Offline Internet Access: Extending the reach of libraries in Africa

LACHAL, Jérémy and PEICH, Muy-Cheng (2018) Offline Internet Access: Extending the reach of libraries in Africa. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session 137 - Africa.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2230
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Language: French (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.

Abstract

Offline Internet Access: Extending the reach of libraries in Africa

More than 4 billion people still don’t have internet access. Most of them are in developing countries. Only 28% of the African population is connected and those internet users are in a few countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco and Egypt. In a hyper-connected world, it means that over half of the world population is missing out on the opportunities provided by the internet: those who are the most vulnerable remain trapped in a vicious cycle where not having access to information prevents them from gaining the skills and the opportunities that could get them out of poverty. Aware of the challenges of establishing internet connection in contexts where it can be very expensive, slow or even forbidden - e.g., in numerous refugee camps - Libraries Without Borders (LWB) and many other organisations, such as the Arizona State University, Kiwix, Learning Equality, Rumie, LibraryBox, Internet-in-a-Box have developed technologies that enable access to digital contents without an internet access. Offline Internet consists in uploading digital contents onto a local server, which emits a wifi hotspot ; users connect to this network using a computer, a tablet or their smartphone and navigate the uploaded contents as if they were on the internet. In January 2018, LWB and the Arizona State University, with the support of the IFLA, organized a Summit around Offline Internet in Phoenix (Arizona). This led to the creation of the Offline Internet Consortium (cf. Tempe Declaration: http://bit.ly/2GN8cxk), which aims at establishing common standards for offline internet. Libraries could play a key role in leveraging these technologies and increasing the diversity of offline accessible contents. Curating high-quality, contextualized and open access contents remains indeed a major challenge for offline internet actors. Our presentation will highlight the main areas of work of the Offline Internet Consortium, the remaining challenges, as well as a few ongoing initiatives such as IdeasCube, SolarSpell, Kiwix, Learning Equality, LibraryBox, Rumie, etc. More importantly we will describe the role that African libraries could play in developing further the offline internet offer, and thus extending the reach of physical and digital libraries in Africa.

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