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Bringing the Internet Closer Helps Students


A university student uses offline digital library to read and download educational material at Ahmadu Bello University computer library.

A university student uses offline digital library to read and download educational material at Ahmadu Bello University computer library.


More than 100 million people in Nigeria are not connected to the Internet. There are only a few networks that offer service and it is costly and undependable. Now, a new project provides a resource for off-line viewing at no cost.

A non-profit organization called The WiderNet Project has developed the offline eGranary Digital Library. The service puts millions of digital documents, multimedia work and websites onto a server. The information is then available to students, medical workers, and researchers at no cost, whether there is Internet or not.

Users can access informative websites that eGranary updates every day such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Project Gutenberg, MIT OpenCourseWare, and MIT BLOSSOMS (which is Math and Science video lessons for high school students). Other resources on the service include university and medical publications, computer software, and educational games.

Ahmadu Bello University is the largest university in Nigeria and the second largest in Africa. The university uses eGranary's digital educational resources. Kasa Mathias is head of the school’s database department. He says students can access tens of thousands of educational materials without much problem.

"We give them background information on the available databases that they can use for their research work, their assignments, especially projects, and sometimes we will carry them through sensitizing on new databases that are available for them."

Ibitoye Idowu is a first-year student of archeology. He says easy access to university reading material, documents and journals has greatly helped his studying process. He says that in some cases, he understands the digital materials better than class lectures.

Students now have great reading material, but only when there is electric power. It often fails. (Sound of assistant apologizing for power outage) Student Ibitoye Idowu says those moments are difficult.

"The only challenge I am having here is the power supply, sometimes it will just go off."

Muhammed Mu'azu leads the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Professor Mu’azu says the university has spent a large amount of money on access to information. He says, now, it is available for 40,000 students and teachers.

"With or without Internet access students and staff have most of these educational databases and university has also invested a lot in Internet access so even for online materials they are readily available for staff and students anywhere you are in the university campus."

There are fears that students may waste time on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter instead of spending it on school work. Professor Mu’azu says the university needs to be careful about placing restrictions on usage. But he said it will investigate what a user is accessing if a large amount of bandwidth is used.

Muhammed Mu’azu compares the speed of the offline service to access over the Internet. The eGranary server can download hundreds of pages in less than 15 minutes. In the past, a 10-page document would take hours to download.

The offline digital library began in 2001. Hundreds of schools, clinics and universities are connected to it in Africa, Southeast Asia and many other places.

WiderNet says it aims to expand to thousands more education and health centers around the world.

McKinsey & Company is a private international management consulting business. It released a report in 2014 that said 4.4 billion people around the world lack Internet access. And, it said most of them live in just 20 countries.

For the VOA Learning English Education Report, I’m Jill Robbins.

Mohammed Yusuf wrote this story for VOA News. Dr. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

digital - adj. using or characterized by computer technology

access - v. to be able to use; to open or load (a computer file, an Internet site, etc.)

database - n. information gathered and stored in a computer in a systematic way so computers can search it

lecturen. a talk or speech given to a group of people to teach them about a particular subject

bandwidth - n. a measurement of the ability of a computer network to send and receive information

download - v. to move or copy (a file, program, etc.) from a usually larger computer system to another computer or device

Now it’s your turn. How is the Internet connection where you live? Do schools or libraries provide access to information from the Internet?

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