The “democratization” of information


Source: Open Knowledge Blog

One of the most important properties is its openness

– Tim Berners-Lee

These are the exact words coming from the inventor of the Internet himself at the first Knowledge Conference where he also made an impassioned request to keep the internet open, free and accessible. The concept behind the World Wide Web was to share knowledge and embrace the cultural differences in the world. (The National, 2014)

However, why do I often find resources like e-books, research papers and news article to be behind paywalls? According to a survey conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, 90% of online content will be held behind paywalls in the next 3 years! (Lepitak, S., 2013)

So what kind of impact can open access make on us?

let’s look at it in 3 different standpoints:

Student Perspective

Students will get to enjoy the benefits of reduced education costs as they have access to open education resources (OER) for free or at a low cost. Their quality of learning will also be improved when information become more abundant and discoverable online due to wider circulation.

Business Perspective

Companies will have broad access to recent scientific research which builds on their knowledge to provide an economic boost and not to mention libraries will become more relevant in the digital world.

Author Perspective

Authors can easily publish their work online and do not have to worry about additional and complicated administration procedures. However, open access journals do not yet have the same established reputation as traditional journals and authors usually have to incur publication fees to allow their work to be free to end users. Some even argue that the open access model will cause a lack of quality control. Authors have to generate more articles to cover costs when a large portion of their revenue comes from publication fees and that will have a negative impact on the overall quality of their work. Then again, open access give scientists in developing countries the opportunity to participate in international research communities, and discounted or waived publication fees for papers from low-income countries.

Keeping these advantages and disadvantages of open access in mind, I wonder what the right choice is. Should we make resources free? Well, that would be the best for us students! But how do the authors get compensated for their work? Also, having so many resources to choose from how can we determine if the information is credible and meeting the standards of the specific discipline?

(407 words)


Stephen Lepitak. 2013. 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 15].

David Wiley, Cable Green, and Louis Soares. 2012. Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 15].

Adam Geib. 2013. Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 15].

Open Access. 2015. Pros and cons. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 15].

Ramola Talwar Badam. 2014. World Wide Web inventor makes plea to keep internet free and open. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 November 15].


6 thoughts on “The “democratization” of information

  1. Hi Vanna!

    Your post was an interesting read and I particularly love how you’ve organised your thoughts through the different view points of students, business and authors specifically. I do agree with you that students will get to benefit from reduced education cost through OER. However does the quality of learning really improve?

    Due to the free and open Internet access, numerous articles would be circulated online without quality checks, as no one would want to work as free labour. Resulting in the quality of resources and articles being unreliable in the long run.

    There come students like you and I researching for online resources to gain some insight and information. Little did we know that these sources aren’t reliable or worst giving us incorrect information. As a result, confusion is caused and quality of knowledge would be judged. And back to the question, does quality of learning improved or in fact, worsen?

    I look forward in your opinion regarding the long-term problem.

    (161 Words)

    Cheers, Siew Woon


  2. Hi Vanna!

    I think most of our posts on this topic will be all of us facing the problem of when we searched an article for our reference ended up realizing that we need to pay for it. I feel that pain too. And I realized I’ve missed out on looking into business perspective too which you mentioned on your post. Thanks Vanna! :p

    You stated that “90% of online content will be held behind PayWalls in the next 3 years”, what do you think you can do as your part (maybe as a student) to encourage more content producers to publish on Open Access? Maybe we could share the articles on social media platforms(Twitter, Facebook) besides referencing it. In another way it showed the credibility of the content that is worth sharing. Any suggestion on how would you motivate them? 🙂

    Feel free to drop by my blog to comment too! Cheers 🙂


  3. Hi Vanna!

    I really liked how you viewed this issue through 3 perspectives – student, business and author. This makes me think about how most of us are involved in this issue, and not just the content producers alone.

    Quality control is indeed a very real issue when it comes to Open Access Resources, but what would you suggest in ensuring quality in free materials? Do you think by putting a price on it, users will believe it is of better quality? Intriguing idea indeed.

    I agree with you that having access to open resources is nothing but beneficial to us students, but the dilemma arises when we realise it has more negative than positive impact on the authors. Therefore, would you agree that the first step to take in approaching this issue is to research and understand content producers more?

    Overall, you blog post gave me very important insights on this issue and your points were clearly made. Do let me know what you think. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Sze Li


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