The Open Source Debate

 How far have we walked?

The old debate on whether scholarly information should be made easily available to the public has been going on for many centuries. In 2012 we ask how far we have walked in an attempt to open it again. Should scholarly information be confined to the corridors of academic institutions? As scholars in developing countries, does the creation and ownership of content justify making the public pay for information? Can information be made easily available on the internet and be trusted as authoritative? What’s the criterion for determining the source? If the public pays, are there any models we can use to charge for information since it is today seen as a commodity in as much as it is a resource? How can we (scholars) contribute to the development of our communities in a manner that is ethical and does not compromise our integrity as existing and prospective professionals? We use the word scholar to refer to a learner person (especially in the humanities); someone who by long study has gained mastery in one or more disciplines (The Free Online English Dictionary sv scholar).

Challenges and Opportunities

For those who specialize in cataloguing, are the challenges that come with for example, huge amounts of content being created and disseminated by individuals and organization everyday on the internet a worry some factor; or can the challenge be seen as an opportunity to apply new cataloguing standards for information on the internet? Of course, some might see these challenges as opening a door for entrepreneurial activities outside of the traditional library environment. For those working in an information institution such as a library, can these opportunities be used to conduct research on some of the problem areas in the organization and retrieval of information through Information and Communication Technologies thereby helping advance professionalism and specialization? What about the “digital divide”, how can we bridge the gap between the haves and the have not?  

Taking a stance

Our position is that YES, scholarly information should be made easily accessible to the public albeit with reservations. What’s your opinion? The idea is to make scholarly literature easily available to scholars (i.e. same discipline, same field principle applies) through constant generation, evaluation, packaging, transfer and dissemination. Where applicable, a small fee will be charged for the products. For instance, scholars registered for a Bachelor of Information Science Undergraduate degree could exchange and share their assignments to compare answers before and after submission to their department for marking. Post marking, exchange, review and feedback could help scholars recap and turn their knowledge into information for others. The notion of ‘exchange post marking’ could be linked to our belief that at third level, most scholars would have absorbed enough knowledge, thus making them a prime group for Open Source Debate advocacy.

Another important element to achieving this mission could depend on scholars at Post Graduate level. Does this mean a model is needed to simulate how the relationship between scholars at third level and first level and those doing Undergraduate studies vis-à-vis Post Graduates vice versa would work? And of course, the model would have to include the working professional and their relationship/responsibility towards the self, their profession, work environment and society albeit there are many ethical dilemmas (INS2066 Only Study Guide. 2010) to face henceforth. According to Smith, M (2001: 32), information ethics are concerned with moral dilemmas and ethical concerns that show up when human beings interact with information, communications and information systems through creation, organization, dissemination and use.  

We believe that during the sixteen years of democracy in South Africa, the dominant escapist media culture has influenced users reading attitudes towards knowledge-based content. This reading monogenesis has since resulted in a society that no longer appreciates literature for mental elevation in favor of the more populist content.

 Project Implementation theory

According to Callon (1997) in Trusler and Van Belle, the Actor-Network theory is “adept at analyzing the relationship between human and non-humans”. For example, how can scholars interact with computers and the internet in order to implement this proposed project? Although aware not all students have a mutual relationship with machines, we believe scholars should utilize the availability of Information and Communications Technologies especially the internet with its many elements such as Student Websites, Blogs and Wikis, to create, organize, store, disseminate and use information. Why work so hard to compile your assignments or dissertation or thesis only to leave the work to gather dust in your study room? Let’s engage, share, learn and grow.

 Mahlaga Molepo is an Information Science Fellow at University of South Africa, Department of Information Science, P O Box 392, Unisa, 0003 Email:

Follow the discussions here and now as well as on: and

Copyright © 2012. Mahlaga Molepo AIS3705 Practical Portfolio Task 1


To my fellow Bachelor of Information Science scholars at the University of South Africa: Gadija Sydow, Jullie Makwata, Pauline Maritz and Dina Mokgadi Mashiyane for their comments on the Face Book group page for BInf Students Unisa.

Sources consulted

Callon, M. (1997). Theoretical Research Framework: Actor-Network Theory / by Jonathan Trusler & Jean-Paul Van Belle: [adapted from The Market Test]. In Law, J. & Hassard, J. (1998) Eds., Actor Network Theory and After. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.

 INS2066 Only Study Guide. 2010. Department of Information Science. University of South Africa: Pretoria

Smith M. 2001. Information Ethics, Frederick C. Lynden in (Ed). Advances in Librarianship, Vol.25, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 29-66 [See also permanent link: ]

The Free Online English Dictionary (sv Scholar). The Free Online English Dictionary available at [Assessed 23 April 2012]

DOWNLOAD  a FREE COPY of  my Practical Portfolio below: 



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