Tag Archives: internet governance

Dates for the diary: advocacy moments over the rest of 2021

A key challenge in advocating for libraries is that you can be working across a huge range of issues. Libraries are cultural, educational, scientific, and civic actors, all at once.

While this means that there are many situations in which libraries have a relevant contribution to make, it can also mean that it is hard to find a focus, or construct a programme of ongoing advocacy activities.

One thing that can help in this is to structure activities around key dates.

Sometimes, there is an important event, with major media interest, taking place. If you are ‘present’ – through social media, articles or op eds, or other tools – you can look particularly relevant for partners, as well as build awareness within the field.

At other times, a day has been declared to be an international observance, meaning that among global – and often national – institutions, there is a special focus on the relevant theme. By engaging, you can underline libraries’ relevance, as well as potentially build new partnerships.

This blog sets ot some key dates and observances between now and the end of 2021. You don’t need to plan something for each one of these of course, and you certainly don’t need to do anything big!

However, as above, even just by posting on social media, you can help show the connection between libraries and the major global issues these dates mark. And if you can do more, all the better!

In each case, there is also a note about IFLA’s own current plans.

8 September – International Literacy Day (link): a particularly relevant day for libraries, this is an opportunity to focus on showing our institutions’ contribution to building literacy (and literacies) at all ages. This year is focused in particular on closing the digital divide. Think about examples you can share that show how libraries help achieve the global commitment to driving universal literacy!

IFLA’s Literacy and Reading Section will be planning publications, and Headquarters will be sharing new research into how libraries feature in collected good practices. Hashtag: #LiteracyDay

15 September – International Day of Democracy (link): a great opportunity to set out how libraries are promoting healthy civic life and participation in decision-making, through everything from enabling parliaments to work effectively to facilitating access to open data, providing information literacy skills, and welcoming debates and discussions in the library. Hashtag: #Democracy

17-29 September – SDG Action Week (link): what is your library or association doing to deliver on the SDGs? Share it via the tools prepared for SDG Action Week by the UN-supported SDG Action Campaign. There are also lots of great tools for social media and beyond, helping you both to underline the need to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, and to show how libraries are making a difference! Hashtag: #Act4SDGs

26 September – 2 October – Banned Books Week (link (ALA) and link (Amnesty International USA)): the mission of libraries to provide access to the widest possible range of materials to their users does not sit well with censorship, be it offline or online. Banned Books Week is an opportunity to highlight the reality of restrictions on expression today and their impact, as well as to resist censorship.

IFLA’s Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) will be involved, but take a look at the links to see what the American Library association and Amnesty International USA have planned. Hashtag: #BannedBooksWeek

28 September – International Day for the Universal Access to Information (link): only recently created as a UN-recognised day, the International Day for the Universal Access to Information grew out of work to promote rules on access to government information. It has since expanded to cover all information which can help people to develop.

This year, IFLA, through its regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, is supporting this year’s celebrations by organising an official event in Buenos Aires. Follow this – and the other events – and use the day to highlight the importance of libraries’ work to provide access to information! Hashtag: #AccessToInfoDay

October – Urban October (link): starting with World Habitat Day on 4 October, and closing with World Cities Day on 31 October, Urban October is focused on the importance of working at the local and regional levels in order to deliver on development, led by UN HABITAT. There is a strong focus this year on climate change and climate resilience, with COP26 coming up (see below!). You can register events on the Urban October website also if you want to organise something! Hashtag: #UrbanOctober

24 October – World Development Information Day (link): this day is about the importance of sharing information in order to raise awareness of and interest in development challenges around the world. As such, it is a perfect opportunity for libraries to underline their own role in supporting learning and engagement in the wider world! IFLA will make posts on the day – you can also! Hashtag: to be announced

24-31 October – Global Media and Information Literacy Week (link): this is another recent addition to the UN calendar, but has been run by UNESCO already for a number of years with strong library engagement. IFLA will be looking to contribute to global events, and we encourage others to hold their own activities or gatherings in order to promote media and information literacy, and the role of libraries in delivering it. See already our save-the-date post! Hashtag: #GlobalMILWeek

27 October – World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (link): recognized by UNESCO, this is an opportunity to recognise the uniqueness and the importance of audiovisual heritage, what it brings to societies, and what is needed to safeguard it. IFLA will be marking the day, and we hope that libraries and associations working with it will join the effort to raise awareness to ensure audiovisual heritage gets the attention it deserves. Hashtag: #AudiovisualHeritage

