Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries

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7 Dec 2016 16:00 to 17:30

Session ID: Dynamic Coalition

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[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

This session was organized by Ms Karolina Andersdotter, Policy and Advocacy Assistant, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and moderated by Mr Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary General and Director of the Policy and Advocacy department at IFLA. The panel focused on several principles developed in the Dynamic Coalition on public access in libraries.

Mr Mandiaye Ndiaye, Assistant, Language Centre for French, Central Library of Cheikh Anta Diop University, Africa was the first speaker of the panel and discussed the situation in Africa related to the participation of librarians in the conception of the African Union 2063 Agenda. He underlined that there is a strong recognition from different governments in Africa of the need to use libraries to increase national development plans and the African Union agenda. He also mentioned a project about putting “corners” in each municipality in Africa where citizens could be trained in using ICT infrastructures. 

The next speaker of the panel, Mr Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, focused first on the Stanford Deliberative Poll and said that the impression he had from this polling is that there is a distinct and rising desire for access to the internet and the services that are offered. He emphasized that libraries have been more visible than one might have anticipated, partly because of their long history of bringing information to people and helping them find it. He believes that public access to libraries is an important element in the internet spread: ‘When it is still pretty expensive to have private access to the internet, it is important to find alternative ways. Concerning the public access question, we should be conscious and in fact do everything we can to stimulate willingness to provide public access to the Internet where that is possible to overcome the limitations that we have now for affordability and accessibility.’

According to Ms Janet Sawaya, Advisor for Africa, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), believes that cooperation between different stakeholders is essential. As a concrete example, she shared her experience at the Gates Foundation, where she spent eight years and focused her work on public access to computers. Sawaya emphasized the need to train librarians to build a basic infrastructure in the country. However, she believes that despite the infrastructure, some people don’t see the need to get online. In her opinion, the missing piece is related to the fact that there is a lack of local relevant content. This is the reason why libraries have been trying to digitise their local content.   

Ms Mei Lin Fung, Founding Member of the Secretariat, People-Centered Internet, underlined the importance of investing in people and the role of libraries as innovation labs for technology, learning, and teaching. According to Fung, when you have an educated population, the whole country takes important advantage of it, and it is therefore necessary to invest in infrastructures that allow an increase in knowledge.  

Ms Karen McCabe, Global Community Professional, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), highlighted the key elements of the Internet initiative which aims to bring technical expertise together with policymakers. She mentioned that one of the bullet points of the Internet initiative is to deal with Internet inclusion in collaborating with locals who might be the best assets to extend Internet access, and to develop libraries, and thus access to knowledge in their communities. 

The last speaker on the panel, Mr Don Means, Director, Libraries WhiteSpace Project, Gigabit Libraries Network, believes that from the connectivity side, infrastructure is critical but insufficient, if the content is not sufficient. He concluded the session by saying ‘Connectivity is the first thing to provide. Capacity should come from that.’

by Ana Andrijević

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