, 2004).
The digital divide misnomer for Africa
Several definitions abound in the literature about the meaning of the digital divide concept. For
example, the International Telecommunications Union (2002) defines the digital divide as the
inequalities in access to and utilisation of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Similarly, Jupiter Media Corporation's (2004) online encyclopaedia the Webopedia defines the
digital divide as the discrepancy that exists between people who have access to and the resources to
use new information and communication tools, such as the internet, and people who do not have the
resources and access to the technology. In both definitions, the emphasis is on ICTs. Such emphasis on
ICTs tends to rally efforts to bridge the digital divide around narrowing the technological gap between
those with access and those without access to the various technologies.
Africa epitomises a peculiar diaspora and unique issues that need addressing if attempts to bridge the
digital divide are to bear fruit. Similarly, emphasising ICTs in the digital divide definition at the expense
of other factors has a number of implications for Africa. One immediate implication is that the people's
priorities are not addressed. For example, an initiative to promulgate a national ICT policy for
Botswana, in which the author was involved during the whole of 2004, revealed that the people of
Botswana living in rural areas prioritise water, electricity, health and sanitation, roads and local content
higher than ICTs (Maitlamo Project, 2004). Similarly, South Africa's national challenges, as stated by the
State Information Technology Agency (SITA) include:
poverty eradication;
job creation;
safety and security;
health and welfare;
electricity; and
economic growth and redistribution (Geness, 2004).
The other implications of the definition of the digital divide include, but are not limited to:
prescription of a one-size-fits-all technology approach to bridging the divide;
implantation of technologies without integrating them into the people's cultural milieu; and
misplaced focus on the inter-country divide at the expense of the intra-country divide.
Characterisation of the digital divide in Africa
The digital divide phenomenon in Africa manifests itself in various forms. For example, a collaborative
study by the author and a Fulbright Scholar from Union College, New York in the USA on the
satisfaction level of students using the internet at the University of Botswana revealed that bandwidth
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was a major problem. For example, the system tray of the author's computer in the office at University
of Botswana displayed a constant access speed of 10Mpbs. In contrast, the same reading in the office of
the Fulbright Scholar's office computer at Union College read a constant access speed of 100Mbps, a
speed that is ten times greater, although it measured only the interval between the personal computer and
the final router or switching point to which it was connected (Gerhan and Mutula, 2004).
The author and the Fulbright Scholar, concerned about the students' likely frustrations as internet users,
decided to poll them on the subject. The students shared public computers in laboratories and the
University library. Thus, the undergraduates of Library and Information Studies undertaking LIS 212:
Information resources in business, and the graduate students of LIS 624: General management in
information services, were surveyed in early 2003 as to their use of the internet at the University of
Botswana (UB). The survey sought to determine the length of time required queuing for physical access
to a computer, and the length of time required waiting for responses from those computers when
connected to the internet.
A total of thirty-six (36) students responded to the survey. The study found that substantial delay was
experienced when UB students sought direct connection to the internet. For example, six out of seven
database inquiries required more than a minute of waiting after clicking the mouse; 17 out of 27
academic-related searches of the web required more than two minutes of waiting; and four out of seven
recreational uses required more than two minutes. The study found that the majority of the respondents
were not using the internet for academic matters. Respondents cited four reasons for their low use, and
in decreasing frequency of reporting they were:
1. insufficient numbers of computers available;
2. inadequate training;
3. slow response time, and
4. restrictions in time allocated to each user.
The authors further sought to determine what reasons were behind the problem of delays in response
time. The study postulated that the (in)famous digital divide was very much in evidence at the
University of Botswana.
The unsatisfactorily slow access to the internet by computers at the University of Botswana was
traceable to shortages of incoming bandwidth. The bandwidth deficiency could stem from a great many
stages along the way: from the individual workstation into the network of the University of Botswana,
from the UB network out to its ISP, from there to the country's gateway through its telecommunications
agency (the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation) to the internet beyond Botswana, or even
beyond the internet's entry point from overseas (e.g. Europe and North America) into the African portion
of the network (Gerhan and Mutula, 2004).