1-12 November – COP26 (link): delayed from last year, this is a key meeting in delivering on the Paris Agreement on climate change, where governments and others will meet to discuss accelerating climate action. IFLA, as a member of the Climate Heritage Network, will be closely involved in underlining the role of culture and cultural institutions in progress. There is likely to be major attention to climate change issues during this time, and so it’s an important opportunity both to show what libraries can contribute, and to join wider calls for action! See our blogs about climate change, and the work of our Section on Environment, Sustainability and Libraries for more. Hashtag: #COP26, #ClimateHeritage

9-24 November – UNESCO General Conference (link): this is the major biennial meeting of UNESCO’s Member States, taking the opportunity to set the budget and the agenda of the organisation, as well as to discuss key current trends. With libraries engaged in many of UNESCO’s priorities, IFLA engages across a wide range of the Organisation’s work. In advance of the event, we will be encouraging members to get in touch with their UNESCO National Commissions in order to share library priorities. Find out more in our news piece about the Year of Creative Economy, and our guide to the 2005 Convention on Cultural Diversity. Hashtag: #UNESCO

6-10 December – Internet Governance Forum 2021 (link): the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an opportunity for governments, experts and stakeholders to talk about key issues in the way that the internet is run today, and what improvements could be made to support development. This is an area of major interest for libraries, both given our use of the internet to support access to information, and the relevance of our values in this space. You will be able to join (online or in person at this stage) to listen into the perspectives shared and issues raised – including a side-event on libraries! – or even look out for national IGF meetings. Hashtag: #IGF2021

10 December – Human Rights Day (link): while the theme of these year’s Human Rights Day is not yet known, this is always an opportunity to highlight the connection between the activities of libraries and the delivery of human rights for all. This of course includes the right of access to information, but also to education, privacy, culture and science. IFLA will be marking the day, working with our Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression – think about what you can do! Hashtag: #StandUp4Human Rights

Information Multilateralism

 Today is the second ever International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. Created as a result of a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, it aims to provide an opportunity to highlight the values – and the merits – of multilateral approaches to addressing challenges.

The creation of the day itself is timely. With populist leaders coming to power in a number of places, and placing the (proclaimed) immediate interest of their countries first, there is a need to find opportunities to set out why we work together.

But why is this specifically relevant to libraries, and how does the library and information world contribute? This blog explores the answers.


Why Does Multilateralism Matter for Libraries?

While the word ‘multilateralism’ belongs more to political science than to library and information science, the approach it describes is a familiar one for the library field.

Indeed, the existence of organisations like IFLA is evidence of the understanding that cooperation across borders matter.

If libraries are to be able to work together, they need to follow the same standards, for example for cataloguing. This enables the sharing of materials, and increasingly, the creation of shared resources and databases.

Similarly, so much of the life IFLA is built on the understanding that everyone has something to learn from others elsewhere in the world. The good practices and guidelines we develop are the result of intense sharing of ideas and examples, in order to raise standards everywhere.

These two cases reflect two of the key characteristics of good multilateral cooperation – readiness to develop and follow shared rules, and acceptance of the need to engage as equals.

We’ve seen a similar approach develop with the internet, arguably developing a form of (imperfect) information multilateralism, where, at least in theory, everyone has the possibility both to access and contribute information, and where there is no single dominant power.


Why do Libraries (and Information) Matter for Multilateralism?

In turn, this multilateral approach applied to libraries and information can support successful international cooperation, not least the delivery of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

As set out above, we arguably already have a form of information multilateralism, thanks originally to the global network of libraries, and now complemented powerfully by the development of the internet.

This is what allows for the international research that provides an evidence base for political efforts, for example, to tackle climate change, or to produce documents such as the Global Sustainable Development Report published by the United Nations last September.

Now, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are rapid steps towards building up banks of resources across borders and to make them openly available, with the goal of accelerating progress towards finding effective treatments and cures.

This sort of work is only possible when researchers everywhere can share and combine knowledge in order to work towards shared conclusions.

As hinted when referring to the internet as being an imperfect form of multilateralism, there is more to be done to ensure that we really are in a situation where we have an information environment where everyone is able to contribute and benefit, and so help build solutions.

