Open Access and Global Inclusion: A Look at Cuba

“Our visit to Cuba not only showed us the history and culture of our Caribbean neighbor but also highlighted barriers to full participation in open access that we anticipated may be shared by others in the global south. Some of these barriers included the digital divide, inequalities in relative purchasing power, global power structures as reflected in scholarly publishing, the dominance of Western scholarly standards, and the privileging of English language scholarship.

While there may be little the OA movement can do directly to influence the Internet infrastructure or the tenure process in developing regions, nonetheless, it can find ways to improve those scholars’ access to OA materials and participation in OA publishing. The OA movement can hold firm to its philosophical underpinnings of global inclusion by taking actions mentioned throughout this paper: it can encourage OA websites to accommodate low bandwidth users; develop more inclusive web discovery tools, publishing standards, and evaluative metrics; assist repositories and journals in creating metadata and websites that aid indexing by search engines; help OA publications and initiatives find funding; and find ways to ease the language gap for those who aren’t English native speakers.

All these observations aren’t intended to trivialize the progress and impact open access has achieved thus far. They’re meant to encourage the OA movement in the West to come even closer to the goal of global inclusion, although what we’ve outlined is by no means all the challenges scholars in Cuba and developing regions face around OA. We give the last thoughts to Maha Bali, an Egyptian academic at the American University, Cairo: ‘But as a scholar from the global South… what is one to do? Wait until the North listens? Because, really, so far the only way to make them listen has been to write in their language, their journals, to their standards of scholarship and hope for the best.’61”