Internet Governance 18 September 2012

Libraries and Public Access

By Christine RunnegarSenior Director, Internet Trust

Last month, courtesy of our kind host, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), I had the opportunity to participate in the annual IFLA World Congress in Helsinki. The first thing you notice when you arrive is the enthusiasm of the attendees – the air was buzzing with animated conversations covering a broad range of interests.

The difficult part was choosing which tracks to follow.

When in doubt, ask a Congress veteran. This led me to one of the highlights of the program, the announcement of the winner of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award (a coveted prize among the extended library community). Competition is fierce as there are many worthy initiatives, but in the end what really matters is the extensive work libraries and communities all over the world are undertaking to improve public access to information, knowledge, and communication tools.

This year’s winner of the Access to Learning Award is the Dominican Republic Community Technology Centers (CTCs). The CTCs provide free access to the Internet, digital information and capacity building in the poorest and most remote communities in the Dominican Republic. So far, there are 87 CTCs across the country. In partnership with CISCO Systems, the CTCs also run the Women on the Net Program “an advanced course that offers specialized training in programming, multimedia and telecommunications”.

The CTCs’ champion, First Lady and now Vice President of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, came to Helsinki to receive the award and share her experience regarding the impact the CTCs have had on the lives of Dominicans.

This video gives a great introduction to the project.

On a smaller scale, the Internet Society (ISOC) offers Community Grants (awarded twice a year) to help Internet Society Chapters and members to carry out projects that advance ISOC’s mission to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world. The latest round of awards covered a range of needs, including the creation of an Internet Availability Center for visually impaired people, assistance to network engineers in deploying IPv6, empowering unemployed youth in Somalia with Internet skills, and bringing solar powered Internet connectivity and related computing technology to a remotely located school in Chuuk, Micronesia.

If you are interested in learning more about public access, please join us at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan on 6 November 2012 (in person or via the Internet) at a workshop organised by IFLA, ISOC and the Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) entitled: Digital Inclusion and Public Access to the Internet: What Policymakers Need and how Libraries and Other Community Services can Deliver.

We invite you to share your stories about local projects helping your community take advantage of the opportunities the Internet offers.

Christine Runnegar 

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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