Each stage in the transmission of data is a separate circuit with its own bandwidth, and a bandwidth
bottleneck could occur in any one or more of the circuits between routers and exchange points all along
that system of pipes that brings the internet to students, lecturers, etc., at the University of Botswana.
For example, although Botswana has a fibre optic ring, the country's entire incoming bandwidth is 14
Mbps. To put this into perspective, 14Mbps is substantially less than that of a medium-sized college in
the USA, namely Union College, which is supplied with 20Mbps of bandwidth. Similarly, Africa lacks a
regional network, but rather each country connects separately to more expensive overseas circuits
(Information Technology Services, 2004). It is estimated that two-thirds of African bandwidth carries
US-linked traffic. The internet comes in from overseas by some mode, which may vary in connection
capacity and speed. For example, satellite and undersea cable are both used by Botswana, and although
satellite brings some portion of Botswana's bandwidth, the undersea cable mode is symptomatic of
The bandwidth problem is not confined to Botswana alone, but also affects most countries in Africa. In
Malawi, for example, as a result of low bandwidth, access to the worldwide web is very slow and affects
the quality of access to information. Mwiyeriwa and Ngwira (2003) noted that in university libraries in

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Malawi, despite the wide variety of electronic resources that were available through the Programme for
the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) project of the International Network for the
Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and the Health Inter-Network (HINARI), the quality of
internet connectivity was often a great hindrance. Other causes of digital divide amongst libraries in
Africa include the costs of access to information through telecommunication infrastructures. According
to an ITU survey of 1999, the monthly internet access charge as a percentage of the GDP per capita was,
for example, US$92 (107 per cent) in Uganda, compared to the USA rate of US$29 (1.2 per cent). These
factors negatively influenced the rate of uptake of the internet as an information access tool by African
universities (Raseroka, 2004).
Africa presents complex problems of digital divide by virtue of its diaspora of varied cultural groups and
values. For example, Africa has many languages, with virtually none constituting the language of the
internet and computing. A study by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (2002) in the USA established that
people with limited English-speaking skills lagged behind their English-speaking counterparts in access
to computers and the internet. During 2002, it was estimated that English in computer-based
communication stood at a high of 80 per cent (Warschauer, 2001). In addition, in sub-Saharan Africa, a
large proportion of indigenous people can neither read nor write in English, and as potential users of
computers they are disadvantaged. Additionally, the African continent suffers from various shortages
such as PCs, partial internet access, inadequate telephone lines, etc. This situation is worsened by the
high cost of access, inappropriate or weak policy regimes, inefficient telecommunication services and a
lack of locally created content (Acacia, 1997; Digital Dividends, 2001). In Botswana, for example, the
number of web hosts in the .bw domain stood at 1,400 in 2004 and there were 7,240 websites. However,
English constituted 80 per cent, Chinese 3.4 per cent and German 2.8 per cent. Setswana, the national
language of Botswana, did not feature anywhere at all (Koloi, 2004).
The digital divide in Africa is also exacerbated by the scant attention paid to the ICT needs of
disadvantaged people in society such as women and children, as well as people with visual impairments
and hearing problems. In Kenya, for example, the ratio of men to women using IT according to 2001
estimates stood at 70 and 30 per cent, respectively. This disparity was partly attributed to the perception
in the country that IT was a technical subject suitable for men, with many females shying away from it
(Kariuki and Siringi, 2001).
Africa generally faces the problem of an undeveloped book infrastructure exacerbated by the fact that
though the internet has increasingly become a source of information, it is not widely used in schools. A
look at the web, for example, reveals a great amount of children's literature, focusing mainly on
American and European audiences (International Association of School Librarianship, 2002). Similarly,
a review of Africa's web content bears witness to the lack of appropriate information for the African
user. For example, in 2001, the number of internet users on the African continent was estimated at 4.2
million, a mere 1.01 per cent compared to the worldwide online population of 514 million (Nua, 2003).
