Open access can simply be put as knowledge and information that is digital, online, free in terms of cost and copyright restrictions. Consent to open access can be manifested by adopting the use of the Creative Commons licenses, and other types of open content licenses could also be adopted.
According to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, ‘Open Access” to this literature means its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work, and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
Impact and key benefits of open access
- Open Access enhances visibility and provides reach to a wider audience as Open Access articles are read, downloaded and cited more frequently than articles from non-Open Access journals and sources. This ensures that researchers and their institutions benefit from having the widest diverse possible audience.
- Open Access removes barriers and limitations to knowledge and information by providing free access to scientific knowledge, information and data. Open Access ensures a level playing field, and that there’s improved access to research for all.
- Open Access strengthens the basis for knowledge transfer, development (research) and utilization of scientific knowledge in practice by incorporating local research into an interoperable network of global knowledge and provides more recognition, new contacts, collaborations and partnerships for researchers while reducing professional isolation.
- Open Access ensures that the latest techniques in the form of data mining, text mining and analysis can easily be applied to research work, thereby generating new knowledge from existing findings.
- Open Access increases the profits on investments made in research by ensuring the results of the research they fund can be read and built on and used by anyone, including Industry and Society.
- Open Access ensures creativity, innovation, and knowledge generation around the public domain artworks stewarded by cultural institutions.
Challenges for open access in Africa
The greatest challenge to promoting free and open access practices is awareness. Many educational institutions are unaware of open practices in promoting access and reuse. For those who are aware but undecided, it still demands a great deal of advocacy to convince them to take their first steps. Other challenges include bureaucratic bottlenecks in setting up open practices at some educational and cultural institutions, securing funding for large scale digitization projects at institutions that are willing to share their works under open licenses, and the relative scarcity of modern equipment for undertaking digitization.
To increase open access practice in Africa, it is essential to develop a strategic plan that intensifies open access advocacy, whilst working to secure partnerships and funding that accelerates and supports open access to Africa’s rich digital cultural heritage and facilitate knowledge sharing.
Open Access aids facilitation, sharing and utilization of knowledge and information which is vital for sustainable development.