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close this bookBridge Builders: African Experiences with Information & Communication (BOSTID, 1996, 304 p.)
close this folderCase studies on the introduction of cd-rom to university libraries
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View the documentThe CD-ROM Service for the University of Dar es Salaam
View the documentCD-ROM for Health Information in Zimbabwe
View the documentBackground Summary: The African Index Medicus (AIM) Project
View the documentCommunications for Better Health Project in Zambia

The CD-ROM Service for the University of Dar es Salaam

by John M. Newa

Dr. John Newa is Director of Library Services at the University of Dar es Salaam He has worked on the promotion and development of information centers in Tanzania. Since 1990, he has been concerned with the introduction and applications of information technologies in libraries.


The University of Dar es Salaam was the first university for Tanzania. The United Republic of Tanzania was the outcome of the political union in 1964 between the former British Protectorates of Tanganyika (independent in 1961) and Zanzibar (independent in 1964 following a bloody revolt against the Arab Sultan). It is located on the Indian Ocean between Kenya and Uganda in the north, Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire in the west, Zambia and Mozambique in the south. The country has a population of about 27 million and is growing at the rate of 3.1 percent (1991).' People use Kiswahili as the national language. English is a second language and the language used in institutions of higher learning.

Tanzania is ranked second from the bottom worldwide in terms of its gross domestic product and its economy is mainly agricultural-based. It was reportedly growing at the rate of 3.6 percent in 1992. The industrial sector is increasing and accounts for 40 percent of the national economy. Through the International Monetary Fund's policies of structural adjustment, the economy is said to be improving, although the man on the street says life is getting more difficult.

The country recorded a literacy rate of over 80 percent in the late 1980s. The policy of Universal Primary Education - introduced in the early 1970s and calling for all girls and boys to have a basic seven years of primary education - is in place.

Yet the total number of children enrolled in secondary schools is less than 10 percent of primary school graduates, and the number of those who struggle and make it to the universities hardly reaches 0.05 percent. In recent years deliberate efforts have been made to increase the amount of science and technology in the curriculum at all levels of education.

Scientific and technological training is given more emphasis in the Teachers and Technical Colleges, as well as in the several vocational institutes spread all over the country. The government, through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, is making deliberate efforts to prepare the country for the 21st century when scientific and technological information developments will be critical for national socioeconomic development.

At the national level, the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) is responsible for the adoption, development, and dissemination of scientific and technological information. The target of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education is to raise the national expenditure on research and development (R&D) from the present 0.2 percent to 1 percent by the year 2000. Besides creating the scientific and technological infrastructure in R&D institutions, COSTECH is in the process of creating three databases: a directory of scientists and technologists; a directory of scientific and technological institutions, and an inventory of scientific and technological equipment.

The need for adequate scientific and technological information (STI) is felt in the research institutes of all sectors, including agriculture, forestry, health, industry, wildlife, and fisheries. However, I feel that the greatest need for the provision of STI is in the institutions of higher learning, especially the universities that are expected to support teaching, research, and consultancy activities.

When the CD-ROM project was first being prepared in 1991, the STI infrastructure at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and throughout the country was still underdeveloped. There were only a few international vendor agencies for STI hardware and software in the country: among them, IBM, International Computers Limited (JCL) and Wang. There were two electronic mail nodes: one at the Medical Library in connection with the HealthNet Project and another at COSTECH. At the UDSM, besides the University Computer Centre, there were personal computers in only some departments. The library had two computers. There was also a ground station for communication using a low-earth orbiting (LEO) satellite connection between the Department of Electrical Engineering and Essex University, in England. As far as CD-ROM services are concerned there was one CD-ROM workstation each at the United States Information Center Library (for the Books in Print database), at the British Council Library (for the British Books in Print database), at the Demographic Unit of the University of Dar es Salaam (for the POPLINE database), and in the Department of Crop Science at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (for a few databases from the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux).

As the CD-ROM Service project was getting under way in 1993, an electronic mail node was installed at the University Computer Centre, with connections to various departments of the University. For a variety of reasons, including the lack of email technicians and the need for a secure location to place the equipment, the library did not get its email connection until May 1995. Until then the University Library used the Medical Library and Computer Centre email nodes for sending and receiving messages. The University Computer Centre expected to install an Internet connection via leased line to South Africa in November 1995, however that proved too expensive and the Computer Centre is currently waiting for the arrival a satellite dish that they will use to connect to the Internet.

