6 October 2018

Ethiopia: Oldest University Set to Curb Plagiarism

Three software solution providers passed preliminary evaluation stage

Three local software companies are competing for a bid to supply, install and commission plagiarism checking software at the oldest university, which has faced problems with duplication of research work on final theses.

Alta Computech, Gasha Consulting and Bekuri Software Technology companies have passed the preliminary evaluation stage of the process during a bid opening held last Thursday. Addis Abeba University's main library, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, named after the 35th President of the United States, announced the tender on September 20, 2018.

Initially, the University attempted to procure the system in February 2018 by announcing an earlier tender. The attempt bore no fruit as the three companies that took part in the bid process failed to pass the technical evaluation.

The re-floated tender attracted the interest of 10 companies who purchased the bidding document, but only three companies submitted their technical and financial documents. Alta Computech, established in 1994 with a capital of 15,000; Gasha Consulting, established in 2008 by four management and IT professionals, with more than 25 clients; and Bekuri passed to the technical evaluation stage.

"The technical evaluation could take up to two weeks," said Adane Dires, procurement officer at AAU.

The University expects the programme to detect and calculate the percentage of how much a student may have plagiarized a particular research or journal publication. The software will also detect paraphrased content.

"It will help students to develop proper citation and attribution habits," said Mesfin Gezahegn, head of the library, which is operating around the clock and throughout the year, accommodating a daily visitor tally of 10,000 to 15,000. "At the same time it assists teachers to easily detect plagiarized papers and assignments," Mesfin elaborated.

Kennedy has a catalogue list of more than a million books that are accessed globally. Currently, 11,958 evaluated and approved students' graduation papers for Master's and doctoral degrees are posted online. The library has a collection of 200,000 e-books worth a billion Birr on Amazon.

Most of the academic institutions have been challenged with plagiarised theses and research papers and could not restrain it by employing different methods, according to ICT experts.

"Some of them use open sources if the materials are linked to online portals," Nebiyat Fikru, an ICT expert at Addis Abeba Institute of Technology with over a decade of experience, said. "But they fail in detecting papers that are not uploaded online."

Nebiyat recalls an incident at Arba Minch University where a student was caught red-handed with plagiarised documents.

"But the implementation needs a policy ensuring the integrity of the users," he said. "Sometimes people can find loopholes to violate the implementation."

The University has digitised its library and formed a data bank that enables data sharing and exchange internally with 22 university branches, as well as globally. The University also subscribes to research and scientific journals in nearly all fields at costs that have reached 30 million Br annually.

Tirusew Tefera (Prof.), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University's College of Education & Behavioural Studies for over three decades, lauds the move of fighting plagiarism that has been a distressful practice at the University.

"The software makes a good start to control mischief makers," he said, "but it doesn't bring about behavioural changes of the students."

Building an ethical and self-confident generation has to be the major duty of the academic centres, according to Tirusew.

"This process also includes families," Tirusew added.


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