Amongst the issues needing to be addressed are the fact that almost half of the world’s population are not online, and of those who are, many still lack the connection speed, skills and confidence to make the most of the internet. Others who would normally have access are seeing it restricted through internet shutdowns.

Restrictions on content – from the barriers caused by the fragmentation of copyright laws and censorship, to a lack of information in local languages – also play a role in limiting the resources we can draw on.

Libraries of course – both through their day-to-day work with the communities they serve, and their cooperation across borders – can make a major contribution to overcoming this situation, but require governments to play their part also, providing the right laws and support for success.

Doing so will help achieve the goals of multilateralism globally.

Into the New Decade: Key Internet Governance Trends for Libraries

The year 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Entering a new decade presents an opportunity to reflect on what major Internet Governance trends were relevant for libraries over the course of the last year, and how me might see these trends take shape in the coming future.

Reckoning with the ‘techlash’

Already in 2018, ‘techlash’ – “a strong and widespread negative reaction to the growing power and influence of large technology companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley” – made it to the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year shortlist. 2019 saw the phenomenon grow, with tech giants facing more scrutiny and pressure to address a wide array of challenges, from privacy to misinformation, as well as an  increase in privacy and data protection investigations that tech giants face.

Facebook was handed an unprecedented fine by the US Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations linked to the Cambridge Analytica scandal; privacy complaints in relation to Google’s online advertising practices were filed to data protection regulators in several countries in the EU; EU antitrust regulators launched an investigation into Google’s data collection and use; the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland opened a third investigation into Apple over privacy concerns – these are just a few examples of the increasing pressure the tech industry is facing.

How exactly the increasing pressure will shape the work of online platforms remains to be seen. For example, responding to growing concerns over political advertisements (particularly in the contexts of misinformation and microtargeting), Twitter issued a near-full ban, Google limited the scope of targeting to general data, while Facebook has so far excepted most political advertisements from fact-checking.

Such concerns – in particular online platforms’ handling of user data and privacy – have relevance for the library sector. To give a prominent example, 2019 saw American and Canadian strongly and vocally oppose LinkedIn’s changes to a popular online education platform Lynda.com because of privacy and confidentiality concerns. The introduction of planned changes has since been paused.

Overall, the views on the ‘techlash’ narrative may vary: whether it can meaningfully stir the internet towards openness and inclusivity, and whether the regulatory initiatives it prompted can have negative effects if not carefully assessed beforehand. In any case, 2019 saw the phenomenon gaining more momentum – and the upcoming policy responses can have a significant impact on the shape the internet will take in the future.

A fragmenting internet?

In her speech at the 2019 IGF, Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel pointed out the efforts of some state actors to “seal their nets off from the global internet”. An increasingly fragmented internet can have various negative consequences, she warned, from surveillance to infrastructure vulnerability to censorship.

The concerns over ‘splinternet’ are not new – but 2019 saw a number of prominent government initiatives to exercise control over the internet within state borders (and at times beyond). On the one hand, there are the much-cited examples of China’s Great Firewall and Russia’s reportedly successful test of a country-wide alternative internet in December 2019.

A parallel issue is internet shutdowns – a growing phenomenon, jumping from 75 instances in 2016, 106 in 2017, to 196 in 2018. The trend continued in 2019; while the final tally is yet to be offered (the Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project counts 128 between January and July), we already know that the year saw a record for longest shutdown in a democracy, as well as other shutdowns across South Asia, the MENA region, Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

Fragmentation can go much deeper than these readily apparent cases, though. A landmark 2019 Internet and Jurisdiction report points out that the internet can become “less borderless” due to both technical and regulatory developments. The latter includes fractured and diverse state-based norm setting in such areas as extremist content and hate speech online, privacy, defamation, misinformation, and other matters related to online expression – as well as those related to security and economy. The jurisdictional tensions can give rise to increasing legal uncertainty, which

“increases the cost of doing business and creates challenges for governments seeking to protect their citizens and ensure respect for their laws. It may also prevent internet users from accessing as broad a range of content, as they otherwise could, and raises civil society concerns that abuses are not properly addressed, or that attempted solutions will harm users.”

