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In November 2011, with support from UNESCO, EIFL-FOSS organised a regional training seminar in Tanzania, bringing together FOSS librarians and library directors from 14 African countries for two days of training and activities (read the original news item).
As part of the follow-up activities from that event, we surveyed the participants, asking questions about their progress in a variety of areas since the event. Twenty-four of the 26 participants responded, representing 13 of the 14 countries in attendance.
We asked the participants a variety of questions about both their achievements and any barriers to further success they had identified.
The responses suggest that much is happening with FOSS in African libraries. No less than 17 of the 24 respondents stated that they had held workshops on specific FOSS tools since the event, with the most common focus being Koha (7) or DSpace (4). Five countries had held national FOSS workshops focussing on a variety of tools.
However the number of implementations since the event is even more impressive. Across 13 countries that responded to the survey, there were reported over 50 implementations in total since the event, with no country reporting zero implementations. Again Koha was the most common (18) along with DSpace (14), but other software seemed to be in high demand, including Greenstone (5), SubjectsPlus (4) as well as seven other tools.
Other positive developments reported demonstrated a lot of positivity about the future, some respondents reporting having obtained funding for key projects (such as installing FOSS repository software at 10 institutions) while others had applied for funding and were awaiting responses (such as for country-wide training initiatives). One country is planning to visit a neighbouring country to gather information on how it has achieved its successes. Another country that has created a union catalogue across three libraries is taking that knowledge out to more institutions while at the same time forging ahead with federated access technologies in the same three libraries.
However many successes there are, barriers still remain in some areas. Two barriers were reported more widely than any others:
Other barriers were reported much less commonly by the survey respondents. These included infrastructure issues (insufficient networked PCs, internet speed and reliability); difficulty in establishing working relationships between libraries and their institution's IT teams; and a lack of FOSS coverage in Library and Information Systems courses.
Despite the continuing presence of barriers to progress, respondents were incredibly upbeat about the future. When asked if another FOSS training and networking event in a few years' time would be useful, there was an overwhelmingly positive response. When asked what the focus of the event should be, the three most popular responses were: