June 2010 Newsletter

WiderNet News


In the June 2010 Issue:

  • USICD Collaborates to Develop Global Disability Rights Library
  • WiderNet Committee Member Establishes Annual Research Fellowship
  • WiderNet Introduces Gerontology Portal for St. Lucia
  • Volunteer Highlight- Gilad Aharoni

To get the WiderNet newsletter in your inbox, e-mail publicity@widernet.org to join our mailing list!

USICD Collaborates to Develop Global Disability Rights Library

GDRL logoMillions of people with disabilities, advocates, and policy makers around the world will soon find it easier to access hundreds of thousands of educational and organizational resources on disability rights, whether or not they have access to the Internet.

The United States International Council on Disability (USICD) is collaborating with the University of Iowa’s WiderNet Project, with the support of a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to produce and distribute a Global Disability Rights Library for use in both developed and developing countries. This library will be an enhanced version of WiderNet’s eGranary Digital Library, an off-line information storage and collaboration platform that provides Internet-like access to digital resources without requiring Internet connectivity.

This project has been inspired by the growing, international disability rights movement, and particularly by the new international treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Today, more than 140 nations have signed the treaty and more than half have fully ratified it. The growing sector of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) operating at the local and national levels around the world are leading the implementation of the treaty in their countries and empowering their diverse disability communities with information and resources. However, many policymakers and disability advocates lack access to the information they need to fully implement the CRPD so that people with disabilities can enjoy the same human rights as their neighbors without disabilities. The Global Disability Rights Library seeks to build a bridge between global information sources and these advocates and policymakers.

“The strongest asset of the global disability rights movement are people with disabilities themselves and other advocates who bring an incredible supply of passion and energy to the work of human rights advocacy,” says Marca Bristo, USICD President. “But advocates also face tremendous barriers. One of these barriers is the difficulty they face simply in accessing knowledge about best practices in accessibility, or obtaining copies of human rights training manuals and other information resources. Information is a powerful tool for transforming society. And the Global Disability Rights Library puts that tool in the hands of people in the best position to change the lives of people with disabilities for the better.”

USICD will be working with the WiderNet Project and with hundreds of disability rights advocates to build a collection of best practices and educational resources responsive to the need for disability advocacy and policy development in developing countries. USICD will liaise with its extensive national and international network of members, partners, and contacts across the United States and around the world in order to locate appropriate materials. DPOs, policymakers, individual advocates, and others will be able to use this comprehensive library, which will be designed to be fully accessible to users with disabilities. The library’s collection will include resources such as information on independent living, advocacy, education, transportation, public policy, employment, vocational rehabilitation, and other topics.

“USICD was the logical partner for this project,” says Cliff Missen, Director of the WiderNet Project. “We at the WiderNet Project are able to bring our extensive expertise in delivering digital information to people in developing countries who lack adequate Internet access. Meanwhile, USICD is a critical bridge between the United States and the global disability rights movement. It is through USICD that the project will be able to tap into a deep reservoir of existing disability rights information and to see that it reaches the people who need it most.”

USICD will organize and evaluate content and develop custom curricula where existing resources are inadequate. The WiderNet Project, which has already deployed more than 300 eGranary Digital Libraries worldwide, will develop, and provide technical support for hardware and software, training in the use of the various software tools, and assistance in processing resources shared by hundreds of organizations worldwide.

“The members of USICD have the potential to bring both valuable knowledge and valuable perspectives that can help the Global Disability Rights Library deliver information resources to the people in the best position to improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries” says David Morrissey, Executive Director of USICD. “We will be communicating closely with USICD members, and with members of the global disability community in general, as the GDRL project moves forward. The formation of an international advisory board for the project will assure the guidance of stakeholders in implementing this innovative project.”

The Global Disability Rights Library will help bring a wealth of information to organizations that serve people with disabilities in developing countries but lack adequate Internet access.  DPOs located in communities without Internet access will be the primary recipient of the library in an electronic storage device. The library will typically be stored either in a stand-alone, 2 TB USB drive or in a server. The drive or server would be installed within existing local area (LAN) or wide area (WAN) networks so that users may share the library directly from the storage device without needing Internet access. The information in the library would be easily searchable, using an interface similar to popular search engines and also via portals that organize selected materials by dozens of thematic topics. People around the world who have web access will be able to use the new Global Disability Rights Library via the web. 


^ Return to top ^

WiderNet Committee Member Establishes Annual Research Fellowship

Mike and Darlene McNulty
WiderNet Project co-founder and Executive Committee member Dr. Mike McNulty and his wife Dr. Darlene McNulty have established a research fellowship that will be given annually to one University of Iowa masters or doctoral student planning to engage in research or training in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Stanley Foundation has matched the McNulty’s initial donation, allowing the $1000 research fellowship to be awarded annually. The WiderNet Project, with its emphasis on providing digital communications to developing countries, particularly in Africa, will direct this fund and select the fellowship recipient.

Mike McNulty and his wife Darlene have a long-standing interest in the urbanization and development of African nations which traces back to time spent in Ghana while Mike conducted field research for his Doctoral dissertation in 1965. The McNulty Research Fellowship will be awarded to a current student who shares their vision for the development of African nations through the dissemination of information and technology.

