It does not happen often that there a good news from Egypt where I am still living. This news here, although nearly too good to be true, is at least interesting. In January, Egypt is going to launch the Egyptian Knowledge Bank. Anybody with an Egyptian IP-address will be able to get free access to academic journals, ebooks and other publications that normally only would be available to a small circle of individuals that are affiliated with well-funded universities.
Agreements with 26 international publishing houses have already been signed. According to an official statement by the president's media office the Egyptian Knowledge Bank project would be "the largest digital library in the world".
"Our goal is to provide all Egyptians with access to world-class publications, like Nature and Encyclopedia Britannica. By providing these materials free of charge, the knowledge bank ensures that all Egyptians, no matter what their economic circumstances, will have the tools they need to excel in their education and research", Tarek Shawki, chair of the Presidential Specialized Council for Education and Scientific Research, says.
Gaining access to research materials from private journals and other for-profit online publications has long been difficult in Egyptian academic circles, according to the news site Mada Masr. While the American University in Cairo is able to pay for online journals and databases, public universities like the University of Cairo aren't able to do the same.
The agreement with publisher Elsevier, for example, "provides access to ScienceDirect, Elsevier's full-text platform for research literature and abstract and citation database Scopus. They also include Elsevier's clinical search engine ClinicalKey, and engineering reference platforms Knoveland Engineering Village. The partnership also gives Egypt's policymakers access to SciVal, meaning they will be able assess the impact of these tools, and make informed decisions on how and where to invest in research", according Elsevier.
This state-funded initiative is an interesting variation of the open access debate. So far, the efforts have been focused on making the journals itself free to access - a nearly impossible task so far, at least regarding the more prestigious journals. The growth in open access journals, at least within anthropology - is, it seems, rather caused by the establishment of new journals like HAU, Altérités or Vibrant than established ones becoming open for anybody.
Read more about the Knowledge Bank:
Egypt signs national agreement to expand access to scientific information (Elsevier, 17.11.15)
Dean Shawki: Egyptian Knowledge Bank to Widen Research, Education Opportunities (American University in Cairo, AUC, 11.11.15)
Al-Sisi orders establishment of ?Bank of Knowledge? (Daily News Egypt, 15.11.15)