|Bridge Builders: African Experiences with Information & Communication (BOSTID, 1996, 304 p.)|
|Case studies on desktop publishing|
by Albina Kasango
When she wrote this case study, Albina Kasargo was the Sciertific Editor at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), where she was also the assistant editor of Tanzania S&T News. She is currently the Editor, Publications and Publicity Officer for the Economic and Social Research Fo2mdation, an NGO that carries out research on social and economic issues and offers policy options to the government, international organizations, and the public. She is still actively involved in desktop publishing and in producing works that contribute to scientific literacy.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT OF THE PROJECT
Background Information on Tanzania
Tanganyika (now Tanzania) attained its independence in 1961. It was then that the efforts of"Mwalimu" (Teacher) Julius Kambarage Nyerere at the United Nations resulted in the granting of self rule. Before that, Tanzania had been a British Protectorate and had been under German colonial rule before the second World War. After two years of independence, on 26 April 1964, Tanganyika formed a union with Zanzibar and became what we now know as Tanzania. Accordingly, the President of Tanganyika became the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the President of Zanzibar became the Second Vice-President and retained the Presidency of Zanzibar. The First Vice-President of Tanzania was to come from mainland Tanzania.
Tanzania emberked on a Socialist path to development in 1976, with President Nyerere's "Azimio la Arusha" (Arusha Declaration). This period saw the nationalization of the major means of production. Banks, post and telecommunication, and electricity-generating systems became public property.
The early 1990s brought great changes. Following the wave of democratization around the world, the fall of the Eastern Bloc countries, and the end of the Cold War among the superpowers as the former Soviet Union collapsed, the political climate changed and the Tanzanian people felt they too were ready to take the maturity test. The Constitution of the country was amended in 1992 to allow multiparty politics. Today there are 13 registered political parties, with General Elections due in October 1995.
Tanzania has an estimated population of 26 million, with people coming from more than one hundred and twenty ethnic groups or tribes.
The Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) was established by Parliamentary Act No. 7 of 1986. It is a parastatal organization whose parent Ministry is the Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education (MSTHE). Being a service-oriented institution, it runs its activities by Government subvention, which it receives through the MSTHE.
COSTECH deals with the popularization, promotion, and coordination of science and technology activities in the country. The Director General of COSTECH recently reiterated the principal functions of the Commission (COSTECH) as stated in the enabling Act. These are to:
· formulate policy on the development of science and
technology and recommend its implementation by the government;
· monitor and co-ordinate all activities relating to scientific research and technology development of all persons or body of persons concerned with such activities;
· acquire, store and disseminate scientific and technology information, and for that purpose hold or sponsor conferences, symposia, meetings, seminars or workshops or publish any newspaper, periodical or do any other act or thing designed to promote interest in science and technology development;
· advise the government on:
- priorities in scientific research;
- the allocation and utilization of research funds according to priorities referred to above;
- regional and international cooperation in scientific research and transfer of technology;
- matters relating to the training and recruitment of research personnel;
- instruction on scientific subjects in educational institutions within the United Republic;
- the initiation. formulation and implementation of research policies and programs;
- the establishment and maintenance of national scientific standards; and
- science and technology policy.· provide researchers with funds for conducting research in areas given priority by the government upon the advice of the Research and Development (R&D) Advisory Committees; and· provide users with the information to make appropriate choices in the kind of foreign technologies suitable for importation and assimilation.
COSTECH is governed by a Chairman (a Presidential appointee) and Commissioners who are nominated by the Minister, with the Director General in the capacity of Secretary to the Commission. The Director General is also a Presidential appointee. COSTECH has four directorates: Information and Documentation; Research Promotion and Coordination; Centre for the Development and Transfer of Technology (CDTT); and Administration and Finance.
The CDTT provides the public with the information and expertise to make the right, pertinent, or appropriate technological choices when, say, importing machinery from abroad. The Centre, of course maintains close liaison with Trade Attaches of diplomatic missions and other relevant personnel in the country and international agencies abroad dealing with the same.
The Directorate of Information and Documentation - where I worked - is actively involved and committed to providing information to all members of society. The Directorate of Information and Documentation COSTECH has several sub-units as described below:
· The Documentation Centre includes a library collection in
the fields of science and technology that serves an indiscriminate group of
clientele from the Tanzanian public.
