At an international summit held in Tempe, Ariz., recently, WiderNet became one of 15 organizations to establish a new consortium and issue a declaration of principles for advancing projects, strategies, and technologies that can provide access to important digital content for people in places without adequate internet connectivity.
Cliff Missen, Clinical Associate Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and director of both the research lab WiderNet@UNC and nonprofit WiderNet Project, attended the summit and contributed to the Tempe Declaration, which states that access to the information commons should be recognized as a fundamental human right. This commitment is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Other principles include identifying common solutions, sharing resources, and setting standards for content indexing, software development, and hardware innovation.
“WiderNet has been developing and distributing offline libraries for 18 years in locations across the globe,” Missen said. “We’re so glad that this new consortium will enable us to share all that we’ve learned with other partners who have the same goal, and to collaborate on new solutions. While we have successfully placed our e-Granaries in over 2,000 sites, we’ve only made a dent in the worldwide need. We’re serving millions, but we could be serving billions.”
Arizona State University Library and Bibliothèques Sans Frontières /Libraries Without Borders, with the involvement of IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations), hosted the summit from Jan. 30-Feb. 1, at the ASU Library. The Tempe Declaration has been posted on the website www.offline-internet.org and will serve as a guiding document for the consortium as it moves forward.
“Almost two-thirds of the world lacks reliable internet access, and that’s not going to change any time soon,” Missen said. “We’re glad that this fact is becoming more recognized and accepted, and we’re proud to help launch a new cooperative movement committed to providing functional alternatives, so that everyone can benefit from the educational, cultural, and economic benefits of digital information sharing.”