New equities of information in an electronic ageBMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6993.1480 (Published 10 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1480
- Christopher Zielinski
- Director Health and Biomedical Information, World Health Organisation, Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, PO Box 1517, Alexandria 21511, Egypt
The Third World needs First World information—how about the other way round?
The developing countries of the Third World are far from homogeneous. Nevertheless, as consumers of information the countries have a stark regularity of features that allows for convenient grouping: most of their medical libraries subscribe to fewer than 50 journals, less than one library in 10 has a computer or CD-ROM player; and budgets for new books, software, and online charges are tiny or non-existent. Telephone and telecommunications systems are sparse, unreliable, and expensive, so use of networks is rare. Where access to networks exists it is used mainly for simple communications rather than to scan health literature.
To add to this unpromising perspective it is now clear that the cost of information is overtaking the cost of information technology. As the price of computers drops and as countries invest in modernising their telecommunications the basic cost of content, reinforced by copyright protecting encryption and tagging systems, will become the principal economic barrier to the flow of information. The “information poor,” particularly in …