IGF 2023 Day 0 Event #161 Towards a vision of the internet for an informed society

Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (04:30 UTC) - Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (06:30 UTC)
WS 8 – Room C-1

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)

Digital Divides & Inclusion

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Stephen Wyber, Maria De Brasdefer, IFLA, Civil Society, WEOG Damilare Oyedele, Library Aid Africa, Civil Society, Africa Winston Roberts, National Library of New Zealand, Government, Asia-Pacific


Winston Roberts, National Library of New Zealand
Nina Nakaora, International School Suva, Fiji, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific
Misako Nomura, Assistive Technology Development Organization, Japan, Technical Community
Rei Iwasaki, Notre Dame University, Japan, Academia, Asia-Pacific
Woro Salikin, National Library of Indonesia, Government, Asia-Pacific

Onsite Moderator

Yasuyo Inoue, Dokkyo University (Japan), Academia

Online Moderator

Maria De Brasdefer, IFLA, Civil Society


Stephen Wyber, IFLA, Civil Society, WEOG



Targets: 11.3: One key area of focus is the role of libraries in place making, in particular in the context of the disruption in the urban landscape created by digital, and the need both to promote inclusion and make the most of the possibilities digital creates 9.5, 17.6: Libraries are also key to ensuring that the potential of the internet to facilitate and accelerate the spread of scientific information is realised, as well as to maintain an overview of how this is happening in order to maximise equity 11.4: The internet creates huge possibilities to enjoy cultural rights and participate in cultural life, but again this risks being a dead letter without institutions to support sharing and create curiosity 16.10: as a chapeau for the above, it is this target that highlights the right of access to information, which underpins the rest here


'Barcamp' style event where after a short number of 'witness' statements to set the scene, we will be led by the issues raise by the audience, with the goal of identifying key themes to explore further around the place of libraries in the internet we want, as well as practical tools to realise the potential that they have.


The world’s libraries, collectively, are arguably the precursor to the internet, supporting and enabling information flows, access and use for many centuries. Through this, they have built up a rich experience of how to approach questions around information governance through the prism of a mission to maximize access to information for all. Clearly, the internet has compelled libraries to update the way they fulfil this mission, but the mission remains as essential as ever. Indeed, and despite the stereotypes of libraries that many still hold, there have been a wealth of innovative ideas and approaches which have contributed to a more inclusive internet. In the context of the updating of IFLA’s own Internet Manifesto, this Day 0 event will look therefore at the types of roles that libraries are playing - notably in partnership with others - in ensuring that the internet fulfils its potential to inform everyone, and create the conditions for the fulfilment of development goals. Prepared speakers will bring in particular ideas with a view to stimulating discussion focused on building a shared understanding of what libraries can do, and what is needed to deliver successful partnerships for internet inclusion with libraries. A key goal of the session will be to bring together librarians from Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan with people involved in the internet governance space, allowing not only for an exchange between Japan and the world, but also between representatives of libraries and their (potential) partners. In terms of results, we hope to gather key evidence for the update of IFLA’s own Internet Manifesto, most recently revised in 2014, and which represents a key reference point for the world’s >2.5M libraries in engaging with internet governance processes. We hope too to be able to develop a list of key pointers and ideas for broader internet governance stakeholders to use in order to think about how they can integrate libraries into their own planning and operations.

We will organize the session relatively informally in order to allow participants the time and space to explore ideas, both online and off, as well as drawing on both in-person and online prepared interventions. To break up the time, we will also use inputs via Mentimeter to allow participants in both settings to share ideas, in particular those who are less confident about speaking, especially in response to prepared interventions. We will also set aside time for online participation.

Please note that there will be English-Japanese interpretation available at this session.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Importance of localization - if we want to promote inclusive internet we need to localize our approaches

Libraries are natural partners for any actor in the Internet inclusion space

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

People should re assess their mindset about libraries and see them tech test beds, key sources of content and community infrastructures

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

As awareness grows of the limitations of a purely technological definition of connectivity, as well as of the complex economic, social and cultural implications of the increasing ubiquity of the internet, the need to find a way to realise the goal of a human-centred internet grows. This session drew on the experience of libraries around the world as institutions (staffed by a profession) focused on the practicalities of how to put people in touch with information, and to help them use it to improve their lives. 

Winston Roberts (National Library of New Zealand (retd)) set the scene, highlighting the place of libraries in the original WSIS Agenda, which of course included strong reference to connecting libraries and the value of multi-purpose public access centres. He highlighted that while 20 years had passed, the evolution of the internet had only underlined the importance of having institutions like libraries in order to support universal and meaningful use, as part of a broader approach to internet governance. Thanks to this, it was not only possible to deal with the worst excesses, but also to unlock some of the potential that the internet creates in order to achieve goals around education, social cohesion and beyond. 

Nina Nakaora (International School of Fiji) highlighted the work that libraries had done in particular during the pandemic in order to provide access to learning materials. Again, this illustrated the value of having actors in the wider internet system focused on ensuring that public interest goals were achieved, especially where the market was unlikely to create solutions. She highlighted that, at the same time, to play this role there was a need for libraries to benefit from investment in hardware, connectivity and skills to deliver this.

Rei Iwaski (Notre Dame University, Kyoto) reflected on the Japanese experience of providing information services through libraries. She echoed the point made by Nina Nakaora that this is a potential that can only be realised when libraries are integrated into wider planning. Their cross-cutting missions meant that they often did not fit easily into any one policy box, and also needed to build their own sense of agency as actors in internet governance.

Misako Nomura (Assistive Technology Development Organisation) highlighted the particular situation of users with disabilities. Once again, this illustrated the need to move beyond a laissez-faire approach, and to look at how to connect people with opportunities. Her work included both developing materials for persons with disabilities and ensuring access to technology and wider support. With an ageing population, finding ways to bridge accessibility gaps would be an increasingly important part of wider digital inclusion efforts, and so a strong and properly resourced set of institutions to do this would be essential. 

Woro Titi Salikin (National Library of Indonesia) brought practical examples, again, of the power of facilitating institutions such as libraries in helping people to make the most of internet connectivity in order to deliver real-world change, in particular focused on gender inclusion and supporting entrepreneurship. The Indonesian experience demonstrate that it was possible to make change happen at scale through the right balance of centralised support and local flexibility to adapt services to circumstances. 

The subsequent discussion highlighted the following key points:

- the need to integrate libraries into wider strategies in order to realise their potential. Indonesia offered a strong example, with the close connection between the national library as coordinator of a wider network and central government. Elsewhere, this wasn't the case, and opportunities were being missed

- the fact that librarians too often lacked the sense of agency and skills necessary to fulfil their potential as facilitators of digital inclusion. The sector was at risk of remaining in traditional roles, especially when partnerships with other actors could not be formed. There was a need to build awareness of the responsibility that libraries have in the digital world

- the fact, nonetheless, that libraries do have a unique and flexible role in society which could be mobilised to support a wide range of different agendas

Collectively, the conclusions pointed in the direction of the need to reaffirm the role of libraries, both as a means of activating libraries and librarians themselves, but also to state the case for the place of libraries both as actors in internet governance processes, and as partners for delivery. This is at the heard of IFLA's Internet Manifesto Revision, currently underway, to which all participants were invited to contribute.