An assessment of the sustainability of Information Technology at the University of Zambia Library

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Makondo, Francina N. S
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The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which the University of Zambia (UNZA) Library is addressing the Information Technology (IT) sustainability challenges with the objective of establishing a feasible IT sustainability model of approach that can be adopted by the Library. Using the case methodology, multiple sources of data, including document review, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires were used to collect data from students, lecturers, librarians, computer centre management and a donor representative. The findings of the study show that most IT acquired since 1992 is no longer functioning. More than 50% of the computers are not functioning, 80% of the printers are not working,and all the photocopiers are not functioning, while the other auxiliary equipment is in a state of disrepair. This state of affairs is caused by several factors including poor funding and luck of support from university administration. Because of poor state of equipment in the Library, the intended benefits of users have not been realised. For instance, 78% of the lecturers do not use the library for a variety of reasons one of which is that they are unsatisfied with the services provided in the Library. The study also revealed that the non-commitment of lecturers to the sustainability of IT could be attributed to their non-involvement in the initial planning of the computerisation project. The findings further show that UNZA Library does not have technical capacity to sustain its IT resources because it does not have its own qualified software and hardware technician since the Library is facing a critical staffing situation. There are no concrete strategies put in place to ensure sustainability of IT in the Library and the university as a whole. Using the sustainability index adopted from the World Bank sustainability Index, a sustainability score is calculated to show the extent to which the Library is sustaining its IT resources. The study came up with a number of recommendations that will ensure sustainability of IT in the Library, such as reconstituting the Library Automation Committee, coming up with a comprehensive information policy and coming up with a strategy to allocate and reallocate funds to support hardware and software upgrades in order to provide and support additional information services. A further recommendation was to amortise the placement costs of technology over a period, in addition to making IT a line item in the Library budget and build indigenous capacity to make the complete withdrawal of funds less disruptive of the ongoing activities. It is further recommended to keep benefit evaluation in perspective of with the Library function. In conclusion, the problem of sustainability of IT is an issue that requires concerted effort in order to make sure that the present problems are resolved such as the reduction of prices, easing conditions of procurement, making IT more human-advancement oriented. There is also need to ensure efficient and effective resource allocation, organisational responsibility and commitment, appropriately scaled technology, cooperation and genuine assistance from donor agencies.
Information Techology -- University of Zambia Library