Libraries are already committed to providing public access to the Internet, as well as skills and support. In this, they are critical players in fighting the digital divide. But in order to help get the next 4 billion online, they will need support from governments, international organisations, businesses and civil society groups. Come to Session 191 at WLIC 2016 and share your ideas on how to do this.

The internet is arguably the fastest growing communications medium of all time, connecting half of the world’s population together well before it reached 30.

It has accelerated our ability to access knowledge, with radical impacts on innovation, creativity, economic growth, and social interaction. As underlined by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ICTs and the Internet are horizontal enablers of development

Yet as the connected half of the world races ahead, the unconnected other half risks being left behind, for want of the physical access, skills, confidence, or money to get online.

Fortunately, we have libraries. Worldwide, more than a million of them work to ensure that information and the skills to use it are available to everyone, in particular those most at risk of being on the wrong side of the digital divide.  

IFLA has long made the case for libraries as critical resources in bringing about a truly universal information society. Together with eIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) we have mobilised well over a hundred stakeholders in the UN Internet Governance Forum’s (IGF) Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries, achieving agreement on a set of Principles in 2015.

There is broad recognition of this role. The Global Connect Initiative, launched by the U.S. State Department in September 2015 with the purpose to bring 1.5 billion people online by 2020, underlines what libraries can do. The Global Commission on Internet Governance, as well as a recent report from Stanford University, do the same.

With the next global IGF meeting in December, we have a key opportunity to go further in engaging governments, international organisations, businesses and civil society groups in order to help libraries to realise their potential.

Session 191 at WLIC 2016 will offer an overview of IFLA’s engagement in the global internet governance discussion, as well as of what some of our key partners are doing. But it will also be the opportunity for attendees to share ideas on how libraries can get more support for their work in providing public access to the internet. We look forward to hearing your ideas.