ACA2K was, in many respects, the first phase of Open AIR. When Open AIR was formally launched and branded as an expanded network in 2011, many of its network members, including its Principal Investigators, were drawn from the ACA2K network.
During the same period and in parallel to the work of ACA2K, there were also the Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models Africa (PALM Africa) project, the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) Opening Access to Knowledge study, and establishment of two specialised academic units: the Intellectual Property Unit (IP Unit) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at The American University in Cairo (AUC).
Decentralisation to five hubs
Open AIR took the core of our previous research and built upon it ambitiously. The network’s footprint grew from 8 to 13 countries on the continent and, instead of having one central hub, the network decentralised considerably to a five-hub model: four hubs in Africa and one in Canada. The latter was to facilitate better access to overseas expertise including the extensive and active African academic diaspora.
The five current Open AIR hubs are:
- the UCT IP Unit in Cape Town
- A2K4D in Cairo
- the Lagos office of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS)
- the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University in Nairobi
- the Centre for Law, Technology and Society in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
New personnel, Research Fellows
This period also saw aggressive expansion of the personnel in the network, through a combination of open calls for research proposals and targeted recruitment. A key strategy was the launch of a widely promoted Research Fellowships programme, through which nine emerging researchers were brought into the network – from Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya (two Fellows), Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Canada.
While the earlier ACA2K network had primarily been composed of legal scholars, Open AIR grew into a multidisciplinary fusion of experts from a wide range of fields including economics, law, library and information science, innovation studies, political science, public policy studies, and media studies.