Syndicate content

Add new comment

Submitted by Cliff Missen on
Almost half of those who have eGranaries also have some Internet connectivity, but it's painfully slow, unreliable, and won't scale to serve hundreds, even thousands of users. Given the high cost of Internet bandwidth, savvy librarians adopt mutiple strategies to deliver information to their patrons, asking the key question: "what's the best way to serve my patrons using the least amount of Internet connectivity?" Those who still cling to Internet-centric "oh, let them buy bandwidth" sentiments need to stop and ask themselves: why would we expect the world's poorest people to use the most expensive medium to access static information? What has changed in the last year or two that renders obslete what we've known about nursing, mathematics, and rural development? A hybrid system makes critical distinctions about what information can be stored and served locally, what information requires frequent updates, which communication services can be rendered asynchronously, and which information access and communication requires real-time connectivity. As nearly one-third of American households have demonstrated: people living at or below the poverty line do not belive that spending on high-speed Internet is more important than meeting other, more critical needs. For all of the current, laudable efforts to lay fiber cables across Africa (a land mass three times the size of the United States), it will be generations before redundant connections and competition drive the prices down to anything resembling what is known in richer countries. And it will be at least as long before a growing middle class can support such infrastructure. For the forseeable future, Internet connectivity will serve the elite. So it remains for us to focus on both paths: grow the local capacity to afford and use bandwidth; and find immediate ways to improve access to information and education for everyone. Think hybrid...