The pandemic has reinforced the critical importance of free and easy access to trusted information. The way in which people access content, particularly those under the age of 35, is rapidly changing and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that change. This is rightly causing major concerns re misinformation, fake news and public trust and not least our future information society.
Let’s look back and see if we can learn any lessons! We can always learn a lot from the past and it is so interesting that 24 years ago the following concerns were expressed!
“If a country doesn’t take charge of its own developing information society it will have it imposed upon it from elsewhere in the world” The People’s Network 1997
The government actually then took action and in 1997 the first-ever government ICT project was brought in on time and in budget by the library sector, putting wifi and pcs into every library in the uk. In addition it trained staff to support the public and helped set up ICT learning centres within libraries.
It was a gamechanger and it was called the People’s Network. Renewed and invigorated by technology investment and layout refresh they became very different places – the GO-TO places for WiFi and trusted support with ICT skills and access.
In 1997 the vision was of a trusted information network to broaden and encourage the spread of trusted information and ICT skills among the population especially the young and excluded. That vision needs to be repeated and refreshed!
The recent report by MPs on the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee highlighted Amazon and Google’s refusal to allow the BBC editorial oversight of its Covid-19 content and information hosted on their smart speakers, and said it would appear that these platforms have prioritised control of information over journalistic integrity. https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/public-service-broadcasting-DCMS-report/
“If the public libraries in the UK do not act as a bridge between the new electronic information world and the language and history of print then no on will, and we will risk losing our heritage, culture and education” Frances Hendrix 1997
Is it too obvious that if as a great starting point we invested in the UK’s existing trusted information network of Public Libraries located in every community? The library is an enormously powerful agent for change: accountable to and trusted by people, and integral to education, industry, governemnt and community. Investment in the UK’s once renowned network of public libraries would be a major step forward in government’s ambitions on a better, more trusted information society.
That, underpinned by a promoted, beautifully designed, trusted, digital platform with a national project on free media literacy training. National and local information and resources, promoted widely as THE trusted information provider and available on TV? Sounds like a no brainer to me!
Rethink our future society- our children’s information society! Reinvent the People’s Network of Public Libraries and the People’s Digital Platform!
Let’s just do this! The network and the platform is much closer than you think – watch this space! firstname.lastname@example.org