At this point the University of Dar es Salaam is in the process of adopting a technology information policy that will encompass the various university operations, including administration, student administration, finance, and the automation of the library.


The University of Dar es Salaam academic community was facing the problem of availability of and access to current information for its teaching, learning, and research activities. Our scholars and researchers were isolated from their colleagues in the region and overseas. Limited resources made it difficult to acquire and provide current information resources, including the maintenance of adequate periodical subscriptions. The lack of information technology resources and the poor telecommunication infrastructure ruled out online connections with information databases in the region and abroad.

For all of these reasons, we decided to introduce CD-ROM service to the University. We had heard about the successful introduction of CD-ROM at the medical library in Zimbabwe and wanted to provide our own library users with the same benefits: especially convenient and relatively inexpensive access to current scientific, technological, and socioeconomic information.

The financial support provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York allowed for the purchase of two CD-ROM workstations, their accessories, a laser printer, and initial subscriptions to two CD-ROM databases. The Institute of Scientific Information's (ISI) Science Citation Index and the Social Science Citation Index were selected for their breadth in providing for the teaching, learning, and research needs of a large section of the university academic community. We hoped that this broad appeal would give the new service good publicity.

The CD-ROM service started operation with two donated engineering databases provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Engineering Index Page One and Compendex Plus - and the Distance Education Database from the International Centre for Distance Learning (ICDL), donated by the Commonwealth Association for Distance Education. The Library also decided to acquire two additional databases, ERIC and TROPAG, which we believed to be of more general interest to the larger section of the academic and research community at the university and in other R&D institutions in the country.

Within its interlibrary loan program, the library had provision for document delivery through coupons purchased from the British Library Lending Division in Boston Spa. This provision enabled the Library to provide a modest document delivery service emanating from the CD-ROM database searches. In order to cope with the increasing demand from the CD-ROM service, the document delivery financial allocation had to be more than doubled.

The library was also maintaining a total of about 800 current journal subscriptions, 40 percent of which came through the assistance of the Swedish Agency for Research and Economic Cooperation (SAREC), 20 percent through AAAS's support within the sub-Saharan Africa program, and 40 percent from the library's own resources. The photocopying service of the library was also improved by the purchase of additional heavy-duty machines. The photocopying machines had been purchased with funds from SAREC within its Library Support to Tanzania Libraries Programme.

As originally intended, the CD-ROM service has provided the academic and research community at the university, in particular, and in Tanzania, in general, access to current information and has relieved the isolation of scholars and scientists in the region and abroad. In brief, the service provides scholars and researchers with the capacity of 15 different and updated CD-ROM databases in their subjects of interest and provides document delivery to most items requested. The databases include subjects in Science and Applied Technology, Social Science and the Humanities, and Law. Document requests from database searches were met by services from the British Lending Library and recently from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the AAAS. Our assessment is that the document delivery service, in terms of documents requested and time it takes to get the documents, has not been found satisfactory by our CD-ROM service users.

When we acquired the CD-ROM service, the only other operational service I knew about was at the Medical Library, which was part of the HealthNet project. My visit to the Department of Crop Science at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in the company of a team of experts from BOSTID indicated that the facility was not being used. I am also informed that about 1993 a CD-ROM facility was introduced at the Uyole Ministry of Agriculture, Research and Training Institute. It is not known which databases were donated to the Institute but I guess these might be products of the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux. Again the state of its functionality and extent of use is not known.

COSTECH acquired one CD-ROM workstation about 1993, which became operational in the same year, using patent databases from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Application Bibliography. When I visited the facility recently, the CD-ROM drive was out of order. The Ministry of Trade and Industry Registry Office is also reported to have one CD-ROM workstation.

The Office has also received a wide range of patent CD-ROM databases. However the facility is not yet operational awaiting the training of staff. So as far as the general academic and research community is concerned' the CD-ROM at the University Library was the first facility with a reasonable degree of usage.

