20 May 2014
Public Access: Supporting Digital Inclusion for All
IFLA, along with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington have prepared a briefing paper on public access to ICTs and the role libraries play in this. The paper, 'Public access: Supporting digital inclusion for all – Maximising the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for inclusive social and economic development' has been presented in two different versions at:
- The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), Seventeenth Session, 12 - 16 May 2014
- WSIS+10 High-Level Event, 9-13th June 2014
The briefing papers draws UN Member States' attention to the importance of access to ICTs as a key issue in development and to the ongoing digital divide. It includes a checklist of action points for policymakers that highlights an ecosystem approach to ensure better public access. It also stresses the important role libraries have to play in this. The most important initiatives that need to be considered are:
- Build awareness and information sharing. There is generally a shortage of knowledge of the importance of public access, and on how to implement and sustain public access facilities, especially in developing countries. Knowledge of best practices and sustainable solutions using the latest technologies needs to be assembled and circulated, in print, in online fora and in training workshops.
- Improve the enabling environment – a basic requirement for public access facilities is low-cost high-speed connectivity. This requires a conducive policy and regulatory environment which ensures competitive, pervasive and reliable provision of internet services.
- Implement use of universal access funds and other public policy instruments to support public access, not only at the national level but also through provincial or local municipal authorities.
- Address human resource deficiencies. Policies need to be aimed at ensuring a sufficient number of appropriately trained people at a technical level to support public access facilities, for their staff to help in the provision of ICT services to the public, and for the public in how to make the most effective use of them, especially by women and other disenfranchised groups.
- Invest in locally relevant applications and service development, particularly e-government services. This will help fuel the demand for access and make public access facilities more sustainable. Libraries in particular can be an effective vehicle for supporting the implementation of e-government strategies at the local level.
- Set targets and monitor progress. Targets and indicators need to be adopted to enable measurement of progress in providing public access, and in assessing impact. This should be based on an objective methodology for evaluating the quality of access available to the general public.
IFLA encourages members to use the briefing paper in their communications with policymakers about public access to ICTs.