Parliamentary information sources, systems and services in South Africa
AbstractParliamentarians need accessible, current and authoritative information for decision-making. However, within the African continent information sources, systems and services are not always well organized and accessible. South Africa, relatively speaking has a well-organized information sector making a variety of information sources, systems and services available to the parliamentarian. The aim of the paper is to discuss the information needs of the South African parliamentarians, what sources they use to access information, and explore what the information sector in South Africa can provide to satisfy their information needs. The information for writing this paper was gained through a literature review, interviews, and an empirical study. The study targeted all the South African parliamentarians, and a questionnaire was used to gain information from the respondents. One hundred and sixty seven (23%) responses were received. The parliamentarians expressed a variety of information needs. Although the predominant preference source of information was still for printed sources (78%), the use of electronic sources (24%) was notable, taken into account its recent introduction. A myriad of information sources, and systems and services are available to the parliamentarian, either by visiting the information provider in person, or via telephone, faxing, visiting a website or e-mail. The parliamentarians however do not always make time or have the skills to access the information sources. It is strongly recommended that the services of a professionally trained information intermediary such as a parliamentary librarian be used to gate keep the information overload and provide the parliamentarian with the needed information. The increasing use of non-professional information providers such as Personal Assistant should be minimized and further investigated.
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