A partnership between the World Health Organization and major scientific/ technical/medical publishers like Elsevier, HINARI, the Access to Research in Health Programme, enables institutions in developing countries to access more than 7,000 biomedical and health journals. Thousands of health workers and researchers benefit from this access and, in turn, contribute to improved world health.
Since 2005, I’ve been part of a team that trains individuals in developing countries to use the online health resources available through HINARI. For the past four years (with renewal into 2011), the Elsevier Foundation has funded the E-library Training Initiative, which conducts training workshops for information professionals, physicians, lecturers, researchers and students and develops training modules and distance-learning courses.
In most countries, there is an increase in usage after a countrywide HINARI workshop. The number of registered institutions and volume of logins have increased regularly during the past four years, but this initiative requires an ongoing commitment.
Within host countries, bandwidth and hardware, as well as the baseline skills of participants, are improving. At the last four workshops I taught in Moldova, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Nepal, the venues had reasonably new workstations, plus, individuals brought laptops. Several cables linking West and East Africa to Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been completed. As the cables are linked within sub-Saharan African countries, the bandwidth will increase and the costs should decrease.
In the past three years, librarians and researchers in developing countries demonstrate better Internet, search and information skills. To accommodate user needs, our training material has grown with modules on publishing and underutilized HINARI resources. The new modules include Information Literacy, Authorship Skills, Evidence-based Resources for HINARI Users, and E-book Resources for HINARI Users.
The biggest challenge still is the cost of and access to the Internet. The second broad issue is the need to change the information culture. We need to focus our efforts on developing advocates for the value and use of Internet-based information and continually update our contacts. As individuals leave the institution, sometimes the HINARI connection details leave as well, and use decreases. It’s vital that we keep that pipeline of advocates filled.
Lastly, we need to develop better mechanisms for disseminating information about the training material. Currently, there is no way to reliably contact all institutional representatives.
A systematic review
The Research4Life (R4L) programs, which include HINARI, underwent a systematic review by consultants that was reported at the 2010 Partner Publishers’ Meeting. For HINARI, the evaluation is tied to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for 2015, specifically #8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development/Target 5: In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications. R4L is a tangible program that meets this goal.
The consultants noted the dedication of the staff with finite resources and the high level of cooperation among the UN agencies. The reviews also acknowledged known problems, such as electricity, bandwidth and hardware issues. There was confirmation that the “awareness rate” of HINARI is not sufficient, as it averaged 25 percent in a 12-country study.
Regarding the workshops and training material, the LWB® project and other trainers will develop strategies to help promote the R4L programs and use of the numerous training modules. With new customer-relationship management software, we will be able to disseminate this material to the participants.
New training options
Via the MLA Moodle server (mla.mrooms.org), we have launched two distance-learning courses: the HINARI Train the Trainers Course and the HINARI Short Course. The first course is geared toward individuals from industrialized countries who have links with HINARI-eligible institutions. The second course contains the basics needed to effectively use the HINARI resources and focuses on users.
We expect that the online short course will be a valuable tool for training those who have not been able to attend workshops. Consequently, we are planning to translate this module starting with Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Nepali.
These courses and the other efforts described above should further our attempts to broaden access to much-needed information in the developing world.