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Open Access in Pakistan
Jamais Cascio, 21 Jun 04

Open Access News has a link to the online journal Hi Pakistan's interview with Dr Attaur Rahman, the minister-in-charge of the ministry of science and technology and chairman of the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan. The interview concerns the state of university education in Pakistan, and the reforms he is introducing to the system. Among the most interesting elements of his plan is the introduction of open access journals to the university libraries across the nation:

At the moment, the plight of libraries is beyond description. There are no journals, there are no books. Our libraries are in a total mess. You cannot call them libraries. What we have done is to launch a nationwide digital library - and this really excites me.

We have been working hard on this for the past one and a half years and now this has happened. And there are 31,600 journals which are available free of charge. Every single school or college or university - any educational institution under any ministry - will get free access. Of these, 11,600 journals are full text. Now each journal can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. And we are talking about 31,600 journals. Over 20,000 journals will be available in the form of abstracts. They will be available for all the disciplines. Again I want to get rid of the impression that I am associated with science and technology only.

This means that students sitting at home in Pakistan today can go onto the Internet and download the latest issues of all these journals. It is a huge nationwide library. This is something that no other country, not even the United States, has today.

The entire interview is worth reading, particularly the last section, where he talks about infrastructure and curriculum. This is vitally important reform for a number of reasons: Pakistan is desperately poor, and this is a way for the country to jump-start a modern education system; this will be one of the largest open-access library networks in the world; and -- perhaps most critically -- these universities will provide positive competition to the madressas, the religious schools, which have not been bastions of progressive thought in Pakistan. We'll all benefit if these reforms succeed.

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