· The Publications unit has the DTP facilities under its jurisdiction and produces documents for publication.
· The Popularization Unit produces radio programs in conjunction with the parent Ministry that are in Kiswahili and serves to popularize science and technology at the grassroots level.
· The Training and Communications Unit organizes and holds training courses for various groups of the Tanzanian community (women scientists, technologists and researchers, librarians); provides electronic mail and fax facilities to an increasing number of scientists; and also takes care of the computer maintenance at the Commission.
Origin and History of DTP at COSTECH
The Desktop Publishing (DTP) unit is a new phenomenon: COSTECH's initial plan was to have a Printing Press Unit, complete with all of the now-old technologies that would have occupied an entire room. But, before we could proceed with this plan, we were swept up in the printing revolution known as desktop publishing. DTP software became available in COSTECH through the UNESCO funded database project that aimed at producing a directory of scientists. The DTP equipment and software was "borrowed" from this project when it was not being used to input data. This marked the beginning of the DTP Unit at COSTECH.
In 1990, COSTECH secured funds from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada to produce a directory of scientific personnel in the country. The project, called the Tanzania National Information System on Science and Technology (TANISSAT), was to be achieved with a database management system that incorporated the use of DTP software, called PageMaker. At the same time, there was an urgent need for COSTECH to produce a newsletter on science and technology in a bid to popularize the same within the country.
Theophilus Mlaki, the Director for Information and Documentation, was charged with this responsibility and, at first, he thought that WordPerfect 5.0 would suffice. It had all the facilities for producing camera-ready copy ready for publication. The only snag was that WP 5.0 lacked the ability to "cut and paste" photographs and other graphics (from programs other than WP - a capability found in more sophisticated software. This facility allows the user to use photographs, emblems, or illustrations from other sources and to place them with the text. The user can rotate, size, and edit the graphics involved. So COSTECH decided to use PageMaker on the equipment that was provided by UNESCO. Of course, this was to be done only when the computer was not being used for data entry. Mr. Mlaki designed the first newsletter, selected the typefaces and fonts, and wrote most of the articles.
Initially the DTP Unit produced one main publication: the Tanzania S&T News, a newsletter aimed at popularizing science and technology in Tanzania. Over the years, the number of publications has increased with the expansion of the Commission and the activities it performs. Five years after its inception, the DTP Unit has produced camera-ready copy for public lectures; the Proceedings of the Annual Scientific Seminars; the Act of Parliament for COSTECH; three annual reports; books of abstracts for the Medical Association of Tanzania, the International Centre for Industrial Technology and Environmental Sciences, and the National Fund for the Advancement of Science and Technology (in both English and Swahili); and other smaller publications, such as birthday cards and wedding and party invitations.
General and Particular Objectives of DTP at COSTECH
The function of the DTP unit at COSTECH falls squarely under the division that deals with the dissemination, popularization, and storage of scientific and technological information. Specifically, the project's objectives are to:
· produce articles for publication in the daily newspapers
in a bid to disseminate technologies or generate interest in the need to change
production processes where necessary,
· publish proceedings of the annual scientific Seminar and thus create a means for our indigenous scientists to draw national and world attention to their findings and get the acknowledgment they need;
· disseminate the latest news of national interest on pertinent science and technology issues to members of the scientific communities, the National Assembly, and government to enable them make pertinent choices/decisions; and
· inform the scientific communities and the general public on the latest developments in the activities of the Commission
PROJECT EXPERIENCE AND IMPLEMENTATION
When I first moved into COSTECH, I spent long hours sitting alongside Mr. Mlaki and Mr. Andrew Dachi, COSTECH's Computer Specialist and the typesetter. Together, we would work on producing what were the overdue back issues of the newsletter. Because I was not well-versed in this new line of work, I worked first as a "gopher." Mostly, I remember, I would be sent upstairs to collect the original documents that I had used to compile the articles - as I invariably did not have all the pertinent information incorporated into my text. Slowly, though, I learned the trade and was even able to typeset the 1993 issue of the Newsletter unaided - but still under Mr. Dachi's supervision.