Since our CD-ROM facility has been operational, there has been keen interest to spread the technology to other institutions in the country. As seen above the CD-ROM; service has since been introduced in other information institutions in the country. The UDSM Library service has built upon the library's and the university's interest to acquire more personal computers. Since then the Library has acquired six computers, which are used in a variety of operations, including the creation of three local databases, in education, environment, and biodiversity. Under the UDSM Library's coordinating role for the SAREC Library Support Programme to Tanzania, we have also acquired four personal computers for other universities and research institutes. As will be seen below, the tempo generated is now helping us make a credible case for the library's partial or complete automation.

BOX 1 The Art of Proposal Writing

The personal contacts who gave us information on the technology - and where and how to get it - made a large difference in the quality of our proposal. The library had earlier contacted Dr. Patricia Rosenfield at the carnegie corporation of New York. She suggested that we meet with Wendy White of the U.S. National Research Council, who was scheduled to visit Tanzania in 1991 as a guest of COSTECH. The project proposal for the CD-ROM service was revised with her help and expertise before we submitted it to Carnegie. When you are new to proposal writing like we were, it is very helpful to have someone come along and help you compose answers to the reviewers, criticisms! For example, we thought that we had to address the reviewers" comments by changing our proposal to agree with them. We didn't know that we could challenge the reviewer by giving our justification for why we proposed to do things in a certain way or to use a certain product vendor.


Correct decisions concerning how to go about writing an acceptable and externally-funded project proposal, the handling of the grant, and the acquisition of hardware, software, and databases have been critical to the effective and efficient operation of the CD-ROM service. The story of how we learned about the technology, what it could do for us, and how and from whom to acquire it has been given above and in Box 1. Because we had little expertise and experience at the UDSM Library on appropriate equipment and databases, contacts with other African librarians in the region and individuals abroad at meetings organized by the AAAS and the U.S. National Research Council were very helpful. Still, our lack of experience resulted in heavy reliance on vendor recommendations for hardware and software and little control over the versions and price paid.

We decided to use the ICL local agent as a vendor for the hardware and software, so as to ensure the availability of spare parts, service, and consumables. Lengthy and cumbersome customs procedures were avoided by asking the Carnegie Corporation to make direct purchases from the vendor's parent company in London. A two-year service contract with the local vendor at the time of purchase solved the problem of installation and maintenance. The local back-up service has proved to be critical to the smooth operation of the service. Yet I have heard criticism from the Director. AAAS Library Program for sub-Saharan Africa, that the price paid for the UDSM's CD-ROM hardware was the highest in Africa. I swear that it was not caused by the Library Director's demand for kick-backs! It could be a factor of international and local vendors' price mark-ups, or a result of the country's customs duty structure for computer products imported into the country. The first two CD-ROM workstations were actually bought directly by the donor from ICL London and sent to the UDSM Library.

We faced a number of problems before the service got under way. First, the cost of the entire package from the local vendor was comparatively high. Then, the installation of the facility took longer than our donor could understand. We had peculiar local problems of security and high humidity. It took about six months for the Estates Department of the University to fix security grills and provide air conditioning for the CD-ROM facility. That was to ensure that the equipment was safe from possible theft and could not be damaged by the high Dar es Salaam humidity. So, although it took us longer than expected to become operational, we have had no serious problems in the safety and operation of the facility.

The purchase of CD-ROM database subscriptions has also been problematic from the outset. First of all, the CD-ROM databases selected were very expensive by our standards. In addition, financial transactions with database dealers overseas were long and difficult to execute, partly because of financial regulations at home and partly because of some irksome conditions set by the vendors. For example, the vendors required that we sign lease agreements before purchase and delivery. The database vendors contacted would not accept UNESCO coupons. Because of that initial experience, we have in subsequent years paid our database subscriptions through a London-based book agent who accepts payment in UNESCO coupons. We also learned that, in some cases, the CD-ROM databases actually belong to the publisher and were only being leased to us: we would have to return one disc before an update would be issued or if we had to cancel the subscription at a future date.

From the beginning we realized that it was our responsibility to have a few database subscriptions that were rather popular, rather than rely completely on the grant. We chose a department with high visibility - Reference - to house the CD-ROM service. This department was fortunately headed by a very able, effective, and efficient scholar and professional who had great personal drive. This has proved to be an asset to the service.

