What Is Feasibility?
Several interrelated technical, managerial, and financial factors need
to be considered when evaluating the feasibility of accessing online journals
(whether from Africa or anywhere else). Feasibility is of course a fluid
concept, as most of the important factors are adaptable, given the will,
the knowledge, and the resources. Some of the issues are relatively simple
university policy matters, others more intransigent technical or financial
matters. Setting aside the important issue of the cost of the journal
subscriptions themselves, which is beyond the scope of the present study,
the key factors include:
- Bandwidth (and its costs): What is the capacity of the main link to
the Internet, and what are the costs of upgrading it? Does it make sense
to invest in VSAT or radio link equipment?
- The university’s Internet and local area network (LAN) setup: What
type of server is used? Is a university-wide proxy server in place?
Does it perform caching? How much space is available for caching? How
is the LAN set up (single ring? multiple nodes?)
- The size of the user community relative to the available bandwidth:
Is the user community limited, for example to exclude undergraduates?
Should the university resell its bandwidth to third party users?
- The type and location of journal: Is the journal in HTML or PDF format?
Is its server based in the US, in Europe, or elsewhere (can affect performance,
depending on the routing of the Internet connection)?
- User fees: Are these necessary for sustainability? Are they affordable
to the people who most need to use the Internet?
- Installed software: Are the Internet terminals equipped with Acrobat
Reader or other software that can read PDF files? Is there software
that can download data efficiently overnight, connecting, reconnecting,
and disconnecting as necessary?
- Internet awareness and availability of training: Has a culture of
Internet usage been established? Are there mechanisms to promote and
support it? Does the university dare to promote Internet usage, i.e.,
can the infrastructure support wider usage or is performance a disincentive
- Number and hours of operation of Internet terminals: Is access flexible
enough to accommodate a variety of personal schedules as well as ensuring
off-peak connection time?