Although one of the principles of Plan S is that open-access journals must waive article-processing charges (APCs) for authors from low-income countries, that does not always happen, as Addisu Mekonnen et al. point out (Nature 596, 189; 2021). So, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) — which has long encouraged open-access publishing when funding research and higher education in the global south — covers APCs in its projects. This alone is not, however, a sustainable solution.

Regional and national research councils and international donors should also invest in African open repositories and local grant schemes to cover APCs, as well as in more open journals and publishing platforms of high quality. Such approaches benefit all scholars, especially those from low-income countries. Currently, almost 12,000 journals that are free to publish in and free to read are registered in the Directory of Open Access Journals. More are needed.

Norad supports several digital public-goods initiatives with open platforms and open content. One such is the open-source District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS-2). This is the world’s largest health-management information system, in use by 73 low- and middle-income countries.