Access to information is a critical tenet of successful community and international development, and in many places around the world, public libraries play a vital role in providing access that is universally and freely available. With this in mind, the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) have launched the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) project. The project focuses on access to information (A2I) as it pertains to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the contributions libraries make to the achievement of development goals.
DA2I will demonstrate the importance of A2I in achieving progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN 2030 agenda, as well as raise awareness of the role of public libraries in the context of development. The project will track 16 of 169 targets associated with individual SDGs. Some examples of SDG targets include: sustainable cities and communities, gender equality, the elimination of poverty and starvation, and the promotion of peace and justice. Ultimately, this research will catalyze conversations between stakeholders and countries around the interdependent relationship between A2I and development goals and substantiate public libraries as key players in these discussions.
“Library networks are established all over the world. 320,000 public libraries, and tens of thousands more school, academic, and research libraries. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of information professionals and non-professionals that are committed to helping people access the information they need to improve their lives,” said Stuart Hamilton, Director of Policy & Advocacy at IFLA. “These institutions reach down into the communities that they serve, and engage with people’s development needs. They’re contributing to the SDGs everyday, even if they may not recognize themselves in the context of the 2030 agenda.”
Over the coming years, DA2I will create valuable outputs for libraries and stakeholders involved in the UN 2030 agenda. A Development and Access to Information Report, originally conceived as part of the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development in 2014, will track progress towards selected SDG targets based on predetermined indicators. Over 1,000 indicators were reviewed by TASCHA, and after a series of consultations with stakeholders and subsequent review, the list has shortened to around 70 potential indicators, categorized by A2I Baseline Indicators, Comparative Baseline Indicators, or Library-related Indicators. In addition to this research, the reports will feature thought pieces from leaders in A2I discussing key issues in the A2I field. The first report will be released in July 2017 and will be updated and published every two years until 2030.
The DA2I project will also develop other advocacy and community capacity building tools throughout the duration of the project.
The TASCHA team is looking forward to raising visibility of A2I and public libraries in the success of the development goals as well as advancing thinking about data gaps in A2I and the resulting repercussions on policy and development projects. By the end of the project Hamilton hopes that “DA2I can help libraries show the positive impact of access to information on the SDGs, and as such will be a useful advocacy tool to persuade policymakers to include libraries in developing – and developed – countries in national development strategies and to supply additional resources to help them be even more effective.”