Effective March 1994, we formed a CD-ROM Service committee whose membership includes two end-users (people of senior academic ranks in the faculties of Engineering and Science) and four library professionals (the Director and the Heads of the Reference, Periodicals, and Readers Services departments).

In a concrete way, the university teaching and research community have reacted very positively to the project. (See Box 2.) Since the CD-ROM service became operational more and more users have turned up. The CD-ROM service is now the most important part of the library for teaching staff and postgraduate students and researchers. The library's 1994/95 Annual Report indicates that there has been an average of 53 searches per month and a total of 1,540 since the service started in October 1993.

The image of the library staff has also been significantly boosted among university professors, students, and committees. The CD-ROM service has frequently been cited by the Higher Degrees Committee as reason for academic staff and postgraduate students to enroll in the university. Since the CD-ROM service became operational, the Appointments Committee for Academic Staff no longer accepts complaints about lack of access to scholarly publications. Everyone on campus is expected to use the new service to improve their own scholarship.

BOX 2 The Benefits of CD-ROM

"Now that we have an efficient CDROM Service in the Library, there is no valid excuse for one not to register for a Ph.D. locally nor to produce scholarly publications, or go overseas for literature review."
Chairperson, Appointments Committee for Academic Staff at the UDSM, June 1993

Promotion and Publicity for the CD-ROM Services

We widely publicized the CD-ROM service within the university community and outside. We initially announced the service in various university committees, including faculty boards and the Senate. We sent circular letters to all heads of departments within the university and to all academic staff members, and we posted notices on all bulletin boards. We sent similar letters announcing and explaining the service to other universities and research institutes. We prepared special publicity leaflets and spread them all over the campus and outside. The 1993/94 Library Guide and University Prospectus and subsequent annual editions have included a sizable section on the CD-ROM service.

Word of mouth still plays a very important part in African communication channels. Since the 1993/94 academic year the service has featured prominently in all freshman and postgraduate orientation programs. I have spoken about the service in various forums, including the Senate, the Committee of Deans, Faculty Boards, and other academic gatherings to both announce and explain the service and its benefit for teaching, learning, and research.

The Library CD-ROM Committee took part in a number of departmental seminars as well as in postgraduate research seminar programs. So far the library has organized two Exposition Days for the CD-ROM service that were very well attended by both the university and external community. We organized the first Exposition Day when the service was just getting under way. We held the second Exposition Day during the university's Silver Jubilee week in July 1995; it was officiated by the former President and Chancellor of the University, Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere. The mass media, including newspapers and television, widely covered the event. Recently we decided to place one of the three CD-ROM workstations in the public area near the public catalog. The visibility of the facility may attract more users. We trust that these marketing and promotional efforts will improve and increase the use of the CD-ROM service.

Outreach Activities

In fact we are already providing outreach service to users in sister universities and research institutes. We have given access to a number of external users. In connection with other Library Current Awareness Services, we provide searches for users from outside the University. We have desktop publishing equipment on order that will allow us to produce and disseminate an information bulletin to users in the university and outside. The major limitation that we are facing now is poor and slow communication with institutions that do not have email or other telecommunication facilities. Thus in addition to providing traditional library products and services, such as bibliographies and newsletters, we plan to use the CDROM service as a launching pad for direct and aggressive services, directed at answering specific needs of S&T practitioners and researchers. This will include SDI (selective dissemination of information), retrospective searches, assistance in question formulation, bibliographies on demand, question and answer services, referral, photocopying, and citation tracing. These are in addition to the document delivery service.


We put a monitoring system in place when the service was launched. We keep records for users and their particulars, as well as records of searches. We are in the process of installing a system that can do that automatically. Currently all is done on daily record sheets which are cumulated weekly, monthly and yearly. Table I shows usage according to the broad categories of staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students, and others. Table 2 shows the number of searches requested according to the database.

