The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Arc. Sonny Echono, has inaugurated the Fund’s Thesis Digitization Project Steering and Coordinating Committee.

Inaugurating the Committee on Monday in Abuja, Echono said the project was necessitated by the need for a National Academic Research Repository (NARR) given that numerous research outputs were lying dormant in libraries across tertiary institutions in the country.

While saying the few existing repositories in the country are not available to national or global audiences, Echono said the ugly development prompted the intervention of TETFund’s Board of Trustees (BOT).

“The Board of Trustees of TETFund, in a bid to redress the situation, initiated the Digitization of Thesis Project, tasking the Executive Secretary with shepherding a centralized mechanism that will form the basis for storing dematerialized academic output in electronic form, federated across all beneficiary institutions of the Fund.

“Following this mandate, Management approved a consultancy, which conducted various interactive sessions and surveys over a period of 9 months to identify how academic output in the form of thesis and other digital resources produced by undergraduate and

Postgraduate students are stored, handled, and utilized.

” Part of the report submitted showed through comparative analysis of practices and approaches that our beneficiary institutions lag significantly in two key areas:

” 1. There is a lack of properly structured digitized theses available for integration into global digital repositories.

2. The absence of a National Academic Research Repository or a coordinated collection of institutional repositories.

” Undoubtedly, some of our beneficiaries have made significant progress in their efforts to digitize academic output. But sadly, the vast majority of beneficiaries – about 80%, have not even started or had any significant results to show for their efforts, whilst about 10% have digitized a considerable volume of their thesis,” Echono said.

The TETFund boss said the digitization project would also address issues such as plagiarism, intellectual property, commercialisation of academic works, among others, adding that the scheme would begin in 100 institutions with a target of dematerializing up to 2 billion pages of research materials.

“The work has begun; by first championing a massive digitization drive and accelerating ongoing digitization of thesis efforts across all our beneficiary institutions, starting with 100 of those institutions that are least digitized, to reach up to two billion pages of research materials completely dematerialized, both old and new…

“To ensure homegrown solutions are encouraged, we are working with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC) to embed “Eaglescan”. developed by them, as the plagiarism detection software, as part of the Project to ensure the academic integrity of all digitized resources.

” Further to this is the use of Galaxy Backbone to serve as the digital

archive of the Repository, while the National Copyright Commission, as part of this Committee, will help advise on guidelines for the intellectual property related matters,” he said.

Echono listed the terms of reference of the committee to include ;” Development and adoption of a Model Digitization Policy for our beneficiary institutions; Provide coordinating support and guidance for the Project Management team to implement this Digitization Project successfully; Develop frameworks and procedures to ensure that the project deliverables are strictly adhered to”, among others.

Responding, the chairman of the committee and Secretary General of Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, pledged the readiness of his team to deliver on the task.

Ochefu, who commended TETFund for initiating the project, said the scheme would turn around the fortunes of the nation’s education system.

“The Committee that you just inaugurated represents a significant milestone in the educational trajectory of Nigeria. The project

essentially lays the foundation for a national knowledge bank which we all agree is long overdue,” Ochefu said.

Earlier in a goodwill message, the Executive Secretary of National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Prof. Idris Bugaje, described the project as a game changer, adding that it would not only end plagiarism in research work but would ensure easy access to information and networking by scholars.

Bugaje called on scholars to leverage on the digital platform to transform their research works to real Nigerian technology.