• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [+]Introduction (4)
    • [+]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [+]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [—]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)


Public sector efforts: scientific repositories, virtual libraries and mass-market devices

If, as we have sought to show, Indian commercial platforms demonstrate remarkable dynamism, free-access websites are certainly not to be outdone.

First of all, we find hundreds of institutional repositories built using free and open source software – in particular EPrints and DSpace. A considerable number of these portals host texts related to applied sciences and aim to give visibility to India’s abundant academic production, through open access.[1] One example is the Ministry of Earth Sciences Repository – a government initiative that compiles scientific articles, lectures, books, theses and reports, mainly in PDF. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics Repository, for its part, has over 5,000 items organized into around a dozen collections. Lastly, the Online Publications Repository, run by the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) brings together almost 10,000 academic articles from twenty or so journals written in English and in languages native to India.

In addition to sites with scientific material, we also find portals that host texts, images and other examples of the country’s cultural legacy. A case in point is the Panjab Digital Library, which has scanned millions of pages since 2003 and offers visitors the chance to savour manuscripts, books, magazines, newspapers and photographs of great beauty and historical value originating from this region. In November 2004, the Times of India wrote:

[The Panjab Digital Library has] put the crumbling, yellowing pages with delicate calligraphy into the time machine and pressed the eternity button.[2]

The Library has set-up an open space for volunteers who wish to participate in the digitization, IT development and fund-raising work.[3]

Lastly, the Indian Institute of Science, based in Bangalore, has spent years digitizing books in English, Hindi, Sanskrit and other local languages. This ambitious initiative, designed to create the Digital Library of India, is part of the Million Book Project, the universal archive sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University in the US. The official portal of the Digital Library of India is not properly up and running yet[4] (in February 2011), and currently the texts have to be consulted on mirror sites.[5]

The impetus given to scientific repositories and virtual libraries is a further indication of the efforts made by the Indian State to reduce the digital gap. This zeal is also demonstrated by the numerous initiatives to produce and distribute hardware for the masses, due to the fact that in smaller towns there aren’t usually any computers or fixed connections for accessing Web content. In July 2010, the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development presented the prototype for a tablet designed for students costing 35 dollars, that is to say, several times less than the Apple iPad.[6] According to some sources, this device symbolized India’s response to OLPC’s 100 dollar laptops.[7] The initiative sparked heated controversy in the local and international media, in particular because on previous occasions the Indian government had released resounding statements about devices for the masses that ended up coming to nothing.[8] In any case, it is undeniable that handing out hardware on a massive scale is very much a part of the State’s plans and we will have to watch carefully to see what happens in this area in the future.

  1. Cf. Ghosh, S.B. and Kumar Das, Anup, “Open access and institutional repositories – a developing country perspective: a case study of India”, World Library and Information Congress: 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, 2006.
  2. Cf. “Media Room”, Panjab Digital Library.
  3. Cf. “Volunteer”, Panjab Digital Library.
  4. Cf. http://www.dli.ernet.in/.
  5. Cf. for example: http://www.dli.cdacnoida.in/.
  6. Cf. Halliday, Josh: “India unveils world’s cheapest laptop”, Guardian.co.uk, 23rd July, 2010.
  7. Cf. “India unveils prototype for $35 touch-screen computer”, BBC News, 23rd July, 2010.
  8. Cf. Roy, Prasanto K.: “Why India’s $35 computer joke isn’t funny”, The Economic Times, 26th July, 2010.

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