22 June 2016
Global Commission Recommends Governments to Invest in Public Access in Libraries
The Global Commission on Internet Governance has just released One Internet, a wide-ranging and pragmatic vision of how all actors can contribute to a sustainable and democratic internet.
Based on two years of work and extensive expert contributions, the Commission identifies four foundational aspects of a “robust, healthy Internet: open, secure, trustworthy and inclusive of all”, and what can be done to achieve this.
Libraries’ Role in Internet Access Recognised
In particular, IFLA welcomes the report’s recommendation that “public investment at locations such as schools and libraries can also be leveraged to provide wider access to communities that would otherwise have limited opportunities due to factors such as income or geography”.
With millions getting online for the first time in a library, and many more depending on them to learn skills and look for work, this is a priority also recognised by the Global Connect Initiative, and in the Principles on Public Access co-developed by IFLA. The report highlights access for refugees as a particular priority – and libraries are playing a strong role here, as IFLA demonstrated at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance recently.
IFLA Positions on Internet Policy Endorsed
Librarians know that physical access alone isn’t everything. The report echoes this, aligning itself with many positions already taken by IFLA. For example, in order for the Internet to be trustworthy, the Commission argues that “standards and protocols of the Internet should enhance privacy, not weaken it”, an idea supported by IFLA in our Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment.
It calls for transparency from Internet companies on the content that they are prioritising or masking, as IFLA has called for in our Statement on the Right to Be Forgotten. And it proposes that governments should promote digital literacy programs in schools and within government organizations. Libraries are important actors in getting people used to reading digitally, and taking a critical attitude to what they see online. They are a key tool for all stakeholders to utilise in the development of Internet users’ Media and Information Literacy (MIL) competencies.
A Call to Action for a Sustainable, Democratic Internet
The Internet stands at a turning point. With 4bn people still offline, much of its promise to ensure universal access to knowledge remains unrealised. At the same time, many existing users, let alone those yet to connect, are concerned with where the Internet goes next. A sustainable information environment requires the sober analysis of the facts, and practical recommendations for the future, that this report provides.
In order to ensure that the internet can continue to support library goals of universal, equal access to information, we recommend all actors to read, engage, and act on the Commission’s work.