Internet Governance Forum 2016 Library Diary: Day 2
09 December 2016
This was the day for our main session for the Dynamic Coalition for Public Access in Libraries, co-organized by IFLA and EIFL. People from different sectors came to talk about how to ensure public access to the Internet, including Vint Cerf from Google and Carolina Rossini from Facebook. In the auditorium we also had people from Wikipedia and from the Internet tech and policy community, and we discussed participation in national and regional forums. The session was streamed online via Facebook Live.
Mandiaye Ndiaye talked about the situation in Africa, where the first job is to make people understand what Internet Governance and the Internet Governance Forum are. He reported on the DC-PAL session at the Africa Internet Governance Forum (AIGF), which was coordinated by AfLIA (African Library & Information Associations & Institutions), the umbrella organisation of African library associations. The session, Delivering inclusive Development: How libraries help bring people online and reaction SDGs and AU's Agenda 2063, was chaired by Dr Buhle Mbambo Tata and consisted of six panellists giving their view on the topic. Ndiaye noted that the library delegates at AIGF raised their voice in several sessions and that the recommendations issued in the AIGF final report mentioned libraries.
IFLA Deputy Secretary General Stuart Hamilton, who chaired this meeting, also presented the successful session DC-PAL arranged at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Columbus in August.
In the session we noted interest in providing public access to the Internet not only in libraries but also in other public spaces. This opens up the way for many collaborative efforts with libraries as a partner; for example delegates from Argentina mentioned they were working with community networks, and this could be an interesting way to connect people, resources and ideas.
Vinton Cerf from Google argued that the question is not about how to connect people, but how to give them the tools they need to connect themselves. He also underlined the value of libraries in the digital preservation of the diversity of information on the Internet, and stressed the need to maintain net neutrality. Digital preservation in general proved a central theme of this session, and in particular the PERSIST project. The key issue was how to make preservation efforts sustainable. To do this, it was necessary to find the right institutions to undertake this work on a long-term basis. Libraries are perfect for the job. However, this does leave the task of working out how to fulfil this role wisely.
Janet Sawaya from EIFL opened her presentation with some questions about how to increase public access to the Internet in libraries. David Ramírez from Colombia mentioned a difficult case from his country: people don't have confidence in free services because there is a prevalent idea that free is equal to 'bad quality'. In this regard, many people think that if they use the public library, they are going to get an extra fee elswhere, such as in their utilities bills (such as water or gas), This is clearly not true, but explains why some of them are avoiding public spaces. David emphasised:
The libraries are one of the few public spaces available nationwide and if you want to offer public access to Internet, the library is the right place for it.
We all agreed that public access to the Internet is picking up momentum, with libraries essential to ensuring its further spread. But we must be aware of the challenges that still face us in these efforts, such as giving people the skills and confidence they need to get the best out of the Internet. In this regard Jonathan Hernández highlighted that libraries should be an important actor on digital literacy, especially in the field of privacy.
We also participated in the WIPO Open Forum, where Trish Hepworth represented IFLA in a panel discussion about the Marrakesh Treaty along with Michelle Woods (World Intellectual Property Organisation), Nickolas Suzor (QUT Law School), and Scott LaBarre (World Blind Union). We talked about the Accessible Books Consortium and the documents they offer to librarians to give access to information in the frame of Marrakesh Treaty. The problem here is not a technical one, because books are not initially made in accessible formats, and it can be hard to obtain an open format version which can be transformed into one suitable for people with print disabilities.
In the afternoon, Mandiaye Ndiaye participated in the Open Forum of the African Union. As a panelist, he talked about the recommendations of the African IGF 2016 and how they can adequately respond to the issues of inclusiveness and the digital transformation of Africa. He finished by inviting all the stakeholders to partner with libraries and librarians to deliver on the SDGs and bring the next billion online, as libraries are safe spaces open to all without any restriction and librarians are skilled and trained people ready to help.
The Internet Governance Forum 2016 Library Diary is written by three associates of the IFLA International Leaders Programme: David Ramírez-Ordóñez, Jonathan Hernández Pérez, and Mandiaye Ndiaye.