Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (III): Organizations and institutions before the digital divide: model development and good practices

Notes from the first II Conferencia Internacional Brecha Digital e Inclusión Social (II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion held at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid will be hosting at their campus in Leganés (Spain) on October 28th to 30th, 2009.

Plenary session: Organizations and institutions before the digital divide: model development and good practices
Moderator: Margarita Taladriz Mas, Director of the Biblioteca de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Digital inclusion and access to the Information Society in Brazil
Emir José Suaiden, Professor at the Universidad de Brasilia and Director of the IBICT.

Many inequalities come from the different level of access to education. The Information Society just make inequalities even worse. Thus, problem is not (only) access, but comprehension and understanding. Only the ones that benefited from the “Gutemberg Revolution” can now benefit from the ICT revolution: in Brazil, only 20% of the readers can be considered critical readers. The other 80% remains uncritical and is easy to manipulate by means e.g. of mass media.

Main problems: illiteracy, functional illiteracy, lack of informational infrastructure, brain drain.

Illiteracy leads to more dependent and less creative people, easy to manipulate or to misinform.

Thus, libraries have a very important role in bridging this information divide. Libraries should evolve into hybrid libraries, half offline, half online. They should be transferring not only information, but knowledge and help in building social capital.

In general, policies to foster the Information Society is not about wiring the country and attaching a computer at the end of the wires, but about gathering and using knowledge, both old and new knowledge. And all of this with a goal in mind: social inclusion.

New knowledge, innnovation, does not only need to be supported, but embedded into the network, so that in can be diffused, shared, applied.

Concerning Education, Freire and Vygotsky become relevant again.

The impact of informational inclusion in building the social equity: the case of IBICT
Cecilia Leite Oliveira, Instituto Brasileiro de Infomação em Ciencia e Tecnologia

The role of science and scientists is being the keystone for informational development: information has to be turned into knowledge and be applied into practice. And part of this practice, in the Information and Knowledge Society is feeding the system back with knowledge so that new knowledge is created.

Beyond infrastructures, it is the users’ training and content creation what will really bridge the digital divide.

Some projects at IBICT:

  • Review of Social Inclusion
  • Digital Inclusion Map: literally, a map of places where there were projects for digital inclusion (e.g. a telecentre), what is being done there, how many people benefit from each project, etc.
  • Brazilian Service of Technical Answers (SBRT)
  • Digital Corridor: indigenous, rural and educational (actually, three thematic “corridors”)
  • Product Life-cycle Assessment
  • Informational Literacy

Actors in network: the digital inclusion experience of the NAP Escuela del Futuro – USP
Brasilina Passarelli, Scientific Coordinator of PAM. Escuela de la USP/Futuro, Brasilia

Accessa São Paulo. Goal of the project: Guarantee free and democratic access to technologies. See also the blog.

One of the problems that Brazil has it’s its magnitude: with almost 200 million inhabitants, its internal situation ranges so much that it could be called “BelIndia”, as it’s got from the best of Belgium to the worst of India.

Besides the services that Accessa São Paulo brings to the end user, a whole set of monitoring tools provide real time data about usage that are also used for researchers to assess and improve the project itself.

80% of users under 24y.o., 83% with minimum wage, 82% use frequently e-mail, 75% think the Internet had a positive impact on their lives, 90% use the Internet to establish communities (friends, family), most of them would not be accessing the Internet without Accessa São Paulo’s facilities (499 posts across the whole state).

Most people use the facilities to exchange e-mail and get general information, but also to look for a job (36%) or to search for information on health issues (25%).

Posts managers are trained constantly to provide better and more adequate services to the users. At their turn, the users are encouraged to create their own content, to share online their own experiences.

The Digital Library, a tool for inclusion
Joaquín Pinto Escribano, Director of the Centro Internacional de Tecnológicas Avanzadas (CITA)

We lack the culture to solve the problems that the new technology (already completely embedded in our society) is bringing. This is the digital divide. There is also a lack of competences, competences to master technologies.

Hypothesis at CITA: in a few years, there’ll be no need for a library (at all) at CITA. People have learnt (or will have learnt) how to deal with information in different ways than the ones we have been using in the past 200 years. Thus, places as such tend to disappear, and with them, some practices and some business models.

So, the public is changing. There is an upcoming prosumer that does everything digitally and online. They get and create content, and the content they get and create is multimedia. Bridging the digital divide is not only that people can catch up with these new prosumers, but that prosumers can feel at home in a world still populated by non-prosumers.

OAIster Digital school libraries: new school libraries unstructured, that leave room for folksonomies, with search engines that add context and have “memory” of your own searches, providing a semantic web layer.

All in all, digital inclusion is not about access, but about using digital resources for inclusion.

Cooperation actions before the digital divide at the Ministry of Culture
Mª Antonia Carrato, Subdirector General of Coordinación Bibliotecaria

Daniel Pimienta: access is a pyramid made of Infrastructure, Infoestructure and Infoculture (Pimienta, D. (2008). La biblioteca accessible. IV Congreso Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas, La Coruña) (Download the slides, PDF)

Libraries as:

  • Learning mediators: offer a perfect place to find infrastructructures, infoestructures and an infoculture where everyone shares information and the same information needs.
  • Places for socialization

One of the best assets the library has regarding information is reputation: in front of the lack of reputation that the Internet still has, the librarian is a reputed professional that people trust. This is, undoubtedly, one of the reasons libraries are a good place where to access the Internet if the user is not confident enough to do it without some guidance.

The Library Cooperation Council was created in Spain in 2007 so that libraries cooperated in setting up strategies, sharing resources and, in the end, to foster reading and informational literacy.

Consejo de Cooperación Bibliotecaria (2009) Hacia la Alfabetización Informacional en las bibliotecas públicas españolas (PDF), Report of the Working Group on Informational Literacy.


Ismael Peña-López: the library and the librarian is like journals and journalists, in the sense that there still is (and maybe increasingly) a need for the professional, but the institution needs to be transformed

More information


II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (III): Organizations and institutions before the digital divide: model development and good practices” In ICTlogy, #73, October 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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