School of Built Environment and Development Studies Seminar 

Title: Public Libraries as Engines of Development in an Age of Technological Change 

Speaker: Chris Coward, University of Washington 

Time: 12h30 – 13h50, 4th March, 2015 

Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN. Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963 

Abstract: Public libraries worldwide have embraced information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a way to provide their communities with access to the internet, especially for the more marginalized who often lack the means or abilities to take full advantage of new technologies. This is often couched in terms of “bridging the digital divide,” and equipped libraries are performing well meeting people’s digital information needs. But is a focus on “access” and “information needs” sufficient? This seminar will begin with TASCHA’s recent research examining the impact of ICTs in libraries and other public internet points, findings that both validate the role of providing public access to computers and the internet as well as question whether public libraries are positioning themselves for future relevancy as mobile phones and private internet become more ubiquitous. The second part of the seminar will discuss other models of ICT provision – centered on learning, creating, innovating, and making – that offer alternative ways for public libraries to propel personal and community development. 

Chris Coward is Principal Research Scientist and Director of the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School. Chris is currently in Durban for three months, meeting new people and exploring ideas for future research. TASHA has research projects in 50 countries. Chris focuses on information and communication technologies for international development. His current interests include ICTs for employment and entrepreneurship, innovation spaces, digital inclusion, and impact evaluation and measurement. Much of his work focuses on the role of public libraries and civil society organizations in these areas. He holds post-graduate degrees in Public Administration and International Studies, both from the University of Washington.

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