In 1993, COSTECH embarked on an ambitious project to popularize science and technology by holding fore where scientists, technologists, industrialists and members of the general public could meet to discuss pertinent issues in the realm of science and technology. The first of these COSTECH Scientific Public Lecture Series was given by Keto Elitabu Mshigeni, Professor of Botany at the University of Dar es Salaam who is on attachment at the University of Namibia. His talk was entitled "The Seaweed Fanning Story along the Western Indian Ocean Coast: Past, Present and Future." Using its DTP facilities, COSTECH has been able to produce the camera ready version of the lecture.
In 1993, COSTECH also secured funds from UNESCO's Intergovernmental Informatics Programme (IIP) to conduct a computer training course for Tanzanian women scientists, technologists and researchers. This was undertaken in a bid to empower women in the workplace and make them more competitive with their male counterparts. Women graduates were indeed found to possess very few computer skills. Out of the 250 course applicants, 42 percent of the women with Masters Degrees had no computer knowledge! COSTECH provided the technical aspect of the training with a few trainers coming from affiliated institutions. And of course the "Course Manuals" were prepared using the DTP facilities. One such manual is for the Advanced Computer Course.
We have also produced posters, brochures, certificates, and other documents to advertise the Tanzania Awards for Scientific and Technological Innovation Achievement (TASTA). These are given to people and institutions who make discoveries likely to promote and accelerate the social and economic progress of Tanzania.
On 1 July 1995, the National Fund for the Advancement of Science and Technology (NFAST) was launched by Second Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and President of Zanzibar. NFAST motivates inventors and innovators as well as the general public. Through NFAST, we hope that Tanzania will make a quantum leap in its ability to apply new technologies, especially in such frontier areas as biotechnology, solar/ biogas energy, new materials technology, and electronics. The NFAST program, information brochure, invitation cards, and charity walk cards were produced using the DTP facilities at COSTECH.
Perhaps our most important product (and the most time consuming!) is the Tanzania S&T News, a quarterly newsletter that is mailed to over 500 prominent individuals and institutions worldwide. In Tanzania, the mailing list includes ministers, heads of research and development institutions, and the private sector. Internationally, the newsletter is mailed to UN bodies involved in the development of science end technology, Tanzanian embassies abroad, the American Library of Congress, and others.
Then there are the annual reports which represent the activities that have been undertaken by the Commission each year. This report includes the audited financial statements of the Commission. These are prepared up to the camera-ready version using the DTP facilities available at COSTECH.
We also compile articles of interest to the Tanzanian science and technology situation from the annual seminars, international newspapers, or other sources and send them to the top leadership and the scientific community. Some of these articles get published by the local newspapers.. We have published over 30 newspaper articles under this program.
Finally, there are the "Greenwire" files that COSTECH produces from electronic mail messages written by an international group of experts on environmental concerns. COSTECH staff within the Directorate of Information and Documentation scan these and select some for dissemination. This ideally should be accomplished using email (with COSTECH as the node and other institutions/ bodies being the points). However, due to the fact that not many institutions and scientists are connected to email, these messages are first downloaded onto a diskette, printed out, photocopied' and then compiled into files that are mailed to research and development institutions affiliated with COSTECH and other interested parties known to us.
It may have been difficult but now I am reaping some of the fruits of that hard labor. Besides, when I did the typesetting myself, at least I was sure that I corrected all the mistakes that I noticed. There is still a need for proofreaders - there will always be some mistakes if only one person is assigned to the entire production cycle. Nevertheless, there is one publication that makes me very proud - the Tanzania S&T News of December 1993 marked my debut into typesetting. (See Box 1.)
BOX 1 Dedication
Typesetting other smaller documents is not hard in itself. Most difficult perhaps are the odd hours in which typesetting is not only required but becomes a priority! An emergency invariably arises just as one is about to leave for the day or, worse, for the weekend. Dedication and altruism are required for this job.
THE RESULTS, IMPACTS, AND BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT
The project has received much positive feedback. Some of the comments we have received include the following:
A prominent member of Parliament said that the Tanzania S&T
News is "extremely informative and useful."
The Embassy of Tanzania in Stockholm wrote and said that it found the "contents interesting and varied."
A medical doctor wrote to say how impressed he was with the quality of the articles in the newsletter.
A university professor told me that he especially like the newsletter column on scientific tidbits.
