Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Management Information Systems

School

School of Business

Faculty

Business and Law

First Advisor

Dr Richard Fulford

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Peter Standen

Abstract

This research study explores the potential of digital libraries (DLS) in Iraq and identifies inhibitors to adoption. Iraq is an ancient civilisation, with a recorded history of more than 5000 years. The Mesopotamian civilisation and the Babylonian Civilisation (both in Iraq) are amongst the most ancient in the world, and have existed from the times of the ancient Egyptian, Indus Valley, Persian civilisations. Iraq has a rich cultural history, with many rare historical manuscripts, antiques etc., on which many treatises have written and still continues to be a popular subject of research. In its recent history, Iraq has had much turmoil as a result of war, sanctions and internal conflict. In recent years many libraries such as the Iraq National Library and Archive (Dar al-Makhtutat, Dar al-Kutub wa-al-Watha'iq), Bayt al- Hikma, Maktabat al-Awqaf and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences have been looted and burnt. It has been proposed by the government to implement digital libraries to broaden accessibility and preserve documents.

Today the advancement of civilisation and speed of innovation are highly dependent on the availability of information. With increased access to information, even the most underprivileged sections of society will have improved economies. There are numerous investments in infrastructure and improvements in the standardisation of protocols, such as http, that have enabled the sharing of information. One of the predominant tools for storing and allowing access to information is a digital library. Digital library technology has been widely adopted worldwide by governments, universities and private institutions. However, implementation of this technology is seen to be a challenge for developing countries, and particularly those nations affected by conflict. This research study examines the issues related to the implementation of digital libraries in the developing country of Iraq.

Digital libraries are an effective system of collecting, storing, organising and distributing documents. They also provide privacy and security. Digital libraries have been seen to have transformed the delivery of education in Western countries. Some African nations, Arab states, India, Thailand and many others have also benefitted from digital libraries. However, it has been identified in the literature that the implementation and adoption of digital libraries has many challenges in poorer nations.

A review of the extant literature provided the foundation of the conceptual framework for the study. Much of the literature concerning Iraq and developing nations predicted an exploratory study. The ontological and epistemological stance of the researcher and the nature of the phenomenon led to a method of inductive qualitative case study. A semistructured interview guide was used to obtain data from eight libraries in Iraq. The data were analysed using the constructs developed during the literature review. The researcher’s analysis also led to the identification of new constructs that were integrated into the research. Common aspects and issues with regards to implementation of digital libraries were identified.

The results revealed that library staff in Iraq are aware of digital libraries and convinced of their benefits. However, they see many challenges to implementation. Their main concerns are that digital libraries require library staff to have improved knowledge of information and communication technology and English literacy. The researcher found that the capital cost of digital equipment and regulatory issues, such as protection of intellectual property and privacy laws, precluded adoption. The researcher also uncovered broader issues, including the dearth of internet access, poor infrastructure, lack of computers in the population and even the frequent interruption of electricity as major inhibitors to adoption.

The researcher found that the benefits of digital libraries are predicted to be extensive; essentially the DLs are seen to be able to provide free, unhindered 24/7 access from anywhere and that this will contribute positively to the socio-economic development of Iraq. DLs will also empower women who will be able to access information from the privacy of their homes, without facing restrictions imposed by Arab culture. Moreover, the cross-referencing of DLs would save time and help research students. Multimedia used in DLs would also enhance students’ learning experience. Furthermore, DLs would showcase the rich cultural heritage of Iraq to foreign nations by linking Iraqi DLs with others in the world.

For digital libraries to be implemented in Iraq the following barriers to effective implementation of DLs need to be addressed: poor literacy, poor English language and lack of ICT skills, funds for digital equipment (servers, software, etc.), and for accessing the DL (client computer, Smartphone, iPad, etc.), lack of infrastructure (including electricity supply and internet capability), and cultural issues. This will require that DLs are endorsed at the highest level of government and planned with the recognition of the unique environmental conditions. Investment in electricity plant and supply, as well as Internet connectivity is anecessity. Funding by government and foreign donor agencies would be crucial to cover the initial capital expenditure and ongoing running costs of DL. Training needs to be provided to library staff. Finally, it would be necessary to obtain arrangements with other digital libraries around the world and to implement laws of copyright protection.

The study is significant because it reveals many benefits of DLs to Iraq and provides insights about the inhibitors to adoption. The study supports further research into DLs in Iraq by providing constructs, inhibitors and some of the potential of DLs. It also provides a priori for explorative research about DLs in other developing nations.

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