The WiderNet Project provides educational resources to developing communities, and has shipped over 1,200 computers, 20,000 books, and more than 450 eGranary Digital Libraries to schools, clinics, and universities in Africa, India, Bangladesh, and Haiti since 2000. They have also trained almost 5,000 people on topics including policy planning, enterprise management, technician training, and classroom technology.
WiderNet was founded in 2000 by Cliff Missen and Dr. Michael McNulty to "provide training and research in low-cost, high impact uses of information technologies in developing countries". Cliff Missen developed the idea after studying at the University of Jos Nigeria the year before as a Fulbright Scholar. While studying and teaching in Nigeria through the program, Missen experienced first-hand frustrations caused by the lack of Internet access. This frustration led to his vision of the WiderNet project with the objective of providing training and research in low-cost, high impact uses of information technologies in developing countries.
WiderNet's chief mission is to deliver educational resources to underprivileged individuals and communities worldwide while improving their digital communication. WiderNet has made this their organization's mission for a many reasons:
- Currently, only one out of seven people have adequate access to the Internet
- Although many universities in developing countries may have a direct connection to the Internet, they do not have enough bandwidth to adequately serve their users. This means that the range of frequencies within a given band, when used for transmitting a signal, are not strong enough to reach the location of all potential university users.
- Only a fraction of professors and students have access to email and basic computer programs. This makes regular digital correspondence and constant access to assigned digital work virtually impossible for thousands of professors and students, alike.
The above misfortunes result in the exclusion of these developing regions from global communication, as well as the exclusion of people seeking better education. WiderNet believes that their Information and Communication Technology can empower people by giving them better access to information, knowledge, and communication, all of which leads to the improvement of their overall lives.
WiderNet also wants to make training opportunities available to the underprivileged individuals and communities reserving the education resources so they can join the rest of the world on an economically sustainable level.
Today, the project has donated more than 1,200 computers for use at universities in Africa and has installed the eGranary Digital Library at nearly 700 partner institutions in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Haiti, and other developing locations. WiderNet is continuing to bridge the digital divide on a global scale.