WiderNet Digital Library for African Universities via Satellite

WiderNet Logo- Casting a Wider Net. African universities face a huge bottleneck in accessing the wide variety of educational materials needed for high quality education and research. Through the WiderNet project, this bottleneck is being unblocked, through the ability to access and share digital educational materials via satellite.

WiderNet is also training African library staff to digitize their materials so that African research and collections can be shared around the world.

Storing the Seeds of Knowledge - the eGranary Digital Library
Each university is provided a proxy server which stores the eGranary Digital Library of materials. This library is updated periodically with one-way satellite connections and cheap receivers (or alternate means appropriate to the context of each university).

The result is that via any computer on the university's local area network (LAN), professors, students, and researchers will have access to millions of up-to-date documents at very high speed. By using the existing local area network to access this pre-stored data, precious (and expensive) Internet bandwidth is conserved and freed for other information access needs.

The project will also be able to deliver large multimedia files (such as video and audio) and tutorial software that otherwise would be impossible to download over dial-up connections.

Photo of two Nigerians working on the WiderNet Project. Six interns have been working this summer on identifying new material for the eGranary Digital Library, focusing on medicine, mathematics, and geography. Already the project has received donations of materials from over 100 authors and publishers.

Benefits to African University Libraries
The benefits to participating libraries include immediate and significant services for their users (educators, researchers, and students), both in terms of accessing previously inaccessible materials, and sharing the work of their university with other academics in Africa and beyond.

Through WiderNet, each university will also receive:
  • Training in information technology system maintenance;
  • Training in content creation;
  • Coaching in using and deploying the Internet at their institution;
  • Practical experience that will translate into expertise when they connect to the Internet;
  • Combined expertise of all WiderNet project participants; and
  • and the opportunity to publish their work on a high-speed and reliable World Wide Web site.
Partnerships and Collaborations
The WiderNet effort reflects the new USAID Business Model, bringing new, non-traditional partners to the development challenge. Prospective partners in the eGranary Alliance include MacArthur Foundation, technology companies, volunteer software coders, satellite carriers and U.S. and African universities.

For example, the project has:
  • Forged an alliance with the University of Jos where Dr. Stephen Akintunde will help to develop training programs for librarians around Nigeria and Dr. Lennox Liverpool will be leading an effort to compile digital teaching tools for undergraduate mathematics.
  • Received a pledge from the Microsoft Corporation to provide server software for the first wave of eGranary Digital Libraries.
  • Created a Web database interface to allow area editors from around the world to participate in the collection and selection of digital teaching tools.
  • Recently received a $12,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to include a commercial encyclopedia in the eGranary Digital Library.
The WiderNet Project
WiderNet is a nonprofit project at the University of Iowa that works to improve digital communication in developing countries. The WiderNet Project focuses on the improvement of educational communication systems in Africa by providing faculty and students with access to computers, email, and the Internet. The project has close ties and connections with Nigerian universities.

Via the dot-ORG Access Associate Award, the Leland Initiative is funding this two-year activity through its Global Development Alliance facility. It is designed to:
  • Produce and distribute an expanded WiderNet library.
  • Demonstrate that contemporary satellite broadcast techniques can be modified to work in the real world conditions found at most African Universities.
  • Increase the number of WiderNet installed libraries within African Universities.
dot-ORG was awarded the WiderNet Project on April 15, 2003 for a period of two years (Subagreement under the Access Associate Award No. GDG-A-00-02-0016-00 under the dot-ORG Leader Award No.GDG-A-00-01-00014-00).

For More Information, Contact:
Christopher Light
Sr. Program Officer, dot-ORG
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: 202 884-8762

Cliff Missen
Director, WiderNet
University of Iowa
Tel: +1 319-335-2200

USAID: Lane Smith
Program Director, Leland Initiative
United States Agency for International Development
Tel: +1 202 712-0826

Related Resource Partners
Related DOT-COM Activity
Africa Bureau Access Support

Africa Region - WiderNet Iowa
Click on USAID's logo to visit USAID
Click on Internews Network logo, to visit Internews
Click on Academy for Educational Development (AED) logo to visit AED
Click on Educational Development Center (EDC) logo to visit EDC
Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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