Similarly, Africa's average web content was estimated at a mere 0.04 percent of global content (Taylor,
The problems of the digital divide in Africa are also attributed to inefficient utility infrastructures.
Bakuli (2002) pointed out that the electricity infrastructure needed for supporting any digital technology
was largely deficient in Africa. Other problems affecting Africa include a short supply of people who are
able to code content, for whom there is a high worldwide demand, and the lack of competitive incentives
to IT expertise, including web content developers, resulting in the continent easily losing expertise to
other regions, especially Europe and the USA, where remuneration packages and other incentives
offered are lucrative (Macfarlane and Daniels, 2001).
Africa is known for its low literacy rate, which undermines content creation and use. In Botswana, for
example, adult literacy in 2001 was estimated at 21.94 per cent, in Namibia it was 17.35 per cent, and in
South Africa it was 14.39 per cent (World Economic Forum, 2003). On the other hand, 30 per cent of the
population in Mozambique was illiterate in 2002 (Southwood, 2002). In addition, the lack of appropriate
local content and the passion for print resources make use of the internet less attractive.

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The digital divide in Africa is exacerbated by the under-utilisation of existing ICT infrastructures due to
poor policies or unnecessary restrictions. In Botswana, for example, a modern data network
(Government Data Network) of fibre cable running across the country was until 2003 only accessible to
authorised government officers, whereas such a network could provide a perfect opportunity for the
provision of government services online. Macharia (2003) wondered why, whenever governments'
network infrastructures (anywhere in Africa) expanded, and bulk communications service purchasing
enabled low prices, the unused capacity was not often deployed to provide internet service provision to
the public.
Digital divide amongst libraries in Africa
The digital divide in African libraries is caused by various obstacles to access to ICTs, but also by low
utilisation of existing ICT resources, as already pointed out. Mutula (2004) observed that libraries in
Africa that had implemented ICTs generally experienced under-utilisation of the technology on account
of the lack of sound information technology exploitation skills as well as restrictions imposed on use in
some universities. In some Kenyan and Zambian university libraries for example, internet access was
restricted to postgraduate students and staff only. Similarly, reliance on donor funding for the purchase
of such resources as PCs and subscriptions to databases exacerbated the digital divide, especially when
such donor support ceased (Patriokios and Levey, 1994).
The digital divide factor in libraries is exacerbated by the lack of effective advocacy skills to lobby and
justify to politicians the necessity of funding for procuring relevant ICTs. Raseroka (2004) observed that
librarians' inadequate skills for marshalling convincing financial and advocacy arguments for justifying
investment in ICTs for information delivery in libraries was perceived as one of the major causes for
poor technological investment in academic libraries in the sub-Saharan region. In addition, lack of
automation within libraries was a major cause of the digital divide experienced within libraries.
Rosenberg (1997; cited in Raseroka, 2004), in an assessment of the rate of library automation in some
sub-Saharan libraries in the mid-1990s, found that although academic libraries had plans for the
automation of library systems, full-scale automation of library operations was uncommon due to
institution-wide shortages of finances.
Most libraries in Africa do not have any automation policies. Raseroka (2004) pointed out that in
general, African universities did not provide funding for the introduction of technology for use in
academic libraries because there were neither policies nor strategic plans and actions for the introduction
and use of technology that provided access to information that supported academic research, teaching
and learning. She further noted that neither was there investment in capacity building programmes for
staff and students, and the use of ICTs by academic libraries seemed to have been instigated by
librarians' exposure to international technological developments for information resource sharing and
access to donor funding.
African libraries' access to ICTs is hampered by declining resources (Abagi, 1997). In West African
libraries, for example, Hassan (2002; cited in Raseroka, 2004) estimated that the budget could be as low
as 2 per cent. Raseroka (2004) noted that declining resources had resulted in a general educational crisis
which affected the provision of learning support materials both in print and electronic formats. Similarly,
libraries' access to ICTs in Africa is affected by intra-country divides, which consequently hampers
networking amongst libraries due to lack of infrastructure over entire countries.
