I returned yesterday after a 12 day trip to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, and I managed to advance the Global Text Project on several dimensions.
I was part of a team that conducted a 2.5 day workshop at the Addis Ababa University to initiate a PhD program in IS. I arrived early on the day before the workshop commenced, and Dr. Salehu Anteneh organized for me to give a lecture to AAU Business School faculty and students on U-commerce and the Global Text Project. Salehu's MBA class had piloted the IS book and provided chapter level feedback to the authors. As a result of the lecture, several students volunteered to help with the project.
Salehu and I had extensive discussions on the Global Text Project. He estimates that a 300 page book can be printed locally for about USD 5, which is a ten-fold reduction on the typical price of about USD 50 for texts in developing economies. We also discussed the possibility of getting AAU students to create the graphics for texts. Professors are rarely artists and diagrams should be consistent across a book. Salehu reports that AAU students have training in products such as Adobe Illustrator and are capable of creating quality drawings. Our first step is to develop a standard for graphics, and we will then pilot some graphic preparation in Ethiopia. Because students in developing economies often need to use their spare time to earn income, we plan to pay for each graphic.
As part of the PhD program, I will be co-teaching a course titled "Systems Thinking and Sustainability" with Drs. Irwin Brown (University of Cape Town) and Peter Meso (Georgia State University). We will organize the class to write a text on this subject.
A member of the PhD project is Dr. Moustapha Diack, who is active in the Merlot Africa Network and the Pan-African Forum on Open Education Resources 2008 to be held on May 28. We plan to work together, and I will attend the Pan-African Forum in 2009.
Each year, I teach an EMBA course an e-commerce course for the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Saudi Arabia. One of my former students, Mr. Thamer Al Munajem, had encouraged me to visit him in Riyadh and examine aspects of his family's company, the largest food importer in Saudi Arabia.
During the visit, I also met with Mr. Abdullah Mashari, another former student. Abdullah is the CEO of Dale Carnegie Training in Saudi Arabia. Formerly, he was an executive with Jarir Bookstore. After a short briefing on the Global Text Project, Abdullah offered to donate USD 1000 to the project and to organize and pay all costs associated with translating a book from English to Arabic. As you might imagine, I was amazed by the generosity of his offer. He has also established a model that we might be able to use with other Saudi Arabian firms to support translation of books into Arabic.
Before I left Saudi Arabia, Thamer announced that he will donate USD 2,500 to the project and organize for the translation of the Global Text Project brochure into Arabic so that he can circulate it to Saudi companies that might be interested in supporting the project. This was another very pleasant surprise.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
My first doctoral student, Dr. Patrick Doran, has been teaching at Zayed University for six years, and I finally found time to make the promised visit. I met several faculty and gave a talk to two classes on the Global Text Project. Again, the response was highly positive. Acting Dean, Dr. Leon Jololian, came up with a number of very good ideas and saw several opportunities for involving faculty and students. One of the students, Fatima, volunteered to translate my slides into Arabic and promote the project to other students at the University. Fatima is active in Zayed University's student leadership, so her support is valuable. Dr. Rahman Haleem (the head of Institutional Innovation), who has experience in using students to translate from English to Arabic, has also agreed to help with the project and has contacts in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, a potential source of funding for the Arabic division of the project. Given the positive support from several Zayed University administrators, Pat is looking at establishing a center at Zayed University to support the project and will soon send us a proposal.
I also paid a visit to Mrs. Maryam Salahuddin Razick, a senior manager at ETA-SEMS, which runs schools in the UAE and has plans to expand into other countries. While her focus is on K-12, she quickly saw how the Global Text Project model could be applied to K-12. One particular problem for the UAE is the time for book delivery. Sometimes, classes will be well underway before books arrive from the US or UK. Of course, this is not a problem for our texts.
Overall, this was a very successful visit. I was able to tell many people about the project and there were several important developments that will advance the project.