The questions surrounding both internet shutdowns and fragmentation are relevant for libraries. In the short term, shutdowns and slowdowns prevent libraries from going their job fully; and fragmentation can impact libraries working to make digital materials available across borders, potentially obliging them to cope with laws and other rules from a wide variety of jurisdictions.

In the long run, both trends can mark major steps backwards from wider access to knowledge and information. Future regulatory efforts in these areas can therefore have a significant impact on their work – and it remains to be seen how these trends evolve in 2020.

Governance of new technologies, applications and services – as well as data

Throughout 2019, the Geneva Internet Platform’s Barometer of Trends repeatedly marked an increase in relevance of new technology issues – such as those pertaining to AI and Internet of Things – within internet governance discourse. In the last few years, new applications have prompted engaged and contested political conversations due to their potential societal, political, economic and cultural impacts.

To name one example: 2019 saw increased public concerns over the risks associated with facial recognition technologies, particularly in the areas of privacy and non-discrimination. Several cities in the US banned the technology, while elsewhere, different countries’ regulatory stances are diverse.

As regulators and the society at large continue to grapple with the questions of new technologies’ ethical and societal implications in 2020, libraries can follow (and take part in) the discussions. This ensures that libraries interested in adapting and making use of new technologies and services can make informed choices that align with core library values and patrons’ interests.

In addition, some predictions foresee that privacy and data regulation policy debates will intensify. While the EU General Data Protection Regulation will have already been in effect for two years in 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act only came into effect on January 1, 2020, and other regulations are still under deliberation – e.g. India’s consultations on the Personal Data Protection Bill and other U.S. states considering their own privacy regulations. In light of the questions that the era of Big Data poses for libraries, particularly around privacy, it may well be worthwhile for the library sector to keep track of how this policy field develops further in the coming year.

These are some of the key Internet Governance trends from 2019 that may see further developments in 2020 – and can have implications for the library sector. The internet remains crucial to libraries – both in their daily work and in relation to their broader values of access to information and intellectual freedom. That is why in the coming year IFLA will continue to engage with Internet Governance forums – and encourages libraries to get involved in internet governance platforms and discussions as well!

What has the Web Ever Done for Us? Five Reasons for Libraries to Celebrate the 30th Birthday of the World Wide Web

World Wide Web 30th Birthday 1989-2019

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the World Wide Web. As opposed to the internet – physical networks of computers stretching to around half of the world’s population, the web is an ‘information space’ – a collection of documents and resources linked together by hyperlinks. It is what means that, in effect, computers speak the same language, or are interoperable.

The web gets plenty of criticism, thanks both to some of the content hosted there (hate speech, deliberate misinformation), as well as the way that it is used (hacking, crime, or manipulation of opinion). Indeed, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the author of the paper which set out the concept of web, has himself warned of the need for action.

Nonetheless, the fact that the web is far from perfect does not mean that it has not brought major benefits, not least for libraries. This blog sets out five reasons why libraries in particular should celebrate its birthday.

1) Open Access: the emergence of the Open Access movement has a lot to do with appearance of the Web. The possibility to disseminate research at low marginal cost globally – almost impossible when working on paper – has not only transformed scholarly communication, but even the way science itself is performed. This is a clear benefit, allowing for an acceleration of progress in key areas for humanity. While much still needs to be done, it is clear that without the Web, we wouldn’t be where we are now.

2) Digital Libraries: the Web has been a game-change in terms of how libraries can give access to their own content. Digitising and uploading books, manuscripts and other documents has allowed libraries to reach far beyond their walls, and serve readers and researchers globally. Making such works available on the Web has provided an incentive for digitisation in the first place, created new possibilities to ‘reunify’ collections, and moved us towards a much stronger understanding of our shared heritage.

3) User-Generated Content: a key principle of the Web is that everyone can be both a consumer and a producer of content. This is a point that Sir Tim Berners-Lee underlines in his own article. These new possibilities have allowed libraries to offer new initiatives and services – creative writing, book reviews or online community archives for example. It has also allowed for a huge volume of new ideas, complementing traditional channels such as established publishers, meaning that library users are more likely to find content relevant to them.

4) Reaffirmation of the Value of Libraries: while pessimists have repeatedly predicted that the Web will make libraries obsolete, in reality there is little evidence for this. While it is true that certain traditional services have been taken over, there is a widely accepted need for support in developing the skills necessary to navigate available information. This is a natural strength of libraries, thanks both to the expertise and experience of their personnel, and the physical space they offer for meeting, socialising and learning.

