IFLA is proud to sign up to two documents addressing a key issue of our time – the digital divide. The first calls on governments to act to support investment in wider connectivity and the libraries that help users make the most of it. The second represents a pledge to do all in our power to promote digital inclusion, and is open to wider signatures.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has turned the digital divide from an embarrassment into a growing disaster. Millions are cut off from the services and opportunities that can help them learn, earn and thrive.

This divide – understood both as the possibility to connect to the internet, and the confidence and skills to make effective use of this – is not a new concern. However, as more and more services, jobs and opportunities move online, the costs of not being able to make full use of the internet grow.  

Libraries can Make the Difference

Libraries have a proven role in helping to bring people online. We know that where there are more public libraries offering internet access, gaps in usage between old and young, employed and jobless, rich and poor are lower. We also know that students without internet access at home make more intensive use of libraries than their peers.

With continued uncertainty and restrictions around the possibility for libraries to offer physical access, the importance of providing access to information remotely rise.

Crucially, this is not just a case of finding cost-effective ways of improving home connectivity, such as through WiFi technologies, but also ensuring that they benefit from the content and skills support that libraries provide.

IFLA has therefore signed on Libraries in Response: Every Community Connected, a call to action by a range of stakeholders. This calls on governments to act to:

  • Ensure that each community has access to at least one publicly-available, adequately connected, no-fee internet access point, and that every school has access to an online or offline library.
  • Mobilize libraries to act as community labs for action research, improving how we connect, protect and respect each other, and work together to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
  • Ensure adequate trained staffing and access to equipment for libraries and other community anchor institutions to provide a safe and secure access point to networks, respectful of privacy, and support for digital skills and education throughout life, enabling people to learn, earn and thrive.

See also the press release for the launch of this statement.

Delivering on Our Side of the Bargain

In parallel, we are proud to launch our own Library Pledge, demonstrating IFLA’s commitment to promoting digital inclusion. Show your own commitment to promoting meaningful access for all by adding your signature at this link. You can see who has already signed on this page.

Maximising Access Now: A Library Pledge to promote digital inclusion and access to information during COVID-19 and Beyond

To the best of our abilities, and with full respect for the law and public health:

  • We pledge to promote the best possible internet access for communities, reliably and at no or low cost, so that no-one should lack connectivity for financial reasons
  • We pledge to promote the widest possible access to relevant digital content and services, supporting education, research, and economic, social and cultural participation
  • We pledge to promote the strongest possible support for the development of digital skills, giving users the ability to be successful and confident internet users
  • We pledge to promote equitable broadband policies at all levels                            

Sign up to the Pledge here.