Democracies need an educated citizenry to thrive. In the 21st century, that means easy access to reliable information online for all.
To meet that need, the Internet Archive is building Democracy’s Library—a free, open, online compendium of government research and publications from around the world.
“Governments have created an abundance of information and put it in the public domain, but it turns out the public can’t easily access it,” said Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, who is spearheading the effort to collect materials for the digital library.
By having a wealth of public documents curated and searchable through a single interface, citizens will be able to leverage useful research, learn about the workings of their government, hold officials accountable, and be more informed voters.
Too often, the best information on the internet is locked behind paywalls, said Kahle, who has helped create the world’s largest digital library.
“It’s time to turn that scarcity model upside down and build an internet based on abundance,” Kahle said. There is a need for equitable access to objective, historical information to balance the onslaught of misinformation online.
Libraries have long played a vital role in collecting and preserving materials that can educate the public. This mission continues, but the collections need to include digital items to meet the needs of patrons of the internet generation today.
Over the next decade, the Internet Archive is committing to work with libraries, universities, and agencies everywhere to bring the government’s historical information online. It is inviting citizens, libraries, colleges, companies, and the Wikipedians of the world to unlock good information and weave it back into the Internet.
Democracy’s Library will be celebrated at the October 19 event, Building Democracy’s Library, in San Francisco and online.
Watch the livestream of Building Democracy’s Library:
The project is part of Kahle’s vision to build a better Internet—one that keeps the public interest above private profit. It is based on an abundance model, in which data can be uncovered, unlocked and reused in new and different ways.
“We know there’s an information flood, but it’s not necessarily all that good,” Kahle said. “It turns out the information on the Internet is not very deep. If you know a subject well, you find that the best information is buried or not even online.”
Democracy’s Library is a move to make governments’ massive investment in research and publications open to all.
Kahle added: “Democracy’s Library is a stepping stone toward citizens who are more empowered and more engaged.“
The first steps of Democracy’s Library are available online at https://archive.org/details/democracys-library.