Chapel Hill company connects disconnected countries with digital information

UNC professor project
UNC Professor Cliff Missen shows off eGranary Pocket Library.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Billions of people across the world do not have access to vast web of information available on the Internet, but a Chapel Hill company is on a mission to change that.

For 14 years, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Cliff Missen has been at the helm of the WiderNet Project with the goal of bringing information resources to 5 billion people across the world who lack Internet access.

“We’re trying to figure out how to deliver the best information at the least cost,” Missen explained.

WiderNet’s first project is the eGranary Digital Library, a self-contained Internet system that’s reached more than a million people in developing countries. The so-called “Internet in a box” provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access.

Missen’s latest project, however, has the potential to make a giant impact.

“We are trying to shrink the big collection to a little collection,” Missen said of the Pocket Library. “We’re not going get 32 million documents, but we will get 100,000 documents.”

The Pocket Library is being developed at the WiderNet headquarters in Chapel Hill. Missen said it can be used on cell phones or computers.

He said the company is also co-developing a $60, solar-powered tablet that can also access the Pocket Library’s vast collection of documents and resources.

“They can be walking around with a library in their hand,” he pointed out.

Missen said his passion comes from the people who he has met around the world.

“This has a great potential to serve billions of people,” he said, adding that people who otherwise did not have the resources, would have a whole world on information at their fingertips.

WiderNet is running an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the Pocket Library. The company’s goal is to raise $120,000 by April 18.

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