Last week, the Open Technology Institute took the lead on two proposals submitted to the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which is focuses on the future of libraries. While the competition is judged by the Knight Foundation, it welcomes and takes into account feedback and comments from the public.
By bridging librarians and techies expert in digital privacy and security issues, the first proposal—the Data Privacy Project—will help libraries provide better information about privacy and data profiling to its users. After a report which found that frontline staff in libraries lacked the capacity to respond to patrons’ concerns about digital privacy, surveillance, or data profiling, OTI has committed itself to increasing the capacity of librarians across the country to meet these needs. By providing ongoing technical support for librarians, the project aims to create an active community of librarians armed with knowledge of tools and techniques for privacy and data protection. The project complements OTI’s broader privacy and data literacy efforts planned in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library, Metropolitan New York Library Council, and Data & Society Research Institute.
The second project, the MLab Router Viz, will give schools and libraries a “plug-and-play” tool to gather network data that will help them make smart choices about broadband connectivity. Currently, many schools and libraries do not have sufficient information about network capacity, speeds, and congestion, which makes it hard to determine what upgrades are necessary. At the same time, most institutions do not have the capacity or hardware to collect this type of complex data. The MLab Router Viz, however, will provide a simple, out-of-the-box tool which will give schools and libraries the ability to automatically collect this data. This information is also critical to increase opportunities for more funding for broadband connectivity through avenues like the FCC’s E-rate program, which is currently undergoing a modernization process and in need of more robust data on the state of connectivity across the country.
OTI also served as partner organizations on three other News Challenge proposals. Two of them — Beyond Library Walls and Safe Harbor Guides — draw on OTI’s interest in technology, disaster response, and resilience. Building Reading, a third proposal, reflects OTI’s focus on placed-based, community-driven civic innovation.
Please visit the homepage of each project, and “applaud” them. Results will be announced January 30th, 2015.