Date of this Version
Library Philosophy and Practice 2012
What is local content? According to Abdul Waheed Khan, in his paper presented in a UNESCO and World Summit on the Information Society, "Local content is an expression and communication of a community's locally generated, owned and adapted knowledge and experience that is relevant to the community's situation". Bhattacharjee (2001) says that local content is generally defined as a work which is produced under the creative control of nationals of the country. Meanwhile, the economist definition of local content is that it is the proportion of input which comes from the country itself, as opposed to those imported. Observing that the term "local content" simply refers to indigenous production of anything, the objectives of this paper are;
1. To review the importance of local content in the context of knowledge.
2. To suggest the role to be played by Nigerian university libraries in developing local content emanating from the university communities.
3. To suggest roles to be played by university libraries in the attempt to publish local content originating from Nigerian university communities to the global world.
Local content is important for national development. It is a product that nations, countries and communities should seize before the end of next decade. The educational, social, economic, political, and religious despondence of today's society is highly related to the reliance of man on non-local content, leaving the often rich, compactable and prized native produce to die slowly without reference to it. This was the ugly observation of several world organizations and scholars around the globe, which resulted in the copious summons to all countries of the world, especially the African countries that are yet to discover the value of their locally generated information, to ensure organization, dissemination and application of the same information in all facets of life's activities.
On Thursday, April 22, 2010, the Nigerian local content bill was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan while in acting capacity. Since then, Nigeria's analysis of the gains and future of the law is barely narrowed to the economic sector, largely concerned with the empowerment of Nigerian nationals in the country's oil and gas industry, arousing little or no consciousness in other sectors like information, which is the power of western nations. The strength, extremes and all-sector importance of the law is not yet understood by Nigerians. Maybe, that President Jonathan and Nigerians, judging by few comments, are happy that this new law will help provide domestic jobs to Nigeria's 140 million citizens, is a representation of how narrowed they have placed the importance of the law. It is no doubt however, that Nigerians may be happier when they shall see and comprehend the benefits of the law in the information milieu (Edemhanria, 2010).
Local content also sharpen government and private enterprises. The studies of Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz (2001); Duran-Romero (2003); Ondategui (2001) and European Union Reports (2002, 2006) reveal the positive result of employing university content (thesis, dissertations, etc.) to production by government and private enterprises in Europe. The application of local research knowledge to manufacturing, engineering, business and other services can be of immense advantage to a community's economic growth. Universities furnish qualified and mobile human resources, researchers and/or students, whose services can be enlisted by the corporate world, with appropriate information.
Moreso, local content provision is an integral part of the development process of local communities. A library with content of local relevance will encourage communities to make use of the library services, especially if they are empowered to participate in development of the content. Greyling and Zulu (2010) opines that low local content on the Web inhibits buy-in from local communities into digital resources and thereby inhibit development of digital skills.
According to the 1998/99 World Development Report, knowledge, not capital, is the key to sustainable social and economic development. Building on local knowledge, the basic component of any country's knowledge system, is the first step to mobilize such capital. Moreover, there is a growing consensus that knowledge exchange must be a two way street. Stiglitz (1998) opines that the vision of knowledge transfer as a sort of conveyor belt moving in one direction from the rich, industrialized countries, to the poor and developing ones, is likely to lead to failure and resentment. Therefore, development activities, especially those that aim to benefit the local communities directly, need to consider local knowledge in the design and implementation stages of the process.
In addition, local contents are not only very important to a country's national development, growth and global relevance alone, but also contribute to open access actualization. UNESCO (n.d) maintains that access to knowledge would only be possible if information is available and accessible. If UNESCO's mandate on the Promotion of free flow of ideas by word and image, and the maintenance, increase and spread of knowledge must be met, local content development is vital. But this copious call may not be achieved only by enhancing information flows and providing infrastructure, until it involves encouraging knowledge creation, ensuring knowledge preservation, promoting knowledge dissemination, and enhancing knowledge utilization (UNESCO, n.d). The library and information centres should not slumber. No wonder the big question came up in the UNESCO and World Submit on Information Society, asking: "...information or knowledge societies?" These arouse the need to create repositories in Nigerian universities and advocate for digitization of libraries if they must take their place in today's information, but more importantly, knowledge society. Libraries should be a good means of enhancing local content creation and, above all, ensuring its availability and accessibility.
Although the importance of local content has often been raised in many international meetings and by numerous donors and cooperation agencies, concrete initiatives and expertise in this area seem to be scarce. A UNESCO paper titled the need for local content (n.d) records that, "…content initiatives using ICTs tend to 'push' external content towards local communities". Comparatively, content initiatives using libraries as channels of communication should not thrust external content towards local communities, rather should provide local content for the community members' use, wider public access and global view.
Rowlee's (2010) study reveals that there is great importance attached to local content on the internet. Her report in business news reveals that consumers spend over forty percent of their time online, searching contents ranging from emails, community sites, commerce and other information packages on the internet. This implies that our local content can as well attract consumers who spend more money online.
In addition, Robins (2002) conclude that local content creation in a community creates room for social navigation. Munro, et al. (1999) defines social navigation as:
"The creation of social settings and places in information space and behaviour in them, the sociality of information creation, people as members of groups and [the] nature of information itself, its location, evaluation and use".
Dourish (1999) deduced that the availability of local content on the web brings online researchers into a common community, where they are "guided and instructed by the activities of others on the cyberspace". This implies that the electronic success of libraries and information centres is related to the amount of locally generated knowledge or information emanating from the community it serves, which is available online through its server.