Mike McNulty says, “Throughout my personal life and professional career, at critical moments when I most needed assistance, someone— a family member, friend, or stranger— has stepped forward to provide support, encouragement, and/or advice. Now, Darlene and I are pleased to have an opportunity to support UI students planning to pursue their interests in Africa, information technology and development.”

The fund seeks to support young academics interested in combining international studies with digital librarianship, computer programming and/ or information technology so as to improve their teaching or working capacity once they graduate.

The first scholarship will be awarded in February of 2011, and will be awarded on an annual basis. All applicants will be expected to seek additional funding from other UI or external sources to pay for a portion of their travel and research expenses to supplement the scholarship.

The WiderNet Project anticipates collaboration with the McNulty Research Fellows. Project Administrator Karen Chappell says, “We are pleased that Mike and Darlene are supporting the WiderNet Project and the University of Iowa students in this manner, we look forward to selecting the first recipient.”

If you are interested in making a donation to the annual research fellowship please visit http://www.givetoiowa.org/2010GCNA

^ Return to top ^

WiderNet Introduces Gerontology Portal for St. Lucia

 Diane Peterson

The WiderNet Project and the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the University of Iowa have introduced a new gerontology information portal designed to promote healthy aging in St. Lucia.

The gerontology portal is an addition to the eGranary Digital Library developed by Diane Peterson, a UI graduate student in informatics. The gerontology portal consists of nearly 650 evidence-based and best-practice tutorials, journals, Web sites and other materials geared to the care and prevention of chronic disease in adults and the elderly. It includes information on diseases, stress prevention and coping, nutrition and healthy activity. All materials in the portal comply with the National Library of Medicine guidelines.

For two weeks in March, in the Caribbean island country of St. Lucia, Peterson and a group of graduate students under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Skemp conducted an eGranary Digital Library training program and an information technology needs assessment.

"There was a wealth of enthusiasm over the capability of the eGranary to store and transport medical resources," Peterson said. "The eGranary makes it possible for community health professionals to bring the medical resources to the patients unable to reach the hospital due to inadequate roads and transportation."

Dr. Skemp said there is a vital need for geriatric resources in developing communities, but few people have access to the Internet.

"Delivering this gerontology portal with the eGranary bridges this gap, providing developing communities with a wealth of geriatric and healthy aging resources that they would otherwise not be able to access," Skemp said.

The gerontology portal aligns with WiderNet's mission to create and maintain an ever-expanding digital collection of high-quality educational resources via the eGranary Digital Library. It also provides easy access to the content at very low or no cost to faculty, students, physicians, clinicians, patients, and self-learners living in low-income developing countries around the world.

"The physicians at Dennery Hospital currently have few resources on gerontology and healthy aging," Peterson said. "By providing these resources immediately through the eGranary, the research time is dramatically reduced, making the hospital more efficient."

^ Return to top ^

Volunteer Highlight: Gilad Aharoni 

Gilad Aharoni

The latest eGranary sports new features like the popular blogging software,WordPress, thanks to the persistence of Gilad Aharoni, a volunteer from Isreal.

Gilad Aharoni comes to the WiderNet Project from a career in System Administration for large financial companies. His experience begins at the Israeli Defense Army and then to working for Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank. He continued on to work for Visa Inc. and then followed his wife to the United States and landed in Boston at a credit collection company. When Gilad’s wife, Sarit, got an offer to be a Professor of Biology at the University of Iowa they moved to Iowa City.

Volunteering at the WiderNet Project puts Gilad’s programming skills to good use. He focuses on database programming and web application. The WiderNet Project’s Information Architect, Brent Palmer says, “We're very lucky to have someone of his caliber doing volunteer work. He really fills a niche of work that is not strictly programming but is too technical for most volunteers to handle. And, as always, having people of different backgrounds and cultures helping us here is one of the reasons why WiderNet is a nice place to work.”

“In just over two months at the WiderNet Project Gilad has already put in more than one hundred hours of volunteer time,” says Alba Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator at the WiderNet Project. “He is a hard worker and we never have to watch him. We can just trust that he will get the job accomplished.”

Gilad comments, “I have some free time that I’m trying to use for good causes.” In addition to volunteering at the WiderNet Project, Gilad runs the world’s largest website on paper-folding since his true passion is origami. You can visit Gilad’s website at: www.giladorigami.com

^ Return to top ^



Upcoming Events

Please contact us if you are interested in more information on any of these events.

  • May-July:  Ed Miner in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda to conduct eG2 demos and evaluations
  • May-October: Americorps Volunteers working with WiderNet
  • June 1-6: Cliff Missen in Bangalor, India working on the Global Health Project
  • June 6-10: Cliff Missen invited to USAID Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • June 11-15: Cliff Missen n Amsterdam, The Netherlands for various meetings.
  • June 17-21: Cliff Missen at Workshop on Technology and Disability in the Developing World in Seattle
  • December 3-9: Cliff Missen at SCECSAL Conference in Gaborone, Botswana


^ Return to top ^