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Thursday, November 24, 2005

New digitisation report calls for cross-sectoral e-content strategy

New digitisation report calls for cross-sectoral e-content strategy

A report published today, suggests that although around �130m of public money has been spent on the creation of digital content since the mid-1990s, public sector digitisation programmes have been unstructured, piecemeal and fragmented. In contrast, Google’s Print Library Project, which aims to digitise huge quantities of books from some of the world’s leading libraries, “portends a revolution” in the world of information provision in which the public sector risks being left behind. The report which was commissioned on behalf of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and CURL (Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles) and based on research undertaken at Loughborough University, calls for “a dynamic response” from public sector organisations to meet these challenges and recommends the creation of a UK-wide strategy to avoid the duplication, gaps in provision and lack of coordination that have hampered public sector efforts in this area.

In spite of such findings, however, the report also points to the “phenomenal” growth in the “richly detailed and flexible material” that publicly-funded digitisation programmes have been responsible for in the last ten years. “Digital resources are now available to enrich educational experiences at all stages of the learning journey,” says the report, “from formalised lessons in the primary classroom to the lifelong learner’s casual browsing at home.”

In order to maximise continuing public sector investment in digitisation, however, the report recommends the setting up of a UK task force to set clear guidelines on standards and to coordinate a national e-content strategy. The development of a single point of access to the range of services, information sources and funding streams on offer would also, the report continues, bring much-needed coordination to national efforts. Finally, the report recommends that greater attention be paid to the needs of users, which, it says, “are still not fully understood.” Gaps in provision, such as those in science and the social sciences can be filled through consultation with the relevant scholarly, subject, professional and research bodies, the report concludes.

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