TABLE 1 Usage Statistics, 1993-1995
























Since May 1995, the library has embarked on a project to evaluate the CDROM service, particularly the various CD-ROM databases held by the library. We identified senior academics and postgraduate students who had used the service and asked them to evaluate the databases in their various aspects, including the amount of information and its usefulness, relevance, currency, and coverage of the Africa region. From this evaluation and others to be conducted in the future, we will determine whether or not the CD-ROM service is having the desired effect. Unfortunately because of a change of the Librarian in charge of the CD-ROM service in the Library, this important report is not yet out.

We are bearing in mind Erick Baard's injunction that: "A correct assessment of an information technology innovation should include an examination of its requirements as regards physical and social infrastructure, its possible effects on new environments, and finally the nature of the limitations to information utilization which it is designed to alleviate."

TABLE 2 Searches by Database





Compendex Plus




Social Science Citation Index




Science Citation Index




Tropag and Rural Economy




Educational Resources Information Center








Arts and Humanities




International Centre for Distance Learning-



Public Affairs Information services




Life Sciences




Social Science Index








Applied Sciences




Current Citation




Current Contents













We have also taken serious steps to take care of the training aspect for both library staff and users. We expect staff to have basic computer skills and some ability in trouble-shooting, in case of minor operating problems. In order to undertake database searches effectively, CD-ROM operators need knowledge and experience in information retrieval techniques. So far all this has been only partially accomplished because, although professional staff had some exposure in their professional training, the rest of it, especially for the support staff, has been done on the job. Many academic staff members have had some database searching experience during their studies overseas. The bigger problem is with those who trained locally. The training of this group, together with that of students, is done by the library staff during their early database search sessions. The library has persuaded some teaching staff to have demonstrations in their classes or during seminars. The problem has always been whether to take the equipment to the class or to bring the group to the library CD-ROM facility. We have also used the Exposition Days as an opportunity to train both teaching and research staff and students in conducting database searches. We are still struggling to get training in trouble-shooting for our staff, but opportunities in the region and abroad have not presented themselves.


In hindsight we can say what went right:

· It was critical to have a good and acceptable CD-ROM project proposal and we were lucky that somebody happened to be there at the right time.
· We consulted and got the support of the university authorities before we sent out our project proposal. That support has been very critical in a number of ways, including provision of adequate local funding, and in publicizing the service.
· The decision to choose that particular vendor for the purchase of the equipment was also right. Back-up service has been very critical and the local ICL agent has generally not let us down.

There is no doubt that the CD-ROM service technology has done a wonderful job in alleviating our problems of availability of and access to current information. It is definitely a technology that we can afford. In implementing the technological innovation at the Dar es Salaam University, we did our level best to make the right decisions, and some of the problems are beyond our control.

So far our user statistics are still low. We should have made the CD-ROM service accessible to undergraduate students. That should have boosted our user statistics to an optimal level. We are discussing that issue in the CD-ROM Service Committee and the idea is likely to be accepted and adopted. We are also experimenting with various ways of making the document delivery service easier and cheaper for users.

There is little that we can do about the high cost of hardware and the ISI database products. We wished we had started with cheaper products. We could also have shortened the period of waiting for the purchase and the delivery of the equipment. That might have required us to use the services of another local agent, other than the ICL agent. But then that might have meant compromising on the back-up service. Unfortunately practically all hardware and software has to be ordered from overseas, and not locally or in the region. We had to resort to using personal contacts in the region and abroad from the beginning to the implementation stage of the project in order to obtain all the equipment and programs we needed.

At this point we have managed to convince our major CD-ROM database dealers, ISI and Silver Platter, to accept payment in UNESCO coupons. By this method, we have managed to bypass the cumbersome bank transfer procedures.

The application of information and communication technology (ICT), however, raises some old problems: if not used properly, ICT could perpetuate the dependency syndrome of the poorer African countries on the western countries. Of course this is a controversial issue like "appropriate technology" or "aid" in both the North and the South. As other case studies have shown, however, the technology can also be used to Africa's advantage. For instance, cataloging and capturing locally-produced material for distribution on CD-ROM will be of great benefit to Africa. Dissemination of local information databases to the North can provide a give and take situation between the South and the North.

The sustainability issue is very critical. The donor agency and the university have raised it on numerous occasions. The library and the university must have the necessary resources to carry on the project, when the donor's project period comes to an end. Here the need to make provision for local resources is critical. The local contribution is actually important throughout the functional operation of the project.

