WiderNet Digital Library for African Universities via Satellite
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.
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:
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:
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: