Public access to the internet and ICT in libraries is an important tool to support meaningful digital inclusion and bring more people online. How can national-level policy frameworks and measures facilitate, support and maximise this potential? A 2-part report by IFLA and EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) explores the roles libraries play in different national broadband policies and plans, and how such policy measures were implemented in practice.

Today, broadband policies in more than 30 countries – some current and ongoing, others recently implemented – contain references to libraries. Within the framework of the Dynamic Coalition of Public Access in Libraries, IFLA and EIFL finalised a 2-part report looking at the policy and practice of engaging libraries in broadband plans and strategies.​

​​“Libraries in National Broadband Policies” outlines the different ways States seek to engage libraries in their overarching strategies to boost connectivity and equal participation in the digital environment. The roles of libraries can include supporting both the supply and demand sides of connectivity in their communities: free or low-cost access to the internet and ICT, digital skills learning opportunities, or even facilitating meaningful uses of connectivity by creating local content or supporting e-learning.

Furthermore, this range of policy documents reflects the different ways countries seek to help libraries take on these roles. These measures can target different elements of library connectivity needs, from ICT equipment and internet subscription costs to librarians’ digital competencies. Different national approaches also highlight the various policy mechanisms which can help address these library needs, from public-private partnerships to Universal Service Funds.​

“Implementing broadband policies: case studies on public access in libraries” looks at how policy measures that aim to leverage public access in libraries to boost digital inclusion have taken shape in practice. Drawing on several country case studies – Colombia, Kenya, Lithuania, Romania and the Philippines – this section examines the impacts these library-based policy measures achieved, from boosting digital inclusion for underserved user groups to better access to e-health and e-government resources.​

​Finally, the case studies help outline good practices and lessons learned that can help maximise the impact and effectiveness of library-based policy interventions to build an inclusive digital environment.​

The two-part report was presented and discussed at DC-PAL sessions at the Internet Governance Forum 2019 and 2020, and finalised ahead of the 2021 IGF. You can access the report below – and if you would like to share your insights on the ways libraries are engaged in broadband policies and plans in your country, don’t hesitate to get in touch! ​