December 2015 Newsletter

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We've had an exciting quarter here at The WiderNet Project!

WiderNet's Director Cliff Missen spoke at a Washignton Post Panel about the eGranary as an educational resources for populations without Internet access, and said that people have a right to be connected to their world.

In Durham, WiderNet volunteers worked with Durham County Library volunteers to help teenagers in a low-income housing project build their own computers and practice technical literacy skills.

Officials from the Nigerian Defense Academy visited the WiderNet Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to complete additional eGranary training sessions and tour local university libraries.

We appreciate your continued support and interest in our programs!

In the December 2015 Issue:

Yeah!  It's choclate in the form of a computer chip!  Or its a computer chip made from chocolate!  Whatever, it has plenty of bytes...

Makes a great gift for the geek in your life!

‘Chip In’ to support libraries in Africa!

Order one of our ‘chocolate chips’ and pledge to support libraries in Africa. Your pledge goes to help build libraries in our partner schools and institutions in Africa. The WiderNet Project is dedicated to improving digital education and communications for communities and individuals around the world through use of our eGranary Digital Library and providing training to local staff, students, and teachers.

A $10 donation gets you one 'chocolate chip' and as a thank you for donations of $100 we will send you 12 'chocolate chips'.

If you would like to make a pledge or have any questions, visit or email our Partnerships Manager, Jenny Korwan at


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WiderNet Director Cliff Missen Speaks at Washington Post Panel

Director Cliff Missen spoke on a panel hosted by The Washington Post October 8th focusing on the populations served by the WiderNet Project, specifically incarcerated and those with financial or geographical restrictions to Internet. 

In United States prisons, where most states have banned Internet access, the eGranary provides an alternative path for prisoners to complete a GED and vocational training and thus reduces recidivism.  The eGranary offers many educational resources and opportunities they otherwise would not have access to.

According to Missen, the challenge of getting more people connected to the Internet is not due to a lack of technology.

"Everybody should have the devices that they need," Missen said.

The eGranary encourages its users to create content. The digital library includes tools that empower its users to create websites that other users in the local network can access. 

"The ability for someone to take their story and put it online, to share it in this milieu, archived and available for future generations, that's all really critical stuff," Missen said. "When they see themselves on the screen, when they see their community on the screen, it just transforms the technology for them."

Missen concluded the panel by stating that "connectivity is a civil right, we need to engage all the partners in getting to that point" when asked what legislators could do to help bridge the digital divide.

Watch the whole Washington Post panel here!



WiderNet and Durham County Library Teach Programming to Local Teenagers

WiderNet and the Durham County Library collaborated to host Techno Saturdays, a workshop that helps teenagers build their own computers, learn basic computer programming, and earn their own personal computer to take home. Nearly a dozen volunteers from WiderNet@UNC and the Durham County Library donated their time over six Saturdays at the Oxford Manor public housing Community Center to provide training and companionship to local teenagers.

The EZ Innovation Grant earned by the Durham County Library funded Techno Saturdays, and provided new Raspberry Pi computers to the teenagers. In addition, WiderNet donated six Panasonic Toughbooks that some teenagers exchanged for the Pis.

During the first few weeks, the volunteers assisted the teenagers with the construction of the Raspberry Pis, which are small computers enclosed in a transparent plastic case with a miniature monitor and wireless keyboard. After the teenagers had their Pis up and running, volunteers guided them through educational programs preloaded on the Pis, like Terminal Quest, a text-based game that reinforces coding syntax, Scratch, a drag-and-drop programming tool, and TinkerCAD, a 3D-design program.

The final Techno Saturday event of the year will provide an installation of the eGranary digital library at the Oxford Manor Community Center. Some families living in Oxford Manor do not have Internet access, so the eGranary hotspot will provide them free and fast access to its resources.

This iteration of Techno Saturdays is essentially a test-drive, said Katherine Makens, a volunteer and Durham librarian. A similar program that helps adults with technological literacy is ongoing at the nearby Bragtown Library.

"The idea is to keep repeating it," Makens said. "[Right now we are] working out the kinks."

Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) librarians Muktar Muhammed Bunza and Maimuna Izah visited Chapel Hill, NC this September to recieve training at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science (SILS).  Bunza and Izah spoke to a SILS class, gave a seminar about library usage behaviors at the NDA, and toured libraries at UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. WiderNet Director Cliff Missen will administer his second eGranary training program at the NDA this December.


Colonel Bunza holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Ibadan and is a Member of the Nigerian Library Association.  As the college librarian for the academy, he realized the value of having access to the wealth of resources available on the eGranary Digital Library – all without the necessity of an internet connection.


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