Sunday, April 15, 2012

The eGranary solution to Internet access problem

Ernest Dempsey — Helpful books make a difference in the lives of readers. In an age of online learning, there are parts of the world where Internet access is still a far cry. But a new project is getting around this barrier. In a welcome move, Loving Healing Press announced that they have donated the rights to distribute 47 different eBooks on self-help and personal growth to the eGranary project to help those without Internet access around the world.

The eGranary project is curated by librarians at the University of Iowa and volunteers around the world. The eBooks donated by Loving Healing Press cover a wide variety of subjects from daily meditations to Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) to sexual abuse recovery topics. Participating authors include Amy Barth, Robin Marvel, Irene Watson, Jay S. Levy, who each donated two or more of their books for use in eGranary.

The WiderNet Project was founded in the 2000, approximately 18 months after co-director Cliff Missen recognized the depth of the digital divide. As a Fulbright scholar studying in Nigeria in 1998, WiderNet Co-Founder Cliff Missen experienced firsthand the frustrations caused by a lack of Internet access while teaching at the University of Jos. Together with a University of Iowa graduate student, Missen created the first version of the digital library after requesting that the student send him some web pages on a CD-ROM. From the first CD, Missen continued to work to overcome digital communication obstacles, eventually placing materials onto a hard drive through a process of copying websites with permission; then uploading materials to a server at partner institutions. Today, the eGranary arrives on a 4 Terabyte hard drive, which would hold the equivalent of about 6000 CDs or 1000 DVDs.

The project, which was a tremendous success, was dubbed the "eGranary Digital Library" because the digital library holds the seeds of knowledge just as an African granary holds the seeds of a future crop. Since the WiderNet organization began, staff, students and volunteers have worked continuously to deliver educational materials to the seven out of eight people worldwide who have inadequate Internet access. Today the project has installed the eGranary Digital Library at about 400 partner institutions around the world - and donated more than 1,000 computers for use in African universities.

The organization continues to make steady progress toward bridging the digital divide on a global scale. They are working in numerous countries and institutions from Haiti to Bangladesh and have made "a world of difference" in the lives of many. They strive to serve the information-poor with our programs and spread the gift of knowledge worldwide, with a focus on implementing technology in places where it simply didn't exist.