Dominican Republic Nabs Gates $1 Million as IFLA Focuses on Cloud, Building Design
Dominican Republic First Lady Margarita Cedeño de Fernández with Deborah Jacobs of the Gates Foundation. Photo by Carlon Walker.
Panelists Patrick Flaherty, Christine Runnegar, and Clifford Lynch on cloud computing. Photo by Carlon Walker.
Helsinki University’s new main library is scheduled to open in September. Photo by Carlon Walker.
The Dominican Republic came up the big winner August 13 during the World Library and Information Congress in Helsinki, Finland, where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented its 2012 Access to Learning Award of $1 million to the Caribbean nation’s Community Technology Centers. The foundation called the centers “a groundbreaking network of facilities that provide all residents free access to high-tech tools, training courses, and a wide variety of other services to help them improve their lives.” In Finland to accept the award was Dominican First Lady Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, who was recently elected as the nation’s vice president and who has championed the cause of building libraries in her country.
“The problems confronting the Dominican Republic include high poverty rates, unemployment, and lack of health education that leads to the spread of diseases,” the foundation stated in its formal announcement, adding, “The Community Technology Centers address these issues by giving people the knowledge and skills they need to find employment, start and run their own businesses, improve their health, and strengthen their communities.” Microsoft, a foundation partner, will donate approximately $18 million in software to the centers as part of its Global Citizenship commitment to bring the benefits of relevant and accessible technology to communities.
Now in its 13th year, the Gates Foundation’s annual Access to Learning Award recognizes the innovative efforts of libraries and similar organizations outside the United States in providing free access to computers and the internet. It is awarded by the foundation’s Global Libraries initiative, which works to open the world of knowledge, information, and opportunity to help improve the lives of millions of people. Deborah Jacobs, Global Libraries director, presented the award.
“The CTCs create a legacy fostering the individual and collective development of the community residents and neighborhoods. They utilize technology as a tool to overcome poverty, and help people become more productive, innovative, and competitive individuals,” Fernández said. She has championed the program throughout her tenure as first lady and will continue to expand it during her upcoming term as vice president. “Through the CTCs, we hope to create a knowledge-seeking culture within these communities—one that will make them more active, engaged, and more empowered to influence their own futures. A behavior of entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is what we believe is needed to be successful in the 21st century.”
Read more about the award and the Dominican Republic’s extraordinary Community Technology Centers on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website.
The second full day of programming at the conference sponsored by the International Federation of Library and Associations and Institutions also featured a well-attended session on “Cloud Computing: Its Impact on Privacy, Jurisdiction, Security, Lawful Access, Ownership, and Permanence of Data,” sponsored by the Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters and featuring panelists Patrick Flaherty and Christine Runnegar, both attorneys, and technology guru Clifford Lynch.
Lynch offered a gently critical but realistic look at the variety of clouds that are in play today. “They have become terribly fashionable in marketing literature,” he said, but “the idea goes back to the 1960s, believe it or not.” The program offered practical advice for library and information professionals who are considering outsourcing various functions to a vendor. He noted that cloud computing that crosses national borders can create issues, especially when the vendor subcontracts across additional borders. Runnegar said that cloud computing offers storage that is cheap, data sharing that is easily proliferated, search tools that recognize voice and image, and the ability to track over time and across location. “It is easier to store and link than to weed and discard,” she said, noting that privacy is likely to become the litmus test that will force cloud vendors to honor users’ preferences.
Flaherty talked about “whether to cloud or not to cloud” and said that “jurisdictional uncertainty should not deter anyone from harnessing the benefits of what the cloud can provide.” His assessment of benefits and risks included specific recommendations for librarians and a checklist of contract considerations.
Some 100 IFLA delegates attended a special seminar at the library of Helsinki University, where they heard Maija Berndtson, director of Helsinki City Library and chair of the IFLA National Organizing Committee, discuss plans for a new public library in the center of the city. Matti Huhtamies, of Antrinen Oiva Architects, discussed the building of the university’s new Kaisa House library and led a tour through the dazzling new facility, which was designed to bring light and a sense of space to a small city lot.
The IFLA conference continues through August 17.
LEONARD KNIFFEL is the former editor and publisher of American Libraries.