Appropriately, World Development Information Day falls during “Open Access Week” (see Oct. 21st post below). World Development Information Day was instituted in 1972, well before the internet was in widespread use by academics and professionals, let alone ordinary citizens. In 1972, reports and statistical repositories available in printed form took serious research, time and commitment to locate and consume. It wasn’t until 6 August 1991 that the “world wide web” was born, and not until almost a decade later that the internet achieved popular usage.
Stepping into the context of that pre-social networking and internet publishing era, what was the vision and hope for the future that the creators of this global day of observance conceptualized? Could they have envisioned instant dataset-sharing, international video-conferencing and other technologies that allow development professionals to connect and share information effortlessly? Today, the internet has emerged as the main mode of information-sharing, both within and outside the international development field, and therefore determines the potential and limits of information-sharing.
Information For All
Just as the increasing volume and openness of international trade benefits some nations and societal groups more than others, the information revolution also has social justice considerations in terms of the effects of increased information availability. More developed nations have better internet infrastructure and penetration and higher literacy rates than do developing nations. Access to education and literacy are still major concerns globally, without which access to information on the internet is a moot point.
One way that University of Michigan library staff are part of promoting the inclusive, just vision of World Development Information Day is support and encouragement of Open Access publishing. Commitment to open access publishing in the University of Michigan library system ensures that communities where research is conducted are able to access and benefit from the results and insights gained from academic research globally.