Niek Huizenga is a Dutch entrepreneur, 30 years young, (almost) married and living in Groningen (the Netherlands). During his studies — BSc. in IT and MSc. in Business & Economics — he started several businesses. He divides his time between studying and working in the Netherlands and working in various African countries. We talked to him about his strategies for finding information, the usefulness of open access, and the difficulties that people in Africa experience finding the right information.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
At the moment I work as as a consultant in entrepreneurship and business development for various projects in the Netherlands and African countries like South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. My second activity is to help IT startups from the Netherlands in setting up their business by providing strategic advice and acquiring financial resources.
How do research papers help you in your work? Could other sources of information (e.g. Wikipedia) stand in?
Practical information I find by using Google or Wikipedia. Most professional information I get through RSS feeds, alerts, Twitter and LinkedIn. If I want to search for scientific information I often use databases from Elsevier and Business Source Premier. For this I can use login codes from friends working at the University.
Do you have the access you need?
If I want certain information I can find it. But it is not always efficient because it takes time to get certain (paid) information. You need creative workarounds, to download illegal copies or borrow passwords form others. The second thing is that I miss a lot of information because certain relevant articles never reach me (and I am not aware of their existence). An agent that crawls all resources and picks the relevant information for me would be a multi-billion idea.
Could you do more if you had more access?
It would save me valuable time to get access more efficiently.
Are there things you wanted to do but couldn’t because of lack of access?
I’m able to get access to most information available, at least in the Netherlands, but it is not always efficient to get access to certain resources. So yes I can do the things I want but it could go faster.
How widespread is this issue in your experience?
I think in NL, with the right search skills and a network of people with access to other resources, it is possible to get to all the information you want. If you miss these two, then it can be very hard. Open access can certainly make a difference because it avoids the workarounds I mentioned and saves a lot of time. The issue of lack of access is an issue that I experience most during my visits at African educational facilities. The professors and students miss the skills to search (and are also not always willing to learn these skills) and they do not have access to certain resources. This can be online databases with subscriptions, but also lack of goo Internet connections are an issue.