18 August 2021

From the Annual Conference

Libraries in the broadband ecosystem: gearing up for IFLA WLIC 2021

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The past 20 months have required libraries around the world to not only find ways to deliver their services remotely when possible – but also to reflect on their broader roles in the digital ecosystem.

On the one hand, the pandemic saw the ingenuity of libraries in finding ways to continue fulfilling their missions. These have ranged from online digital skills training for seniors in Lithuania to a boost in hotspot lending services in the United States, and beyond.

On the other hand, we saw not only the pressing need for accelerating digital inclusion efforts worldwide, but also how libraries’ own connectivity needs shape what measures they can take on.

Both underline the need for a more comprehensive approach to integrating libraries into wider digital policymaking, at the local, national, and global levels.

Libraries in broadband strategies

IFLA and our partners in the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL) recently completed a draft two-part paper on the roles of libraries in national broadband policies.

The first chapter explores broadband plans and policies from more than 30 countries. It highlights the ways governments have sought to engage libraries in the digital ecosystem, from meaningful digital inclusion and local content availability to support for learning and education.

Measures taken include boosting connectivity, supporting the affordability of internet subscriptions, providing Information and Computer Technology (ICT) equipment, and developing librarian’s own skills.

The second chapter moves from policy output to implementation and impact: how did these library-based broadband policy measures take shape on the ground? Focusing on interventions building or expanding public access to the internet and ICT in libraries, case studies from several countries look at common trends, good practices and lessons learned.

Beyond Broadband

IFLA also released an accompanying paper on the roles of libraries in national digital skills strategies. Governments around the world have recognised the wide range of digital competencies that libraries can help build – from basic ICT skills to media literacy, digital skills for research and use of e-government, to advanced tech competencies in fields like Artificial Intelligence and robotics.

IFLA also continues to support library engagement in digital inclusion and internet governance initiatives. Recent examples include, for instance, the work of the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section to explore libraries’ efforts to build a safer online environment for their young users.

Another recent IFLA briefing focuses on libraries’ support for the rights of their communities in the online environment – through such initiatives at the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights.

Get involved!

Overcoming digital divides represents a key global policy priority. You can help shape the dialogue on the part that libraries will play in achieving this! For example:

We look forward to hearing from you!

FAIFE (Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression), Access to information, Access to knowledge, IFLA WLIC 2021, Public Libraries, Public Access