Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries
Round Table - Circle - 90 Min
Defining universal and meaningful access: What are the key elements that constitute universal and meaningful Internet access? How can it be measured? How is the concept evolving in time and what does this evolution mean for policy?
Practical locally-driven policy solutions: What lessons can be drawn (and how) from successful policy solutions to universal access and meaningful connectivity around the world, while taking into account local specificities and needs? In particular, what are the relevant practices implemented by local actors (local government, civil society, local providers and entrepreneurs) to advance universal and meaningful access?
In charting the possible paths towards more equitable pandemic recovery and development, local, community and city-level action has been highlighted as an important element. Part of this is an evolution in thinking about public spaces and social infrastructure; their capacity to boost recovery and support wellbeing. Can a move towards more multifunctional and equitable shared spaces also help address one of the key development targets – tackling digital inequalities?
This session examines how leveraging public spaces in this way can be a crucial part of a new development model, one which emphasises connectivity and resilience at a community level:
- Connectivity needs and priorities at a community level
- Flexible public access solutions, and emerging new connectivity strategies for the most difficult to reach libraries and communities
- Multiplying positive externalities of public access interventions
- Public access to content and information
- Introduction and welcome - Stephen Wyber
- Setting the stage: the impacts of public access today – Introducing a new draft DC-PAL paper - Valensiya Dresvyannikova
- Public access for connected communities and development - local solutions and perspectives from Africa, Asia, LAC and Europe:
- Yuan Oktafian: Digital literacy, public access and beyond – Indonesian libraries in digital inclusion and internet governance.
- Magdalena Gomułka, Agnieszka Koszowska: Polish libraries and community-based digital inclusion.
- Alice Kibombo: Empowering contribution to Open Knowledge - Wikipedia in African Libraries.
- Ezio Neyra Magagna: Public access for development in Peru – remote and vulnerable user groups in focus.
- Horizon scanning - the big picture and the way forward:
- Débora Prado: Understanding and meeting connectivity needs at a community level – perspective and experiences of the Association for Progressive Communications.
- Don Means: Reaching the Rest of US. Innovation in public access – leveraging low-earth orbit satellite broadband in the LEO Libraries project. (http://giglibraries.net/LEOLibraries)
- Open discussion: multiplying positive externalities and impacts of public access for development and digital inclusion.
- Don Means, Gigabit Libraries Network, Director (Technical Community/USA/WEOG)
- Ramune Petuchovaite, Electronic Information for Libraries, Public Library Innovation Programme Manager (Civil Society/Lithuania/Eastern European Group)
- Stuart Hamilton, Head of Libraries Development, Local Government Management Agency, (Government/Ireland/WEOG)
- Stephen Wyber, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Director, Policy and Advocacy (Civil Society/The Netherlands/WEOG)
- Valensiya Dresvyannikova, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Policy and Research Officer (Civil Society/The Netherlands/WEOG)
- Alice Kibombo, Wikimedian in residence at African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (Technical Community/Uganda/African Group)
- Debora Prado, Association for Progressive Communications (Civil Society/Brazil/GRULAC)
- Don Means, Gigabit Libraries Network, Director (Technical Community/USA/WEOG)
- Ezio Neyra Magagna, former Institutional head of the National Library of Peru (Civil Society/Peru/GRULAC)
- Yuan Oktafian, independent consultant, board member of the Association of Library and Information Professionals and member of the Indonesia IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (Civil Society/Indonesia/Asia-Pacific Group)
Targets: The session examines how public access-based connectivity (related to SDG targets like 9.c) supports a community-focused development model; especially in supporting equitable economic, political and social inclusion, wellbeing, and growth opportunities. In addition, a key element of the session relies on bringing together participants from diverse stakeholder groups - government, civil society, technical community - to identify further opportunities for collaboration and synergies (SDG 17)
Public access has shown versatility both in helping achieve connectivity goals (bringing people online - in terms of access to ICT, a reliable connection, affordability), and in supporting meaningful digital inclusion and generating benefits (e.g. digital skills-building, gains in work, education and learning, access to local content).
