Here's some notes about our eGranary Digital Library -- now installed in over 60 institutions in the developing world -- which I'll be demonstrating at WSIS and the AAU conference in Tunis.
I'd like to connect with those who are interested in using this technology to deliver a wealth of information to scholars with little or no Internet connectivity.
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The WiderNet Project
University of Iowa
The eGranary Digital Library provides over 2.5 million digital resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Through a process of copying Web sites and delivering them to intranet Web servers inside partner institutions in developing countries, this digital library delivers educational materials for instant access over local area networks.
For schools that are spending enormous amounts of money for their slow and unreliable internet connections, the eGranary Digital Library slips seamlessly into the network and delivers its Web pages up to 5,000 times faster. At the same time, such schools can save tens of thousands of dollars in bandwidth costs every year.
For those schools, clinics, and libraries WITHOUT an Internet connection, the eGranary Digital Library is a phenomoenon!
With installations in more than 60 institutions in Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti, the eGranary Digital Library provides lightning fast access to a wide variety of educational materials including video, audio, books, journals, and Web sites, even where no Internet access exists.
The eGranary Digital Library represents the collective contributions of hundreds of authors, publishers, programmers, librarians, instructors and students around the globe. Some of the many authors and publishers who have granted permission to distribute their works via the eGranary Digital Library include: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Columbia University, Cornell University, MIT's OpenCourseware, UNESCO, Wikipedia, the Virtual Hospital, World Bank and WHO.
Founded in 2001, the eGranary Digital Library was created by the WiderNet Project, a non-profit organization based at the University of Iowa. The WiderNet Project seeks more authors and publishers to help grow its collection to 10 million documents, volunteers to help collect and categorize new materials, and librarians and teachers to help get the library installed in thousands of schools, hospital and universities.
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Here's how the eGranary Digital Library works:
1. Web sites with rich educational content are identified by our subscribers, staff, and volunteers of the eGranary Digital Library.
2. The author's or publisher's permission to copy their materials is solicited by email. Depending on the content area, 50-90% usually agree.
3. The permitted materials are copied to a hard drive. Sometimes an entire Web site is copied; sometimes just the portions containing the most useful information.
4. Copies of the collection are made and distributed to subscriber universities using large hard disks. Many subscribers already have servers and local area networks in place, so they simply add the eGranary hard drive to their existing server.
5. The eGranary Digital Library comes with custom proxy and search sevices so that the patron's experience is identical to using the Internet.
6. The WiderNet Project has developed a way to deliver incremental updates using any transport mechanism (IP, satellite digital radio, CD-ROM, etc.) on an ongoing basis.
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Endorsements of the eGranary Digital Library
"The WiderNet Project and the eGranary Digital Library are two of the best things to happen to Nigeria."
--Digital Library Issues workshop participant, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
"The eGranary Digital Library has helped our students and lecturers in accessing academic materials which were not easily accessible due to limited bandwidth. The concept is very good for those with limited or no bandwidth and should be supported. It has become part and parcel of our e-learning platform."
--Nyaga Gacheru, Network Administrator, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya
"...we have been having difficulties due to the dearth of reference materials in many subject areas. Since the installation of the [eGranary], our lecturers and students have been exposed to a variety of reference sources. Recently our institution played host to a team of resource inspectors from the national board of Technical Education, NBTE, who came to accredit our programmes. the materials that were accessed from the [eGranary] formed a major plank in the accreditation requirements, which made us achieve the 98% success level at that accreditation exercise."
--Report on the eGranary Digital Library at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria
"The eGranary Digital Library concept is the solution for creation and distributing online content challenges currently facing most African countries."
--Mr. Jacod Mtui, Research and Development, University of Dar Es Salaam
"The idea is simply GREAT! We are trying to promote it in Bangladesh, especially educational institutions providing higher studies in remote areas."
--Mr. Mizanur Munna, Positive Bangladesh Initiatives
"eGranary Digital Library has been a great bridge in the digital divide for us in the University of Jos in Nigeria. It has served the purpose of bringing the Internet to our doorsteps. We've had problems with bandwidth cost, paying about $6,000 monthly for a bandwidth of 128/64 (that's about the speed of two phone modems being shared by dozens or hundreds of people). We've had to put other expenses on hold in order to pay for bandwidth that is not very reliable. It is still costly (based on our GDP and general income) for staff and students to pay for Internet access. So, the eGranary, with about 2 million documents downloaded from the Internet, has been a great asset for us. We have it up and running on our intranet with no bandwidth cost and it's accessible at the speed of lightening! What better motivation for academics! The eGranary holds great promise for developing economies where bandwidth and the cost of Internet access is high."
--Dr. Stephen Akintunde, Deputy University Librarian, University of Jos, Nigeria