Disruption of the Global Distribution of Knowledge
By Tanyella Evans, Library for All
I believe there is a momentous opportunity now to address the global lack of access to educational materials, using digital technology. The growth of mobile networks across developing countries has boomed in recent years; over the past year alone, mobile telecommunications services in developing nations have grown 78%, and 39% of the developing world now has access to 3G networks.
In addition, the falling cost of digital devices such as tablets and mobile phones creates the potential for realizing the promise of technology for wide-scale development. Through a global partnership of organizations working together, I believe there is an opportunity now to disrupt the unequal distribution of knowledge on a global scale.
Coalescing this global partnership is part of the vision for Library For All. The idea came about when my co-founder Rebecca was living and working in Haiti. She saw schools with hundreds of children, with access to 30 books. She began researching potential partners that could bring digital content to partner schools in Haiti, but found current approaches lacking. Two main challenges exist - current approaches are tied to one expensive device or proprietary software, and issues of low bandwidth have not been adequately addressed in the rollout design.
Our model is to create a digital library that is as open as possible to enable collaboration and partnerships to flourish. The Library will be accessible on any Android-based device (not limited to one exclusive device manufacturer), including mobile phones and tablets, as well as computers. The distribution model is through partnerships with local schools, NGOs and government partners. Moreover, we are working with development shop ThoughtWorks to design a local network topology, to ensure that the platform will actually work via mobile phone networks in environments where there may be regular disruptions or very low bandwidth.
This effort is vital because we know that globally, the rate of knowledge production is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The developing world is being left further and further behind in this global knowledge economy. The knowledge gap is widening, limiting opportunities for individuals in developing countries to be competitive on the global job market. It is astonishing to me that this state of affairs exists despite the proliferation of educational content online, including free resources such as Project Gutenberg and Khan Academy. The question of access for developing communities has not been adequately addressed.
Just one example of the power of access to knowledge is the story of Alex and Noel, two Haiti guys that Rebecca met when she was living in Haiti. A friend helped them get access to MIT OpenCourseWare online, and they taught themselves how to build solar panels. They now have a company that employs thirty two people and they are lighting up communities all across Haiti.
At Library For All, we believe that that there is a huge opportunity now to address the knowledge gap. We believe that access to knowledge is key to enabling individuals living in poverty to lift themselves out of poverty. More information about Library For All can be found on our website, and also on our Kickstarter page. Potential partners are invited to reach out to us also through the partners page on our website.
Tanyella Evans is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Library for All.