16 October 2020
Press Release: Every Community Connected - A Call to Action
[Note: edited 21 October to add pledges from A4AI and Gigabit Libraries Network]
The global health crisis has exposed the size and seriousness of the digital divide for all to see. The Partnership for Public Access (P4PA), a coalition of organisations representing libraries and technologists, has therefore called on governments and decision-makers to ensure that every community is connected, and, through libraries, has access to the content and skills needed to enjoy the benefits that the internet can bring.
Underlining the imperative of reliable, quality broadband and support in order to achieve goals in health, safety, education and economic wellbeing, the call underlines the proven contribution that public access solutions can make.
The signatories themselves pledge do all in their power to ensure every community is meaningfully connected. In turn, governments and other decision makers should aim to promote connectivity and access to content, especially for schools, to draw on the potential of libraries as laboratories for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and to ensure that libraries as well as other community institutions have the skills and resources to support people to become effective internet users.
The full text of the Call is below and on the P4PA website, followed by individual commitments by signatory organisations at bottom. Other organisations which would like to sign the Call to Action are invited to contact us by email.
Libraries in Response: Every Community Connected
The global health crisis has made the pre-existing global connectivity crisis more evident – and action more urgent – than ever before. Broadband access is critical to the health, safety, education and economic well-being of communities. Public Access is proven to be an economical and equitable way to connect every community.
We pledge to do all within our power to ensure every community is connected. In turn, we call on decision-makers at all levels to:
- Ensure that each community has access to at least one publicly-available, adequately connected, no-fee internet access point, and that every school has access to an online or offline library.
- Mobilize libraries to act as community labs for action research, improving how we connect, protect and respect each other, and work together to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
- Ensure adequate trained staffing and access to equipment for libraries and other community anchor institutions to provide a safe and secure access point to networks, respectful of privacy, and support for digital skills and education throughout life, enabling people to learn, earn and thrive.
Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) stands committed to the sustainable development goal to connect humanity by 2030 and to ensure that this access is affordable for everyone. Support for public access is a critical part of this mission, and libraries offer the pre-existing infrastructure to propel our ambition. As part of the mission to connect every community, A4AI will:
- Identify examples of good practice of public access solutions from around the world;
- Continue to research and analyse the effectiveness of public access strategies as part of broadband policy in low- and middle-income countries to increase internet use and reduce the affordability barrier;
- Champion public access strategies as an essential part of a comprehensive broadband strategy that sets the target to expand internet use and lower the cost of connectivity; and
- Provide technical support to governments and other stakeholders looking to advance public access as part of their broadband policy programme.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Public access internet services are a key element in addressing needs for more equitable access in both developing and developed countries - not everyone has personal access to the necessary bandwidth and equipment to make full use of the Internet. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has been encouraging support for provision of public access facilities since its foundation 30 years ago, and since then it has become increasingly apparent that personal broadband subscriptions are not able to meet all the requirements for Internet access.
Recently APC has been working in partnership with IFLA to promote awareness of the need for national policies which support the provision of public access facilities, in particular in UN policy discussion forums, so that the importance of public access via telecentres and libraries is recognized as a central tool for digital inclusion. This collaboration, and the defense of public acess was highlighted at ITU, and UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development consultations, as well as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) events which continued during the WSIS+10 review, where APC participated thanks to its ECOSOC status.
Most recently APC has continued its promotion of public access by supporting the creation of an enabling environment for community networks, as we see these as the centre for digital inclusion in rural and remote areas, and also because they frequently include provision of public computer access facilities. These efforts are central to our Strategic Plan 2020-2023, and in that regard, APC welcomes this Declaration because it aligns very much with our past, present and future policy advocacy plans. In particular going forward APC will:
- Support discussions on public access at global and regional levels through its membership in the ITU and as a UN ECOSOC organisation, while engaging with national governments in public policy consultation processes relating to digital inclusion.
- Continue our support to APC members and other community network partners to create more public facilities, while facilitating the sharing of experiences among them.
- Strengthen the links between "traditional" public access providers with more innovative models such as community networks, so that connectivity can be extended to cover a wider area in the community.
EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries)
Public libraries - trusted institutions, staffed by skilled information professionals - are uniquely placed to connect communities by providing public access to computers and the internet, and training people to use them.
The EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) advocates with national governments, and internationally, for equipping public libraries with computers and internet connections for free public use. We empower public librarians to use public access computers and internet connectivity creatively to provide digital literacy training and other services in communities, addressing critical needs and contributing to achieving local and global development goals. We pledge to -
- Continue advocating for resourcing of public libraries in developing and transition economy countries - including those serving the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities in urban and rural settings;
- Through extensive training-of-trainers programmes, build public librarians’ ability to design digital skills training curricula to meet local needs, and to provide computer, internet and information literacy skills training in their communities.
- Continue to develop and promote examples of creative use of technology by public libraries to address the digital divide.
Gigabit Libraries Network
“Libraries need to lead in providing access to digital public information and services.” -Don Means, GLN Director Since 2013, the Gigabit Libraries Network has joined with libraries and library agencies to fund and support projects that expand digital access through new “neighborhood library access stations" using an array of connectivity solutions
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Maximising Access Now: A Library Pledge to promote digital inclusion and access to information during COVID-19 and Beyond
To the best of our abilities, and with full respect for the law and public health:
- We pledge to promote the best possible internet access for communities, reliably and at no or low cost, so that no-one should lack connectivity for financial reasons
- We pledge to promote the widest possible access to relevant digital content and services, supporting education, research, and economic, social and cultural participation
- We pledge to promote the strongest possible support for the development of digital skills, giving users the ability to be successful and confident internet users
- We pledge to promote equitable broadband policies at all levels.
16 October 2020, Download the Call as a pdf.