E-governance status in Africa
Heeks (2002) defines e-government as the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to
improve the activities of public sector organisations. The application of e-governance helps to reduce
costs, inefficiency, inconvenience and ineffectiveness in service delivery. E-government is also expected
to develop content of immediate local relevance, and preserve national history, heritage and traditional

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knowledge (Sawe, 2004). E-government evolves through five levels. The first level of the government
evolutionary process is known as the emerging stage and is concerned with online information that is
largely consumed internally. Often at this stage the websites that one finds are static. Level two is known
as the enhanced stage and is characterised by information being provided online about public services.
Level three is known as the interactive stage, and is characterised by an interactive e-government
infrastructure which is able to facilitate downloading of forms. The fourth level is known as the
transactional stage and is characterised by a two-way interaction where processing of forms, including
authentication, is possible. The final level is known as the seamless stage and can handle online
services such payment delivery in a unified environment (Sawe, 2004).
Most countries in Africa are still at the preliminary levels of e-government development. For example, at
the emerging stage in 2002, there were 20 countries, such as Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Angola,
Ethiopia, and Gambia. The enhanced stage had 16 countries, such as Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania,
Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Uganda. The interactive stage boasted four countries, namely South Africa,
Mauritius, Morocco, and Egypt. Finally, both the transactional and seamless stages respectively had no
country listed in Africa (United Nations Development Programme, 2000). By 2002 a large number of
government departments in Africa provided some form of e-governance through their official websites.
The websites largely articulated government policies, provided information on the country's political
system, listed government departments and reports, and provided tenders, drafts bills, etc. Among the
governments in Africa that had websites with a variety of content were South Africa, Botswana, Kenya,
Nigeria, Namibia and Zimbabwe (Anzinger, 2001).
Prior to the 1990s, many African governments stifled attempts at adopting information technology,
including the internet, by putting in place unfavourable regulatory practices. However, during the later
part of the 1990s the regulatory environment experienced freedom as most governments realised the
benefits and savings that would accrue through e-governance (South African Development Community,
1998; American Society for Public Administration, 2002).
The use of ICTs through e-government makes government activities more transparent and accountable to
citizens. Government commitment to ICT deployment across all sectors of society can encourage and
enhance the diffusion of technology amongst its people. E-government also enhances citizens'
participation in government decision-making and streamlines public services to realise efficiency gains.
E-government improves the information base for decision-making, facilitates communication between
the political and administrative process, enhances internal communication, and integrates information
systems. In addition, e-government enhances freedom of information, improves efficiency and provides
access to information (United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, 2004)
Bridging the digital






Libraries have the opportunity to ride the e-government bandwagon in order to partake in the digital age.
E-government is now emerging as viable approach for enhancing access and assisting libraries to bridge
the digital divide. Governments are increasingly playing a significant role in the promotion and usage of
ICT. As providers of essential information and services, governments are in a unique position to
influence the views of citizens and business on the benefits of connectivity. By acting as catalysts for
ICT adoption, both as consumers of ICT and as major content providers, governments can help to
enhance connectivity amongst libraries within and outside individual countries.
The relationship between governments and libraries in the provision of information to citizens is not
new. Bradley (2001) observed that the first government online services were library bibliographic
networks. This early experience with the management and technology issues of online services such as
authenticity, security, and interoperability made libraries important team players in the mix of
government agencies that collaborated to make the provision of information effective. Today, online

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services have evolved to include providing actual transactions online, from reserving and ordering books
or library materials to submitting applications to local government agencies.
E-governance has potential for libraries in Africa as a faster means for libraries to share resources and
enhance outreach services (Stensgaard, 2003). E-governance would provide libraries with opportunities
to access large amounts of government information that would be difficult to access in a non-electronic
environment. It is possible that with the number of governments information increasing online, egovernment provides a new way of enhancing bibliographic control of government information and
networking among disparate libraries.
