<<Portal Digital Library<<INTERAMER<<Educational Series<<Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age<<Chapter 1
Author: Johann Van Reenen, Editor
Title: Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces. Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age
Implications of global trends and the information economy for latin america
The reader may wonder why so much time has been devoted to the larger issues of global change, new management theories and practices, the development of new skills and attitudes for workers in the digital area, and the importance of matching human behavior to information technologies.
Without this broader context the importance of digital libraries and information services cannot be fully understood by governments, administrators or funding agencies. And without an understanding of how the electronic work place, electronic collaborations and virtual work impact organizational outcomes and worker behavior, many digital initiatives will fail. Without grasping the global electronic and information challenges, countries that are tradition-bound and slow to change, will not benefit from the tremendous opportunities provided by electronic commerce. They will also miss the opportunity to empowering their citizens with timely and quality information that ensure democratic freedoms.
The capacity of Latin American countries and institutions to compete in the evolving information economy is tremendous. Statistics on Networking in Latin America is available at http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/tilan/statistics/index.html such as: Internet Hosts in Latin America, 1995-1999, Internet Infrastructure in Latin America, Percentage of Cable-TV Subscriptions in Latin America, and the size of the Latin American Economies.
Library Associations and academic libraries and information networks are listed at http://lanic.utexas.edu/la/region/library/.
There is a new stability is Latin America that bodes well for the new millennium and most countries in the region enjoy the political and economic conditions that could enable science to flourish. However, according to the Nature supplement on science in Latin America (Macilwain 1999b) “among scientists in the region, there is no universal recognition that such an opportunity exists. Most of the larger nations there have enjoyed impressive economic growth over the past ten years, but intellectuals, including scientists, tend to deride this achievement. In particular, they regret the passing of the large, self-sufficient but woefully uncompetitive industrial base that existed behind the trade barriers of the old Latin American economy.” They see five problems that the scientific community must face and correct. In ascending order of difficulty, theseare the:
All these issues come to play in cross national digital library projects, as will be seen in the following chapters, thus creating ideal opportunities to explore breaking the mold in relatively safe and contained experiments.
It is useful to summarize the major points made in this chapter:
As we have seen, the growth of technology; globalization and worldwide markets and competition; the rapidity and discontinuity of change;
speed and rapid turn around times; and pervasive paradox and complexity characterize the 21st century.
Some specific trends are emerging from the above which will affect library and information services. These include E-commerce, using the Internet to stimulate and manage innovation, the rapidly growing workforce who freelances on the Internet (so-called E-lancers), the development of E-Ink and E-books; telecommuting and virtual work, management models based on systems thinking, the development of new ways to measure and of new assets, and the transformation of management and leadership.
Leaders in the information economy need to understand the concepts and management philosophies that drive innovation and success in this environment. It is critical to allow less control and more creativity and risk taking in everyday business. The demands to build effective organizational learning processes in distributed environments are likely to accelerate especially when combined with the rapid developments in information technology. The role of leaders in this kind of world are not to direct others in what to do but to establish the conditions in which workers can realize their own creativity on a much larger scale than is currently the case.
This is also true for governments.
Today’s leaders are challenged to create an environment that encourages unexpected advances and unleashes creativity in traditional organizations such as our universities and research establishments.
Whatever the advantages and challenges of virtual work and workers, this trend is here to stay and will impact leadership and the management of information workers as will be discussed later. The security of competitive information and software systems in an electronic world must be balanced with selected openness to allow cooperative exchanges of information with another organizations (even the competition) when both can benefit.
The use of group support systems (GSS) to enhance idea generation, asynchronous group work anywhere/any place, and to improve productivity is important for organizations functioning and competing in the electronic era and require significant investments in information technology and worker training.
There is a shortage of technically skilled workers and even more so of innovators. Retention and recruitment is one of the greatest obstacles to developing digital library services and information products.
An information age Latin American country, where information itself is key to performing work tasks, must understand and provide effective ways to deliver data and information to knowledge workers, i.e. knowledge management. This is important to good management, innovation and competitiveness in all sectors of industry and society.
The education and training of information professionals and all knowledge workers are key to for a successful economy based on a sound information technology infrastructure. Latin American countries and organizations will need to articulate a knowledge base that will enable professionals to lead change in the information era, identify survival skills for knowledge workers and organizations dependent on these new skills and identify and encourage the fundamental attitudes to practice in a fastchanging environment.