(No.130) Digital Inclusion and Public Access to the Internet: What Policymakers Need and how Libraries and Other Community Services can Deliver

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Workshop Theme: 
Access and Diversity
Theme Question: 

q1, 2

Concise Description of Workshop: 

Building on discussions at the 2011 IGF and 2012 EuroDIG, this workshop will take the form of a dialogue between policymakers, technology companies, funding bodies and representatives from the regional and international library communities, and others on the subject of digital inclusion policies and practices. Taking as its starting point recent research which shows that in many countries libraries still remain largely overlooked as community development partners despite idealistic support for their activities from policymakers and communities, the workshop will explore the case for future investment and support of public library and community services to ensure sure that libraries and other services meet existing community needs today and can continue to work to meet the changing needs of communities in the future. By creating a forum for policymakers and other stakeholders to explain what they need from libraries and other community services in order to meet their development goals, and by highlighting existing innovative digital inclusion projects (such as investment in public library innovation by foundations and communities in developing countries and ongoing large-scale digital inclusion projects being carried out around the world) that involve stakeholders from all sectors, the workshop will explore the way public libraries and other community services can be utilised to deliver policies relating to online inclusion, including increased access to technology and the skills needed to find and post crucial information online.
Placing public access to the Internet through libraries on the agenda of IGF cuts across a number of key IGF themes such as Internet governance for development (IG4D) and Access and Diversity. The workshop will be supported by members of the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries, which was founded following the 2011 IGF in Nairobi. The DC is a virtual multi stake-holder forum with geographical and gender balance which aims to bring library representatives into contact with policy makers in pursuit of sustainable funding and favourable policies towards libraries and public Internet access. Documentation of established current best practice in providing innovative public library services that are in line with the policies of decision makers and funders while meeting community needs in education, health, agriculture, employment, entrepreneurship, and the inclusion of disadvantaged and marginalised groups such as youth, women and rural populations, will be provided for discussion. Findings from the major Beyond Access conference in Washington DC in October 2012 will also be made available. Beyond Access will sponsor participation in the IGF for selected public librarians from around the world.

Stuart Hamilton (IFLA) Setting the scene: why this workshop, what is the intended outcome?

Siri Oswald (Global Libraries): Are we overlooking a potential engine for social and economic change? Some thoughts on Public Libraries, digital inclusion, and public access to the Internet
What policy makers need!
Paul Andre-Baran, Honorary Advisor to the Ministry of Communications, Romania
Sangay Khandu, Member of Parliament, Bhutan
How libraries and other community services can deliver!
Ari Katz, Director, Beyond Access
Jamilya Tlibzadeh, Presidential Library Azerbaijan
Olivier Crepin-Leblond, ISOC England Chapter
The business sector as partner
Dejan Cvetkovic, Regional Technology Officer of Microsoft, Central and Eastern Europe
Kafui A. Prebble, CEO Tech Aid, Ghana
(45 minutes presentations, 45 minutes discussion)

Backgroung Paper: 
Organiser(s) Name: 

Monika Elbert, Senior Policy Advisor, EIFL. Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL - www. eifl.net) works in collaboration with libraries in more than 60 developing and transition countries. EIFL enables access to knowledge for education, learning, research and sustainable community development. EIFL is an international not-for-profit organisation based in Europe with a global network of partners from governments, civil society, foundations and the business sector. [email protected] Stuart Hamilton, Director of Policy and Advocacy, IFLA. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA - www.ifla.org) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users in over 150 countries worldwide. It is the global voice of the library and information profession. [email protected] Christine Runnegar, Senior Policy Advisor, ISOC. The Internet Society (ISOC – www.isoc.org) is the trusted independent source for Internet information and thought leadership from around the world. With its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society promotes open dialogue on Internet policy, technology and future development among users, companies, governments, and other organizations. Working with its members and Chapters around the world, the Internet Society enables the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone. [email protected]

Previous Workshop(s): 

IGF 2011 'Do policy makers understand the role of libraries in mobilising the Internet as a catalyst of for development, innovation and freedom' http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=W... IGF 2010 'Why we need an Open Web: Open Knowledge Governance for Innovation'. http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=W... A report was submitted and uploaded but there does not seem to be a link anymore.

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

Stuart Hamilton, Director of Policy and Advocacy, IFLA (CONFIRMED)
Siri Oswald, Programme Officer, Global Libraries, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (CONFIRMED)
Olivier Crepin-Leblond, ISOC England Chapter (CONFIRMED)
Dejan Cvetkovic, Microsoft (CONFIRMED)
Paul Andre-Baran, Honorary Advisor to the Ministry of Communications, Romania (CONFIRMED)
Jamilya Talibzadeh, Deputy Director of the Presidential Library of the Azerbaijan Republic (CONFIRMED)
Ari Katz, Director, Beyond Access (CONFIRMED)
Sangay Khandu, Member of Parliament, Bhutan (CONFIRMED)
Kafui A. Prebbie, CEO Tech Aid, Ghana (CONFIRMED)

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Irina Trushina, IFLA
Reported by: 
Stuart Hamilton, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

The workshop discussed the notion of libraries as agents for development, with the aim of raising awareness within the IGF that libraries are an ideal partner to solve the problem of digital inclusion. It also explored the role that other public access points play. The starting point for discussion was the realisation that while over two billion people are now online not all of them have their own Internet connection. A significant amount of all the world’s Internet users, particularly those in remote areas, rely on public access points, such as libraries, to participate in the information society.
Politicians, policymakers, funders, technical experts, entrepreneurs and members of the library community all participated in the workshop. A moderated discussion brought out a wide array of experiences and views on the role of libraries and other community services in providing public access to the Internet. Panellists explained how governments all over the world are exploring public access solutions to meet community needs, with examples from numerous countries including Bhutan, Romania, Ghana and Poland.
The main issues raised included:

  • Sensitizing policymakers to the role of libraries in the development agenda /process;
  • Collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure that libraries play a major and effective role in attaining development goals;
  • The importance of local content and services relevant to end users, and how public access intermediaries can provide these;
  • The ongoing value of traditional library competencies in the digital age, such as provision of expertise and advice; community building; physical space; development of skills or the ability to print documents; and reliable funding sources
  • Question marks surrounding the sustainability of other community services providing public access without a reliable funding and access to local content
  • The use of new technologies such as cloud computing by libraries to potentially provide further access to valuable information resources at low cost;
  • Building the capacity of both librarians and users in terms of information literacy and technological skills;
  • Raising the profile of public libraries so that there is a change in attitudes and perceptions among policymakers, funders and the development community.
Conclusions and further comments: 

Through discussion, it emerged that policymakers want solutions which take advantage of existing infrastructure and expertise and also have the flexibility to partner with the private sector and innovate. With 230,000 public libraries worldwide, the majority of which are in developing countries, the workshop concluded that libraries are potentially an excellent fit for governments or other agencies looking for development partners. They know their community; they understand their needs and they are able to tie their services not only to these needs but also to national policies and community policies for development and for access to information.
In conclusion, the workshop achieved two objectives. Firstly, it discussed in depth the importance of public access to the Internet as a key tool in solving the problem of digital inclusion. Second, it questioned the perception that libraries are outdated and instead explored the idea that these long-standing community institutions might be the perfect partners for stakeholders working in the development field. In addition to offering physical spaces with trained staff that are connected to existing government strategies and budget lines, innovative libraries around the world are offering online access to education, health and employment resources, as well as e-government services. Libraries are untapped resources and are still relevant in providing key services for development, promoting civic engagement and bridging the digital divide.