IFLA has submitted comments on two sets of plans to boost internet access in Africa, underlining the importance of including libraries. By doing this, governments not only support affordable internet access, but open up possibilities to develop digital skills and give people a safe place to get online.  

Public internet access in libraries plays an important part in any broader digital strategy. As well as providing a place where people who need to can get online at no cost, they are key centres for developing the skills, knowledge and confidence to make the most of the internet.

They can also complement home access, especially for those who do not have access to the right devices, who do not feel confident, or who simply prefer to go online in company.

Both in countries which already have high levels of connectivity, and those where only a minority are online, connecting and enabling libraries can represent an important part of efforts to achieve digital goals.

Two recent consultations have offered an opportunity to underline this point.

The European Union-Africa Digital Economy Taskforce, in its draft report, places an emphasis on movement towards universal connectivity and education. It recognises that the potential of eCommerce can only be realised if more people are online and able to realise the potential of the internet.

Meanwhile, Somalia’s Information and Communications Technology Policy and Strategy looks to bring online a country which currently only has 10% of its population online. It also underlines the need for universal access and skills.

IFLA’s responses highlight the potential of libraries both as a stepping stone towards, and a complement to home access. They are a cost effective way of brining more people online quickly, reversing the deceleration in the rate of new connections. They are also ideal venues for people of all ages to come and learn about how to make the most of the internet.

Read more in IFLA’s Public Access Policy Toolkit