Public access through institutions such as libraries can help deliver on all of the components of access that help drive development – equitable and inclusive connectivity, content and competences.
Develop and introduce definitions, metrics and measurements that help understand connectivity at a community level.
Leverage and support public access delivery, including through innovative methods (e.g. collaboration with community networks, LEO satellites), in the context of wider connectivity and development strategies.
Public access and shared connectivity in libraries and similar anchor organisations can be a powerful way to not just bring more people online, but to make sure they can meaningfully use and benefit from connectivity. The session drew on existing good practices and experiences in different parts of the world to highlight several key takeaways:
- Public access supports progress towards a broad range of crucial developmental goals – digital learning and education, participation in the digital economy, creativity, access to e-government services, and others. Even in places where connectivity is more widespread, some vulnerable or underserved user groups – e.g. older community members – can be more likely to rely on public access as their main or only means of going online. Crucially, even higher levels of home connectivity do not take away the need for public access. (A new DC-PAL working draft further explores recent evidence around the impacts of public access - https://www.ifla.org/news/impacts-of-public-access-to-the-internet-and-…)
- Public access in libraries are well-positioned to create local solutions targeted at particular community needs in a way that a more centralised or top-down approach cannot. One of the examples here is the Perpuseru programme in Indonesia, which enabled broader provision of public access to ICT and ICT-enabled learning opportunities in libraries. A part of the programme rollout entailed both a community needs analysis and stocktaking of locally available resources and experts. To date, Perpuseru helped achieve positive impacts in several different areas, including information- and digital literacy and facilitating income generation and economic activity.
- The importance of local agency and meaningful digital inclusion solutions tailored to local community needs was also highlighted by the experiences of community networks. This can be of particular importance for women and other underserved and marginalised groups – both as users and co-creators of such solutions. Overall, community network and public access experiences show the value of complementary approaches to connectivity, and their importance for comprehensive inclusion goals.
- Such flexibility also means that public access can help meet the needs of diverse user groups – including with targeted action – through one infrastructural resource (a one stop shop). For example, in Poland, public libraries offer ICT-based training and support to various user groups – digital skills fundamentals for seniors, coding and robotics activities for children, workshops focusing on online safety and wellbeing for youth, and others.
- Another key recurring theme was the way public access supports the creation of - and engagement with - locally relevant content. Examples here include, for instance, the “Wikipedia in African Libraries” project. Apart from raising awareness around the power and possibilities of open knowledge and creating a wealth of new content, it saw the launch of a variety of events that seek to engage partners and community members in such content creation - competitions, edit-a-thons and other activities. Both in Poland and as part of the “Wikipedia in African Libraries” project activities, there are clear examples of community-building around digital content creation.
- Similarly, in Peru, a range of activities by the National Library enabled a boost to equitable access to digital content (e.g. in the field of education), engagement with it (e.g. by creating easy and visible access to digital heritage materials – for instance, through dedicated microsites) and co-creation of local content (e.g. through crowdsources transcription of digitised heritage materials).
- Another key recurring theme highlighted by session participants was the value of partnerships. There are powerful examples and great scope for further collaboration to maximise connectivity and development impacts – between public access venues and educators, local digital skills champions, NGOs, community networks and other key stakeholders. In addition, innovative approaches to public access – particularly through low-earth orbit satellites – hold promise for bringing public access to harder-to-reach areas, to bring community connectivity and pool resources.
Overall, these experiences highlight that leveraging existing facilities and staff competencies in public access points can help achieve connectivity and development impacts not only on an individual, but also on a community level. It is also worthwhile to consider the roles public access can play in a crisis, particularly in scenarios where individual access to connectivity, ICT and/or electricity can be reduced.