Casting the Net wider… harvesting eGranary ideas


Cliff Missen <MissenC@widernet.org> wrote from Tunis, during the recent
WSIS, asking queried whether I was there. I wasn’t. But he took time off
to share with me some interesting information via email, about the
eGranary.

What’s that?

As Cliff explains: “An eGranary Digital Library at each could save
millions in Internet connectivity costs, giving patrons the capacity to
determine how they spend their communication funds (accessing local
documents for free and then deciding which resources they are willing
to spend Internet connectivity to retrieve.)”

He also wrote: “There’s a lot of ways to spread eGranaries, but my
personal favorite involves us training technicians who will train
technicians who will build eGranaries and train librarians and students
all over.”

Other options can be found at:
http://www.widernet.org/digitalLibrary/costOfOwningeGranary.htm

He says he “understands” that there are some efforts underway to build
information centers around India.

Cliff Missen is Director of the The WiderNet Project at the University
of Iowa. Phone 319-335-2200 or http://www.widernet.org

He says their eGranary Digital Library is now installed in “over 60
institutions in the developing world”. He’s keen to connect with those
interested in using this technology “to deliver a wealth of information
to scholars with little or no Internet connectivity”.

For some background: 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.

Says the project proponents: “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 phenomenon!”

It is working in more than 60 institutions in Africa, Bangladesh and
Haiti, and the eGranary Digital Library says it 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.

Incidentally, this 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.

It was founded in 2001. And the eGranary Digital Library was created by the
WiderNet Project, a non-profit organization based at the University of
Iowa. This project is now looking for 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.

In brief, websites with rich educational content are identified, the
author’s or publishers’ permission is obtained by email. Between 50-90%
agree, depending on their content area. Permitted material are copied
to a hard-drive. Sometimes, an entire website is copied. Copies are
distributed using large hard disks. WiderNet Project has also worked on
ways to deliver incremental updates using other transport mechanisms
(IP, satellite digital radio, CD-Rom, etc).

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