9º World Congress on Health Information and Libraries

Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, September, 20 to 23 - 2005


4th Regional Coordination Meeting of the VHL

September, 19 to 20 - 2005

The impact of information technology on health information access in sub-Saharan Africa: the divide within the divide

  • Ph.D., University Librarian, Health Science Center Libraries, University of Florida  - USA
At the end of the 20th century, there is an ongoing inequity of access to information and communication technologies or a ‘digital divide’ between industrialized and developing countries.  Information Technology (IT) was viewed as a potential tool to bridge this gap.  With reliable and cost effective access to the Internet, a significant body of health-related information would be accessible to users in developing and transitional countries. 
As of 2005, the Internet contains much relevant and valuable health information for the developing country environment.  Most of the information is produced within industrialized countries with the material generated in the lesser-developed countries still being quite limited.  Within sub-Saharan Africa, access to this information is quite limited since, in 2002, the computer to users ratio was 1:250-400 compared to a 1:15 world average and a 1:2 industrialized country average.
            Progress has been “patchy” with the sub-Saharan Africa region falling behind most other regions due to the lack of physical access to information.  Also, the internal divide between the urban sector with academic health centers and rural primary care areas continues to be significant.  Without the creation of a major organization with ample funding, pockets of progress will continue to be made, but the full potential of IT to overcome this complex health information divide will never be reached.