Libraries contribution within an e-government partnership
Libraries need not appear as excess packages to governments in an e-government partnership. Libraries
have well-trained information professionals and increasingly ICT-literate staff who can work with
government to create content and provide information services to the population. On the other hand, the
government can provide infrastructure, and put in place a conducive environment to allow the private
sector to participate in this relationship so that it can provide state-of-the art technology while NGOs
could undertake community mobilisation and create awareness.
Increasingly, efforts aimed at the automation of libraries are taking shape in Africa. For example, South
African University Libraries have benefited from the post-apartheid reconstruction programme
supported by donors as a joint initiative between the European Union and the Department of Education,
the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Cooperation and the Mellon Foundation. Hence there is a huge
investment in integrated library automated systems, the benefits of which are maximised through
consortia such as Gauteng and Environs Library Consortium (GAELIC) in South Africa (Raseroka,
2004). Similarly, a number of libraries in Africa have benefited from donor funding for automation
initiatives. In Eastern and Southern Africa, for example, beneficiaries from donor funding for library
systems in the past included Moi University in Kenya, the University of Zambia and the Copper Belt
University in Zambia, and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Makerere University in Uganda is also a
beneficiary of ICTs from the African Virtual University initiative. Similarly, in West Africa, the
University of Dakar Library in Senegal was one of the first sites to benefit in 1996 through the provision
of appropriate hardware and software under the World Bank project on Higher Education in African
countries. Similarly, the University of Conakry in Guinea was reported to have signed a contract with
the World Bank in 2002 for the strengthening of library services which included the installation of an
integrated library system (Raseroka, 2004).
Libraries in Africa have an established information infrastructure that they can bring along into the egovernment partnership. For example, CD-ROM technology is being used conveniently as a means for
delivering information affordably in journal literature in developing countries, including those in Africa.
Through consortium arrangements, it is possible for one library to share subscription costs and access
with others. Raseroka (2004) pointed out that Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL), a project of
the Open Society Initiative, was advocating to academic and national librarians the potential for and
benefits of consortium agreements with database aggregators for participating libraries within a given
country. eIFL facilitates discussions across institutions on requirements and planning for successful
partnerships within a consortium and finances technological inputs when appropriate. Experiences from
successful consortia such as the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) have been shared with
emerging African consortia. There are now 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are in the various
stages of forming consortia within individual countries such as Angola, Botswana, Lesotho,
Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Similarly, the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) is a donor-funded
programme which seeks to alleviate problems that arise from limited access to and lack of skilled use of
the internet. This programme provides access to full-text electronic journals at preferential subscription
rates for the benefit of developing countries. Some libraries have also made efforts aimed at bridging the

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digital divide. For example, the University of Botswana Library has digitised past examination papers
and enabled their access over the web. The Digital Imaging project of South Africa (DISA) of the
University of Natal in South Africa is another innovative practice aimed at enhancing access to
information through digitisation and making it available through the web.
Information literacy and training roles of libraries could be critical to the effectiveness of the egovernment-library partnership (Bradley, 2001). Similarly, the ability of libraries to manage online
information in modern library services demonstrates the skills and knowledge of the technical resources
needed to organise online government information in order to evolve into full e-government information
The need for partnership between libraries and governments in e-government initiatives need not be
emphasised. Largely, priorities espoused in e-governance such as accessibility, affordability, appropriate
citizen content and appropriate conduits are similar to what libraries need to achieve using various ICTs.
This commonality should make governments and libraries partners in the e-government partnership in
the information age. At this point in time, libraries have the opportunity to influence the direction and
nature of the partnership with governments because the e-government concept is still largely novel and
in its formative stages in Africa. Libraries will, however, need to be proactive to influence their
partnership with governments if they have to beat other stakeholders in the ball game. The time is now,
librarians! Go! Go! Go! Get to governments and make proposals, create awareness, develop human
resources and enjoy the partnerships in the e-government flight in cyberspace. Such partnerships could
provide a perfect recipe and a solid base upon which an information society could be built in each of the
countries of Africa.

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