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Digital library on the cards as US seeks to strengthen Islamic ties

September 8, 2010 • Top Stories

US to connect universities from Morocco to Libya

FOLLOWING President Barack Obama’s pledges to push new technology and science in the Middle East during his Cairo speech, the United States is financing a plan to connect the region’s universities and science institutes through a digital library to stretch from Morocco to Libya.

According to a press statement from the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation made available to CAJ News, a nonprofit organisation created by the American government to increase international science programmes, it “is leading the effort and is initially working with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to increase their access to the latest international research, give scientists greater opportunities to collaborate and hopefully bolster their scientific work and scholarly publishing”.

The foundation said a similar virtual library had already been established in Iraq and it is planning to spend US$1,5 million on the project.

The goal, the foundation said, is to “create the means to increase scientific cooperation between North Africa and the Middle East”.

“The US government has a renewed interest in science cooperation generally in order to solve a number of problems: environmental, economic and security,” Eric Novotny, the foundation’s senior vice-president,” was quoted as saying.

“And there’s a push towards engaging the Muslim world.”

Last year while in Cairo, Obama said science and technology partnerships were one of the ways the US could strengthen ties with Islamic nations.

Although the North African digital-library project is still in its infancy, researchers in the region are optimistic about its prospects.

“We believe that this initiative will be able to push scientific learning and research to new levels,” Moroccan ministry of information and technology official, Amir Fekry, told our reporter.

Fekry, a former research scientist with a number of American pharmaceuticals, said “we in the region need to understand that if we are going to reduce the brain drain that is afflicting this part of the world, we have to see these endeavors as a positive step in the right direction”.

It is not clear when the digital library will be completed.

DESMOND SHEPHERD in Casablanca, Morocco

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