Skip to main content

Outernet: the first library in space

Outernet is a company that is organising a so-called ‘library in space’ designed to untether information from the restrictions imposed by the Internet. The Internet as a medium for transmitting information is of course a miraculous one, but access to it is highly dependent on communications infrastructure, which of course many developing countries lack.

Copyright Outernet 2015, https://outernet.is/

There have been projects in the past, and many on-going, to try and bring the Internet to the world on a universal level. One on-going project, which has been met with concerns over neutrality and data security, is the Internet.org project run by Facebook. Google’s Project Loon is another service that hopes to reach digitally isolated regions of the Earth. Project Loon uses balloons that travel around 20km above the surface of the Earth. The balloons utilise the wind currents at different altitudes to maintain their position relative to the Earth’s surface. The balloon can stay in the stratosphere for around 100 days, and can provide connectivity to a ground area of about 40km in diameter.

Outernet is a different sort of project to Loon and Internet.org. Where other projects aim to provide access to the Internet wholesale (although whether internet.org really does this is up for debate), Outernet is a project that seeks to distribute information uploaded to a library, and then distribute that information via satellite.

The lottery of where you are born, and therefore what information you have the rights to access, will eventually be cancelled out by Outernet.

-Outernet Chief Operating Officer Thane Richard International Business Times

Outernet began its operations in June 2014: “Since then we have moved quickly. Outernet is now multicasting on seven satellites covering 99% of humans with 1 GB/day and a test beam of 100 GB/day over Africa and Europe.” (https://outernet.is/about)

Outernet sell receivers called Lighthouses for $99, but they also offer instructions on how you can build your own. The receivers operate in a read only fashion allowing users to pick information (via a Wi-Fi enabled device) to view and download. Filling the shelves of 'Humanity's Public Library' posed significant challenges due to the limited bandwidth available via satellite. This is why the team behind Outernet decided early on to create a systematic set of guidelines for choosing what information should be shared (Outernet guidelines document). Essentially, the information is structured into four tiers.
Copyright Outernet 2015, https://librarian.outernet.is/en/
1. The Core Archive - this is relatively static and features content considered to be of high universal utility and importance. Such things include scientific studies, and classical works of fiction.
2. Globally Curated Content - Similar to the Core Archive but with a the additional emphasis on currency and regularly updated content.
3. Nationally Curated Content - this is information that is of local/national importance - effectively most of this information will be from newspapers.
4. Disaster information - information about natural disasters, wars, etc. is broadcast separately and given highest priority.

One of the early partners of the project was Harvard University, who agreed to upload content from their institutional repository DASH. Peter Suber, Director Scholarly Communications at Harvard said:

“Harvard supports open access to peer-reviewed faculty scholarship, and the participation of our open-access repository in Outernet is entirely consonant with our mission to enhance the distribution, visibility, and usage of Harvard research.” Outernet 2015

Syed Karim, CEO of Outernet, said:
“Broadcasting the academic content of one of the leading universities in the world is an enormous win for information equality.” Outernet 2015

Outernet also has partnerships with Wikipedia, the open access monographs publisher Project Gutenberg (http://blog.outernet.is/project-gutenberg-announces-partnership-with-outernet/), and Open Education Consortium; who offer free resources and tools for education.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Untangling Academic Publishing: Scottish launch for OA Week

St Andrews University Library is delighted to host the Scottish Launch of Untangling Academic Publishing during Open Access Week - the event is open to all, discussion encouraged!

>Please contact libraryoffice@st-andrews.ac.uk if you wish to attend.

Untangling Academic Publishing: Launch and Discussion about the past and future of academic publishingA University Library event for Open Access Week

Tuesday 24 October, 16.00-18.30 - Arts Lecture Theatre (No.31 on the map)

Presentation: Professor Aileen Fyfe, School of History, lead author of the briefing paper ‘Untangling Academic Publishing’, will explain some of the biggest changes in academic publishing over the last 60 years.

Panel Discussion: the talk will be followed by a discussion of possible futures.
Professor Fyfe will be in conversation with Professor Stephen Curry,  Imperial College London and Professor Martin Kretschmer, University of Glasgow.

Presentation and panel discussion will be followed by a wine reception.



Untangling…

New Horizon 2020 project to enhance open access book publishing

A new EU Horizon 2020 project has been announced, entitled High Integration of Research Monographs in the European Open Science infrastructure, or HIRMEOS for short. We've written on this blog numerous times about open access books, see previous posts here and here, and from what is known about this project it certainly could be a very important next step in advancing open access long-form publishing in the Humanities and Social sciences.

The participants in this project are:

Ethniko Idryma Erevnon - Greece Stichting OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) - Netherlands Stiftung Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland (DGIA) - Germany Georg-August-Universitat Gottingenstiftung Offentlichen Rechts - Germany Ubiquity Press - United Kingdom Open Book Publishers - United Kingdom Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities - France Universita Degli Studi Di Torino - Italy
The HIRMIOS project partners have been charged with the task of enhancin…

National Open Access strategy for Switzerland

The Swiss National Science Foundation and swissuniversities have come together to agree a national strategy aiming for all publications financed with Swiss public money to be accessible free of charge by 2024.

The joint principles and strategy are outlined in a document published on 31 Jan 2017, which states "all stakeholders, politicians, higher education institutions (and their libraries) and funders have to join forces to pursue common goals" - including aligning existing OA policies and supporting new OA publishing models.

Further information is available from the SNSF news item.