University of Iowa to Help African Schools With Internet
By Ronald Roach
IOWA CITY, IowaA University of Iowa project that recently got more than $225,000 in federal grants will help African universities expand their educational opportunities through Internet and satellite technology.
U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, presented the WiderNet Project’s co-director, Cliff Missen, with about $236,000 in grants in June. The funding will pay for the construction of the African digital library project called “eGranary: Storing the Seeds of Knowledge.”
The project, over the next two years, will expand and update digital libraries and deliver educational materials using satellite technology. It will include technological training and will provide computers, Internet and e-mail access at the African universities. Leach praised the project’s ability to transmit large amounts of information and said it will have benefits at home and abroad.
“Not only will new knowledge be created, but there will also be a capacity for us to listen,” Leach said during the grant presentation event. “It’s very symbolic that this is coming to the heartland of America.”
The grant comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leland Initiative, which has a goal of extending full Internet access to 20 or more African countries over the next five years. Under WiderNet, satellite broadcast updates will occur weekly for African universities who pay a nominal subscription fee.
“With the creation of the satellite, the universities will be able to update their systems as close to real time as possible,” says Ryan Wells, a WiderNet project assistant working on the digital library.
The eGranary library will be made up of copyright-free materials from the World Wide Web.
WiderNet staff members are currently securing permission from publishers to distribute the materials in Africa. WiderNet staff also will help library personnel in Africa learn to digitize materials to be shared with other educational institutions throughout the world.
The project is funded by the University of Iowa, the MacArthur Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency on International Development and the Nigerian National Universities Commission. The Carnegie Corporation also has provided some funding. WiderNet can be accessed at
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