Scholarly research outputs from the developed Global North are not always relevant or appropriate for Africa’s higher education and developmental needs. African researchers need access to the continent’s own scholarly papers, and must also contribute to the international online academic community, but this has proven difficult. In order to assist in improving the dissemination of and access to African-published journals, this paper details some of the challenges and lessons learned from African Journals Online’s (AJOL) adoption, localization and implementation of Open Source Software called Open Journal Systems (OJS) and the promotion of Open Content. The paper uses AJOL as a case study, which is applicable to journals or institutions involved in research dissemination from the African continent and developing countries elsewhere. Findings suggest Open Source Software is a viable, effective and efficient means of getting research papers to readers in Africa and the rest of the world, with some important provisos discussed for countries with problematic electricity supply and internet connectivity.
The implication for government policy in Africa is that ICT infrastructure needs to be improved and software skills training instituted to facilitate use of the information age tools. Implications for journal publishers and research institutions are that online publishing is critical for dissemination, and that they should adopt some form of it. Open Source Software is valid, practical and cost-efficient means of accomplishing this in resource-scarce conditions, particularly when combined with Open Access content. Since higher education, and by extension, scholarly communication, has been conclusively linked to economic growth in developing countries, means to improve these are of obvious importance for less developed countries in the region. Access to new research on locally relevant issue has a further potential societal advantage in the application of solutions to contextual challenges. The findings of the paper are of value to the African scholarly community, primarily, and to policy-makers, and subject-specific expert practitioners, notably healthcare professionals.
Keywords: Open Source Software, Africa, Open Journals Systems, ICT, Scholarly publishing