Round Table - 90 Min
Even as the number of people with home connections rises, the possibility to access the internet through a shared connection in a library or other community centre remains a core pillar of a comprehensive connectivity offer.
For people who don’t have their own connection or have to share with family members, who don’t have the hardware in order to make full use of the internet, or who simply feel unsure online, institutions such as libraries can be a lifeline. While providing connectivity in this way has been recognised as providing high value-for-money, it is still necessary to get the right policy mix. What approaches to regulation, to financing and to infrastructure are necessary?
The Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries has produced a draft toolkit to support library action and engagement on the question of public access. The toolkit aims to provide a practical guide to empower librarians with the knowledge necessary to discuss and advocate on this topic. It should also provide a bridge between the work of libraries and others engaged in promoting wider internet access.
After a brief introduction to public access and the potential that this brings for giving people meaningful access to information, the session will then see experts from the regulatory, financial and technological field share views with others focused on public access. The discussions will focus on the issues and questions raised by the draft toolkit, with a view to identifying new areas to cover, improvements to the existing text, and resources.
Come along to the session in order to learn more about the policy mix necessary for extending public internet access, and to feed in your own views and experiences. You can help shape a guide that will be widely shared among libraries and others internationally!
Esmeralda Moscatelli (IFLA), Stephen Wyber (IFLA), Janet Sawaya (EIFL).
Moderators: Valeria Betancourt, APC.
Speakers: Don Means, GLN (technology and infrastructure), Maia Simonshivili, National Parlamentary Library of Georgia (library perspective), Peter Micek, Access Now (legal and privacy), Leandro Navarro, Pangea (finance), Roger Baig, guifi.net (regulation).
IGF 2018 Synthesis
- Session Type: Round Table
- Title: A policy Toolkit for Public Access
- Date & Time: Wednesday November 14th 10:10 – 11:10
- Organizer(s): DC-PAL
- Chair/Moderator: Valeria Betancourt APC Civil Society (F)
- Rapporteur/Notetaker: Stephen Wyber
- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):
- Esmeralda Moscatelli, Research and Policy Officer IFLA (F)
- Don Means, GLN, Technical Community (M)
- Janet Sawaya, EIFL, Civil Society (F)
- Peter Micek, Access Now, Civil Society (M)
- Leandro Navarro Pangea, Technical community (M)
- Roger Baig Vinas, Technical Community (M)
Digital Inclusion & Accessibility
Libraries, Access and Connectivity
- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion.
- Public access, notably through libraries, allows people to get online, for free, through a shared connection in a welcoming environment, with support and training on offer. This allows for meaningful and equitable access to information, empowering people to take better decisions for themselves and their communities. It is an important part of overall connectivity offers.
- Connecting public libraries is a relatively low‐cost, high‐impact means of bringing the benefits of connectivity to communities. Nonetheless, not all libraries are yet online, and even when they are, they are dependent on public funding, and often also face particular regulatory and legal frameworks. Libraries and their communities therefore need to be aware of the issues and be active in identifying and overcoming barriers.
- The Public Access toolkit, the 2018 outcome of the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access (DC-PAL), was the focus of discussion at the session. It aims to address the issues in an easy and community-oriented way, giving libraries, their communities and other stakeholders the background information on the financial, regulatory and technological aspects of public access they need to be able to advocate for it. By bringing together library and non-library perspectives, the session helped broaden the guide and make it more valuable for its audience.
- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence
There was strong agreement on the need to ensure that solutions were owned by the communities. The work of libraries as centres with a connection with the people they serve could be critical.
A number of participants underlined that we also needed to reconsider the assumption that public access could compete with private offers. This could not only pose a harmful barrier on new connectivity, but also stand in the way of take-up of digital services.
Regulation should not be interpreted in ways that benefit incumbents, but rather facilitate onward connections from libraries, including WiFi and community networks.
Public access offered important social benefits that may not be provided by markets alone, and indeed, there was a case for public (popular) ownership of the infrastructure.
Efforts needed to be made to support libraries’ ability to teach digital skills, as well as explain how to exercise rights.
- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps
Further work is needed to change mindsets, and ensure that the laws are interpreted in ways that favour access to the internet, or are changed so that they do so.
More work could be done to understand the role of libraries in engaging communities to develop internet access solutions.
Work on how to ensure the sustainability of non-commercial systems could represent a useful contribution.
Connectivity programmes need to be designed in a bottom-up way, leaving choice over tools and process to the community itself. Support on key issues can be offered, but locals have to lead.
- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue?
There is a need to develop a better understanding of where and how there is a need for public intervention in order to make connectivity happen.
In addition to focusing on top down regulation, we need to think about the resources and infrastructure that can be mobilised to facilitate community-based solutions.
We need to reflect on the risk that regulation developed for the private sector may harm public interest activities, such as public internet access.
- Please estimate the total number of participants.
- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.
- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion?
The discussion included consideration of the role of public access in reaching out to marginalised communities, including women, who otherwise may struggle to benefit from commercial internet offers. Given that women are particularly heavy users of libraries in many cultures, they stand to benefit from progress on public access.