5) Communication: interoperability between computer networks also means communication between people. The Web has had a huge impact on the work of organisations such as IFLA. From annual meetings as the only major occasion to come together, it is now possible to hold a permanent conversation, and engage members of the library field at any time, and anywhere where there is the possibility to connect. New opportunities to share, learn, and innovate are the result.


The birthday of the Web is clearly worth celebrating given all the progress it has allowed towards the goals of the library field. IFLA looks forwards to continued work to ensure that every library and every library user can connect and, in doing so, has the possibility to live a better life.


Read more about IFLA’s work on libraries and the information society, and in particular our guide to internet governance.

The IGF is in Paris – but you can join us from everywhere!

The 13th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is taking place in Paris this year. The meeting is ‎hosted by the Government of France at the Headquarters of UNESCO, and runs from 12 to ‎‎14 November 2018.‎

This year’s session has more than a hundred sessions, including national, regional and youth IGF initiatives as well as seventeen ‎Dynamic Coalitions with inputs from communities and stakeholders. This multi-stakeholder approach, a key characteristic of the IGF, makes this an important opportunity to influence and shape public ‎discourse on internet governance themes and to discuss needed improvements. ‎

This year’s gathering stresses the importance of creating an Internet of Trust. To achieve this goal, the IGF in looking at best practices ‎in gender and access; cybersecurity; local content; AI, big data and the internet of things. ‎

IFLA is at the Internet Governance Forum in Paris to discuss the importance of public access in libraries. We will be part of two important events. The first is on the 13 November at the American Library in Paris, with more details available here. It will highlight the importance of public access as a means of getting the remaining billions online, alongside other promising initiatives such as community networks, as previously discussed at the IFLA President’s Meeting in Barcelona, and offline internet.

The second, on the 14 November takes place as part of the formal IGF programme. The session of the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries in which IFLA plays a leading role will discuss and improve the toolkit on public access that IFLA has prepared for library associations. The toolkit looks at the key policy questions in the fields of technology, financing, regulation, as they affect libraries delivering public access.

You can find a list of the events on the IGF website and you can follow all the sessions remotely. Please, join us and be a part of this community!

Making Libraries Heard at the Continental Scale

By Mandiaye Ndiaye, IFLA International Leaders Programme associate

The beautiful town of Sharm El Sheikh is hosting, from 4-6 December, with the support of the Egyptian National Telecommunications Regulation Authority, the 6th African Internet Governance Forum (AIGF). The general theme this year is ‘Making for an inclusive digital transformation in Africa’.

The AIGF provides a multistakeholder, multi-lingual, democratic and transparent space for exchange on Internet governance at a continental scale. It brings together representatives of governments, the private sector, of civil society of international organisations and of universities, as well as specialists and the other various actors in the Internet ecosystem. While the global Internet Governance Forum is organised by the United Nations, the secretariat of the African Internet Governance Forum is co-hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNESCA) and the African Union (AU).

As a reminder, the African Internet Governance Forum was launched in Nairobi, during the global IGF in 2011. This in turn has gone through a number of phases, through the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) process, and regional meetings held between 2002 and 2005.

The Forum offers a number of spaces for exchange and building strategies, such as the Dynamic Coalition for Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL), which opens the possibility to tackle questions of Internet governance relative to public access, and promotes a discussion on how existing technical expertise, networks and infrastructure in the form of libraries can contribute to achieving the objectives and the spirit of the WSIS process. In developing countries, public libraries are well placed to increase the number of people who are connecting – and so who benefit from the potential of the Internet – at minimum cost and with optimal results.

With delegates from IFLA, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) and the African Library and Information Association (AfLIA), the voice of libraries and their users will be heard. The Dynamic Coalition, at AIGF 2017, will focus on the subject of ‘From Access to Autonomy: Public Libraries Meet the Challenge of Connecting the Next Billion.

IFLA is represented at this 6th African IGF by two associates of the IFLA International Leaders Programme – Mahmoud Khalifa of Egypt, and Mandiaye Ndiaye of Senegal, who will take part alongside other delegates in making libraries heard, and who will present a common project on Public Access to the Internet through Libraries’.

We’ll share more information as we go along!