How will a pocket library help the situation in West Africa?
One of the great difficulties in this epidemic has been the lack of accurate information available to not only the public, but also to health care workers and public policy makers. By distributing this timely information on chips, which can be viewed on smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, the citizens of the affected countries will have easy access to information on how to minimize the spread of Ebola and treat those who are infected.
Why can’t people just use the Internet to get answers about Ebola?
Most African nations have very limited access to the Internet, which is one of the reasons we created the eGranary Digital Library. It has never been more critical for a population to have immediate access to information. In Sierra Leone, for example, only 1.7% of the population has Internet access. So, while organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and Doctors Without Borders have excellent resources on their Web sites, the people who need them most have no access.
Don’t the affected countries need supplies and not information?
Of course there are many practical needs during the current outbreak, such as gloves and disinfectant, and protective suits, however there still remains a great need for accurate information. Especially in rural isolated areas, there is still much misinformation and rumors surrounding Ebola. It is critical for people to have access to accurate information in order to protect themselves and their families. The spread of the Ebola virus has been intensified and expanded due to cultural practices and ignorance of the transmission risks; if we can get crucial information to the populace, especially working with local communicators and educators, we can help them to curtail the practices that are increasing transmission.
Our director, Cliff Missen, lived in Liberia for a year in the ‘80s and has visited several times since then. We’ve contributed hundreds of refurbished computers and thousands of books to the University of Liberia, as well as installed a computer lab and eGranary Digital Library at the A. M. Dogliotti School of Medicine. And we’re no stranger to off-line libraries: since 2001, the WiderNet Project’s eGranary Digital Library — with over 32 million educational resources — has been installed at over 900 educational and health care institutions worldwide. Three million users have fast access to a world of information — no Internet required. We have significant experience creating special collections — we call them portals — with our partners in such areas as Nursing, Medicine, Public Health, Education Essentials, Water Development, and Disability Rights.
Why are there two web sites for WiderNet?
WiderNet@UNC is the research and development arm of WiderNet, based in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The WiderNet Project is an affiliated U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on manufacturing, distribution, and training. Donations to either website may be tax deductible.