Participants at IFLA Workshop on Community Networks and Public AccessFor information to play a full role in helping people to learn, find work and live healthily, simply laying cables may not be enough. The way in which access to knowledge is provided strongly affects the impact it has in communities, especially those facing the toughest development challenges.


IFLA attended the latest Asia-Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), held from 26 to 29 July in Bangkok, Thailand, in order to underline the difference that effective provision of information services, made possible by well-supported Internet access, can make to social, educational, cultural and economic development.


APrIGF is a regional edition of the Internet Governance Forum established as one of the outcomes of the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and supports reflection on how to ensure that the Internet realises its potential to improve lives.


A workshop organised and moderated by Winston Roberts (National Library of New Zealand / IFLA Regional Standing Committee for Asia-Oceania), under the title Community Networks and Public Access to ICT, included presentations by a panel of regional experts. The workshop was well received, and was attended by over 50 on-site participants and a number of remote participants from across the region.


Ms Yati Kamil (former president of the Association of Indonesian Library and Information Professionals) spoke about the national community library programme PerpuSeru; Ms Gunela Astbrink (Australia) discussed community information access for persons with disabilities, and issues of access in the Pacific islands; Ms Kamolrat Intaratat presented the successful national Thai programme, which she founded, to help marginalised communities develop digital skills, digital literacy and entrepreneurship, particularly among girls and women; and Ms Piyawan Suwattanathum (Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, at UNESCO Bangkok) shared information about the project for Mobile Literacy for out-of-school children particularly in rural and remote areas.


The presentations helped underline that the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of access to information influence its effects, in particular on disadvantaged and marginalised groups. Libraries as buildings play a very useful role here, but it is perhaps the skills and attitudes that they can provide to users that are more important.


The panel presentations will be made available through the website of APrIGF, and a video is also available on YouTube.


Winston Roberts also took part in a session on Internet issues in the Pacific islands, speaking on a recent survey of the development needs of national library services, and promoted the DA2I (Development and Access to Information) report just issued by IFLA.