Dear Colleagues in the research and Knowledge management fraternity and indeed the HEI community in Africa, I bring you greetings from the Secretariat of the Association of African Universities. Once again, the month of October is soon to be with us! And we are glad to remind ourselves of our desire to promote sharing of information and knowledge openly for the benefit of humanity. Existing and new threats on the planet makes the point ever clearer that if we act as islands of knowledge instead of steppingstones, we will all expire quickly.
Openness has propelled building of equitable systems of knowledge sharing. Over the past few years, the Open Access celebrations have focused on underscoring the urgent need for action on equity and inclusion, as well as the need to make our spaces and systems support the open sharing of knowledge. For instance, the 2018 celebration focused on “Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge” whiles that for 2019 was “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge”. Coming from a legacy that suffered discrimination, and exclusion- conditions that persist in various forms, it is important that these injustices are addressed by rebuilding research and scholarship to be open by default. The events of the year 2020 has presented a unique opportunity to re-construct our foundations to fundamentally make our systems and spaces more equitable within the academic community on the continent, to support our development together. The theme for the year “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion” therefore is more than apt. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the continent was caught off balance and many of our academic institutions could not respond to changing their operations to digital forms immediately. While we are recovering from the shock, it is pertinent that we begin to build the culture of developing systems that will support open sharing of knowledge and experience among the HEI community. We must re-evaluate who these spaces and systems are designed for, who is missing out, who is excluded by the business models we adopt, and whose interests are prioritized as research institutions. As we work together to rebuild these structures, we need to commit to moving from conversations to concrete commitments and to hold one another accountable for making real progress.
I urge all our member institutions numbering over 400 and other HEIs and research institutions on the continent to re-evaluate their business models and /or systems and to take concrete steps to make their systems support open sharing of knowledge. As we celebrate Open Access Week from October 19th through the 25th, Let us prioritize integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into the fabric of the open community – from how our infrastructure is built, through to how we organize community discussions and to the governance structures we use.
During the weeklong celebrations I urge institutions to host discussions around this year’s theme and whenever is most suitable during the year and to take action to adapt the theme and activities to their local context. Let us use the opportunity to kickstart new conversations and form new connections across and between communities that will facilitate and advance progress towards building more equitable foundations.
I wish you all a fruitful planning sessions and successful open access week celebration!!