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Open Academic Resources Offers Education Opportunities in Emerging Economies

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, March 18 2013

The launch of the Research Data Alliance this week could have major implications for the future of the academic community, bridging major institutions and driving collaborative innovation.  Yet the benefits of world universities opening their gates are more lateral than vertical, strengthening ties within communities that are already educationally privileged.  How do developing countries stand to benefit from open knowledge projects?

One recent effort will provide free access to over 12,000 academic titles to citizens of 80 developing and middle-income nations.  In cooperation with nonprofit Research4Life, textbook imprint John Wiley and Sons – known best as the publisher of the “For Dummies” series – has released e-book versions of the works as an open educational resource.  The subjects contained within this first release are hardly dummy-level, as SciDev.Net wrote.  There are thousands of advanced level titles in the physical and natural sciences, as well as vocational guides, like nursing textbooks, and general resources like dictionaries and encyclopedias. 

Democratizing knowledge resources in this manner could help some developing nations to make faster strides towards educational equality.  Last year, Oxford researchers found that, even as poverty in emerging markets is on the decline, social inequality continues to grow as the mobilizing classes diverge from the most underserved communities.  With the proliferation of cell phones in the developing world, mobile education initiatives also stand to make an impact on the educational landscape.  While mobile is hardly a panacea for all of the challenges facing emerging economies, the convergence of open academic resources and a SIM-card-based platform like Abayima could help to make knowledge more accessible – and more portable – to millions. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.