A secondary school teacher told us that he finds information that he can use to teach and stimulate his class.
A number of local newspaper editors have printed some of our articles.
I can say that it is very gratifying when you receive requests from people who want to be included on the mailing list. It is also very rewarding to hear that news of the contents in the newsletter is getting around. For example, Mr. Sam Baker, who worked for the Cooperative College in Moshi and is now a Computer Consultant at Coopers and Lybrand, made a survey on information technology with funding he received from COSTECH. As part of our usual news compilation, we included a brief review of his findings in our September 1994 issue of Tanzania S&T News. Later, we heard that he wanted a copy of that Newsletter because "people had been telling him about it." So we are certain that the news we write gets across even though we do not always get direct feedback from the readers.
We usually send articles on a weekly basis to one of the local newspapers, including the bi-weekly Express. Interestingly, when we are running against our own deadlines and miss sending the articles, the Express Editor notes our absence and sends a message to the effect of "Where is this week's article...." Obviously, if the readers did not find our articles useful and worth reading, he would not show such enthusiasm.
More recently, we did an article on one of the prominent woman scientists who, incidentally, was later nominated to be a member of the Commission of COSTECH. As usual we sent her a single copy of the newsletter. We were happy to get her request for a few more copies.
Authors of papers accepted for the annual scientific seminars have used our products to obtain promotions in their workplace.
We are now certain that there are more readers who appreciate our efforts than the actual number of letters of appreciation would imply. Also since we attempt to write on issues that will interest the target group, we are optimistic that, in the long run, the long weekends spent producing the newsletters, newspaper articles, press releases proceedings and the like will produce positive results.
Scientific and technological awareness is slowly gaining a foothold - through the continued efforts of the Commission to keep information flowing to the leadership of Tanzania. The launching of NFAST, mentioned above, is proof of this progress. So far, 13 million Tanzanian shillings have been pledged to NFAST. Other pledges and contributions are being collected and we hope to have a total of 100 million Tanzanian shillings (US $166,666) by the end of December 1995.
ANALYSIS OF LESSONS LEARNED
The project has taught me several lessons. First, I know it is important to have a synergistic group of people working together in DTP (as in any other working group) for the best results. This group must be dedicated to the improvement of the press as there are always long hours of concentration and hard work required to complete a publication. Being able to do this kind of work - writing, editing, proofreading, typesetting, mailing - necessitates a supportive supervisor who believes in the staff, gives it room to grow, and also guides it through the various steps.
I have also learned that, for the best results, the basic tools and personnel are needed. For instance, if I could start the project over again, I would hire a clerk to assist in typing and addressing/mailing the newsletters so that I could concentrate on the tasks of writing good articles.
I would also make sure that the DTP unit had the proper equipment available to it on a full-time basis. This includes a dedicated 386 or 486 computer with a laser printer and a scanner for more effective compilation of camera-ready copy and for importation of graphics.
Finally, I would institute a proper training program for DTP staff. I think that people with backgrounds in mass communications, publishing, or linguistics might naturally have a better understanding of how a scientific press needs to operate but, as we have seen in our project, the aptitude for editing, design, and management can come from a variety of disciplines. Whatever the backgrounds, however, special training in the use of the DTP hardware and software is essential.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Seeing that information is the determinant of which nations succeed and which do not, I think those African countries that see the importance of cooperation should do all they can to elevate their scientific and technological information (research and development) projects and activities to the highest possible level. A network of STI systems in Tanzania, Africa, and indeed the world should gradually be built through cooperative ventures (learning from each other through other case study follow-up projects).
Jacques Delors, the former President of the European Union, has said that without confidence, no people can be united to work for a common cause. So the first objective should be to build people's confidence. And how does one do that exactly? By helping people to help themselves so that they do not "live on handouts" and by giving people a sound education and letting them make their own (rational) decisions. This may take longer to achieve but gives the best results in the long run.
I am very grateful to Theophilus Mlaki for all his support and guidance. . .and his demand for excellence! Also at COSTECH, I would like to thank Mr. Yonazi, Senior Scientific Officer and the Desk Officer in charge of TANISSAT, who has been very understanding when I use his equipment. I have worn his patience rather thin as there are so many documents to produce.
I am also grateful to my husband and children for their understanding every time I came home late or worked on Sundays.