The Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) is a division of the World Health Organization that has stood up for the rights of the poorest people in the world since 2002. Most of us take the internet and its wealth of information for granted; searching for something online has become as customary as breathing here in the United States. However, there are many countries in which the lack of income and resources simply does not allow for such a luxury as web search. HINARI tries to combat this inequity by providing free or low-cost online access to biomedical journals to local, nonprofit institutions in developing countries.
According to Marydee Ojala, editor-in-chief of ONLINE magazine, "HINARI strives to create a more level playing field and diminish the digital divide by lowering the monetary barriers of access to major journals in biomedical and related social sciences." Countries eligible for free access are those with a GNP per capita of less than $1,000; some examples are Congo, Haiti, and Rwanda. Another set of countries whose GNP per capita falls between $1,000 and $3,000 are eligible for low-cost access for a fee of $1,000 per institution, per calendar year. Among the countries in this group are Iraq, Cuba, and Romania. According to HINARI's website, more than 3,750 journals are currently available to health institutions in 113 countries, making essential health information more readily available to those who need it the most. More than 70 publishers have joined HINARI's effort to improve world health by spreading knowledge and donating valuable content to a worthy cause.
The Internet Public Library
Many students and researchers of all ages tend to automatically flock to Google or Wikipedia for their research needs, but more students should head to the library instead. The Internet Public Library (IPL) goes above and beyond your average web research source by providing a one-stop-shop for answers to practically any educationally relevant question. Its own founders are a perfect testament to the need for such a website: The IPL was founded by a group of 35 graduate students at the University of Michigan's School of Information and Library Studies in 1995. Since then, an increasing number of students have contributed to the website's maintenance and expansion in a variety of ways--most notably, by answering the thousands of "Frequently Asked Research Questions" that appear each day.
The IPL removes the dusty book jackets and the old-fashioned card catalog model from the information-finding process by delivering a virtual public library at the searcher's fingertips. Among its numerous collections are these: POTUS (Presidents of the United States), Literary Criticism, the TeenSpace Poetry Wiki, and Science Fair. The site includes a Reading Room, which features links to hundreds of magazines and newspapers across an array of subject matter, and an Exhibits page, where searchers can find a collection of multimedia presentations on anything from anarchist images to Pueblo pottery. Of the IPL, Paula J. Hane, news bureau chief of Information Today, Inc. and editor of NewsBreaks, says, "[I]t established its reputation on providing links to well-selected and reviewed content, by continually improving its technologies, and by offering free services to all." As of Jan. 1, 2007, the IPL relocated to Drexel University's College of Information Science and Technology, and it recently received two grants from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Plans for the IPL's future include turning the site into a fully featured virtual learning laboratory for digital reference. Says Hane, "This rich and excellent resource is about to become even more valuable."
One Laptop per Child
We've all heard the saying that children are our future. The One Laptop per Child Foundation is a nonprofit organization aimed at making the futures of impoverished children a little brighter. Its mission is simple and simply wonderful: "to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves." Walter Bender, president, software and content, of the OLPC Foundation, says, "The status quo is failing the poor children of the world. OLPC will give children, their families, and their communities the means to become learners, on par with children everywhere." OLPC was launched in 2005, and since then it has made significant advances in reaching its goal of educating kids in the developing world with the XO laptop. The XO laptop is designed to be a "flexible, ultra-low-cost, power-efficient, responsive, and durable machine." Its software is open source and free, giving the XO's recipients freedom to use the laptops however they choose.
What's more, the laptop comes equipped with tools that include a web browser, rich media player, and ebook reader so that a lack of money no longer has to mean a lack of access to the digital world. Bender says, "Education is a core part of the solution to many of the most difficult problems the world is facing. The OLPC movement not only affords the opportunity for learning to every child, it also is a mechanism by which anyone--rich or poor, young or old--can participate in an international movement to educate children everywhere." To date, big names like Google, News Corp., eBay, and Intel have already jumped on the do-good bandwagon by becoming members of the project, and Wikipedia joined in by becoming the laptop's first source of content. It is easy, in our content-rich world, to forget that not everyone has such incredible access to content. The OLPC Foundation will help share the wealth.