We have made significant efforts to cultivate individuals, departments, and research institutes inside and outside the university to contribute to the sustainability of the CD-ROM service. We have indicated that all users of the service must contribute to the cost of the service in one way or another. During the initial and launching period everything has been provided free-of-charge; however, as the service becomes critical to users, the users will be requested to pay at least a nominal cost for printing. We also ask users to pay for photocopies of documents delivered. We charge outside users a small user fee.

Teaching departments of the university are requested to consider subscribing to CD-ROM databases in their respective subjects within their link agreements with overseas universities or include the databases within their documentation components when presenting proposals to donor agencies. The faculties of Education and Engineering, for example, will take up subscriptions to ERIC and Engineering

Index, respectively, should the Library fail to pay for those subscriptions. The Faculty of Science will take up databases in the sciences. Recently the Faculty of Law consulted the Library on the acquisition of hardware and software, including databases in law. Some departments also have arrangements to pay for the cost of document delivery for their staff and postgraduate students.

It is also important to think about twinning arrangements with other projects going on in the Library. This ensures the successful implementation and mutual support of the projects. For the University of Dar es Salaam Library this has included project support from SAREC, the AAAS Journal Donation Program, and the UNO/RAF/006/GEF Biodiversity Project. One project seems to have a multiplier effect on others. It is after you have one project running smoothly that you attract other, related information technology projects. Since we started the CDROM service project in 1993, we have had two other local database creation projects.


The introduction of the CD-ROM service technology has solved a critical information problem for the UDSM and Tanzania. But there are several challenges, beyond the issue of sustainability. Recognizing that the UDSM Library cannot afford to ignore the CD-ROM technology - for fear of being left further behind - we have some concerns about whether the CD-ROM technology can be technically maintained. Do we have enough local expertise to repair and replace the technology, for example? So far we have depended on back-up service from the vendor. So the problem of maintenance is not difficult in the country, but it could be cheaper and faster if we had the qualified personnel at the University or in the Library.

The CD-ROM databases we have from overseas cannot meet all of our STI needs. For development purposes, Tanzania's scientists need to have access to local and regional information resources, as well. There is considerable information in the form of grey literature - unpublished or unindexed reports, studies, and surveys by government and R&D institutions. A start has been made by the UDSM Library to create databases of local literature on environment, education, and biodiversity. The next important step is to create regional and continent-wide databases. This effort should be coupled with a campaign to convince scholars, scientists and practitioners to publish locally. Although the UDSM Library is one of the African University Libraries participating in the evaluation of international databases, the outcome of that evaluation is not yet complete at our University, and results from other African universities are not yet out.

As stated above, CD-ROM database information providers and vendors set conditions that are difficult to meet in developing countries. Should we, for example, cancel subscriptions to print indexes and rely on their compact disc equivalents? If we do, what will happen if we cancel the CD-ROM subscription and we are asked to return the discs?

This technological innovation also gives STI workers in the Third World an opportunity to think seriously about the development of appropriate STI technologies in the South and the adaptation of STI technologies from the North. It is our hope that our friends in the North will support this noble endeavor.

It is important to operate a project in accordance with the agreement and expectations of the donor agency. We tried as much as possible to keep to these conditions. We are convinced that because of this, besides the growing user demand for the service, the Carnegie Corporation accepted our application for the extension of the project by supplying an additional CD-ROM workstation and two CD-ROM database subscriptions, a desk-top publishing facility, and support to outreach activities.


1. Statistical data in this report is taken from Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania. Hotuba ya Waziri wa Nchi katika Ofisi ya Rais na Makamu Mwenyekiti wa Tume ya Mipango, Mh. S.A.Kibona(Mbunge) wakati akiwakilisha Bungeni Taarifa ya Uchumi wa Taifa ya Mwaka 1992 na Mapendekezo ya Mpango wa Bajeti (Rolling Plan and Forward Budget) kwakipindicha 1993/94-1995/96, tarehe 17 Julai, 1993. Dar es Salaam: Government Printer, 1993.

2. We have since learned that this is a problem faced around the world - in both developed and developing countries.

3. Baard, Erick (1982) Appropriate Information Technology: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, UJISLAA, 4(4):263-268.