Winfocus | Digitisation – Extending academics’ reach
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Digitisation – Extending academics’ reach

Digitisation – Extending academics’ reach

Old is Gold. Not only is this true for wines and friends, but also for information and books. Imagine if our rows and rows of books could be turned mobile – in a way that one could get instant access to them effortlessly – anywhere, any time. Such a scenario will allow us to not only collect information, but instead to increase the utility of it by multiple times. That’s even better than what we can do for wines!

The advent of Digitisation is turning all this from the realm of fantasy, to reality.

What is digitisation?

Digitisation simply means converting all your text, pictures, or sound into a digital form that can be processed by a computer.

The digital age is here.

In the education sector, technology is having a positive impact by making information mobile and available round the clock. The global nature of academics makes it exceedingly important to digitise books/lectures/thesis etc. so that the global fraternity of students and teachers can conduct research in the most effective way, unhindered by distances and varied time zones. For the past two decades, the British Library has been involved in digitisation and has made it a part of its latest corporate strategy.  The strategy covers all materials originally produced in non-digital form to be digitised (e.g. printed matter of all kinds, manuscripts, photographs, drawings, paintings, sound recordings, microforms). One of the few examples to better illustrate the BLA digitisation approach is British Newspaper Archives, which facilitates free access to hundreds of British and Irish newspapers. One can visit their website and conduct specific search by Date, Region, County, Place or Recently Added titles, and can have extensive access to the collection. Not only does this prevent wear and tear of vast amounts of old newspapers, but also makes their extensive information searchable, and much more usable.

The world’s most fascinating and life changing discoveries are from our brave academicians who are constantly exploring new avenues and designing the future. For the best outcome one needs to consider an assay into the world of information, books, manuscripts (rare). Data analysis on papers is like searching a needle in haystack. On the surface it may seem simple but as one delves deeper, it becomes time and resource-consuming, complex and with cross-relationships which need to be monitored to obtain most effective outcomes. This is made possible by digitisation, as data once digitsed can also be handled in a user-friendly manner, which allows the user to obtain more results from the data itself.

Insitutions too, are transforming the way they store and use information, thanks to the advances with digitisation. Take into account this case study. In order to help researchers and scholars with the availability of information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road an international collabration IDP has been established.  As of 2011, IDP has eight Centres in the UK, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, France and Germany with its Directorate at the British Library. The Centres host synchronised databases and local-language websites all giving free access to over 320,000 images of over 120,000 items with rich metadata. These include over 40,000 manuscripts and 15,000 photographs in the Stein Central Asian collection at the British Library. Items from over twenty other collaborating members are also available through their sites – implementing the benefits of modern technology for advanced information access, research, and supporting discoveries.

Number of Images in IDP Database as of June 27, 2017

Total UK China Russia Japan Germany Dunhuang France
507,177 173,196 164,619 22,672 17,364 70,770 2,875 55,681

 

Researchers are limited by time and resources, not ideas. To meet researchers’ targets for 2030, digitisation helps researchers in getting more out of their time by speeding up research process. Digitisation of medieval records, for example, is allowing researchers to conduct text-mining like never before. No more late hours in library making notes – once documents are digitised, one can search through them using specific search critieria – being able to draw out richer information. All this can be done from the comfort of one’s home, with the entire set of information on one’s fingertip.

While the advantages of digitisation for operational efficiencies have never been in doubt, the changes in information consumption patterns are likely to result in amplified focus on digitisation over the next few years.  To sustain in the sector, digitisation has become truly essential.  The best thing about digitisation services is that digitisation experts can customise solutions.  All you need to do is make up your minds for digitisation and then sit back and see your institution gaining global reach.

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