13 May 2014

Opportunities for Action: IFLA President-Elect at World E-Parliament Conference

IFLA President-Elect Donna Scheeder delivered an address titled, The IFLA Trend Report: Opportunities for Action, at the 2014 World E-Parliament Conference on May 10th in Seoul, South Korea. Read her speech below:

Good Afternoon,

to the distinguished Delegates and members of the Secretariat and staff of the National Assembly who have worked so hard to make this conference a success.  It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here to discuss the IFLA trend report with you today. Before I begin on behalf of the members of IFLA I would like to offer my condolences to the Korean people on the terrible tragedy that occurred. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

For those of you who might not be familiar with IFLA, it is the global voice of the library and information profession. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization with over 1400 members in nearly 150 countries. We work to improve access to information and cultural heritage resources for the global community in this rapidly changing digital and print environment.

In 2012, the IFLA Governing Board determined that it needed a baseline study that answered the questions.  What are the current or emerging trends that will have an influence on access to information/knowledge in the public and private domains, and how will they have an impact on society and libraries?

There is a lot of information on trends. We wanted to make sense of it.We wanted to reach out beyond libraries to discover the societal trends that will influence and impact how citizens obtain information and knowledge and that provide opportunities and challenges for libraries now and in the future. I think that you will find that many of the trends IFLA identified are also the trends that The World E-Parliament Report 2012 discusses in the context of their impacts on parliament. These trends represent change and disruption of old models of doing business. However, they are also opportunities to craft strategies to positively shape the impact that these trends are having on our libraries, parliaments and all sectors of society.

Before I tell you a little about the five high level trends identified in the IFLA Trend Report, and summarized in the Insights Document, I will provide a short overview of its creation.

Between November 2012 and July 2013, a number of components were drawn together to develop the Trend Report:

  • In November 2012, IFLA commissioned a comprehensive literature review surveying recent studies and reports on emerging trends.  This was completed in January 2013.
  • In February and March 2013 a panel of ten key experts prepared submissions based on these materials and participated in a round table meeting in Mexico City.
  • In May and June the experts continued to discuss and expand on the trends via the online discussion forum, with input invited from a wider pool of experts.
  • In July, all of these different resources were drawn together to produce the web platform and Riding the Waves or caught in the tide? Insights from the IFLA Trend Report.

Experts who contributed to the report included:

  • Olivier Crepin-Leblond, Chairman Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) At-large Advisory Committee (ALAC); 
  • Marieme Jamme, CEO, Spot One Global Solutions
  • Louis Zacharilla, Co-founder, Global Intelligent Community Forum
  • Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle
  • Suneet Singh Tuli, Founder and CEO, DataWind Ltd
  • Fred von Lohmann, Legal Director, Copyright, Google

The names of all expert contributors to the Trend Report are included in the Insights Document, Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide?  available on the IFLA web platform.

What we found resonates with many of the trends that you are tracking in the World E-Parliament survey.

I will now discuss the 5 trends and highlight a few of the likely outcomes for society. Unfortunately I do not have time to give you a complete picture for each. Our study revealed 5 key trends which will change our information environment.


This trend considers the ever-expanding digital universe that will bring a higher value to information-literacy skills such as basic reading and competence with digital tools.  It is likely though that people who lack these skills will face barriers to inclusion in a growing range of areas. An additional barrier is presented by the nature of new online business models which will heavily influence who can successfully own, profit from, share or access information content in the future.

The ongoing explosion of choice of digital content and information increases the importance of information literacy skills as essential tools for distinguishing authoritative information from content that is influenced by various social, political, commercial, and sometimes extremist agendas. In a hyper-connected world, access to information becomes the gateway for health, education and resources – as well as social, political and economic freedoms. A billion new internet users in developing countries have changed the landscape of the online world. However, deficiencies in reading and digital literacy skills remain barriers to accessing online resources, possibly leading to a widening digital divide and global inequalities.


The rapid global expansion in available online education resources will make learning opportunities more abundant, cheaper and more accessible . There will be increased value on lifelong learning and more recognition of non-formal and informal learning. Online courses will be serving more people in the near future than all the students currently attending universities around the world. New courses will feature more cross-sectional, multi-disciplinary learning. Digital opportunities for lifelong learning become increasingly essential in a more globalized economy and a rapidly changing technological environment where more people gain new skills and knowledge throughout their adult lives.


Open Access to scientific publishing makes millions of peer-reviewed articles globally available, helping scientists share and build upon each other’s discoveries. Innovations in health, infrastructure, and commerce are born from their collaboration.


This is an area that has already presented many of you with policy questions and issues. Expanding data sets held by governments and companies will support the advanced profiling of individuals, while sophisticated methods of monitoring and filtering communications data will make tracking those individuals cheaper and easier. Serious consequences for individual privacy and trust in the online world could be experienced. The challenges of regulating a global borderless Internet at an international level while satisfying different national regulations continue to make it difficult to offer consistent standards of online privacy and data protection.

In situations where posting information online effectively surrenders future control over that information, people have to balance their desire to engage, create, and communicate against any risks connected with leaving a permanent digital footprint.


Proliferation of hyper-connected mobile devices, networked sensors in appliances and infrastructure, 3-D printing and language-translation technologies will transform the global information economy. Likely outcomes include existing business models across many industries experiencing creative disruption spurred by innovative devices that help people remain economically active later in life from any location.

Likely developments of this trend include Mobile devices becoming the main medium for access to information, content, and services. This means every parliament will have to have a mobile strategy.As a result, new social and economic groups are empowered through increased access to health and education resources, as well as e-government and financial services.

Advances in artificial intelligence enable networked devices to combine speech recognition, machine translation and speech synthesis to support real-time multi-lingual voice translation.

The capacity of 3-D printing technology to create usable objects from digital blueprints transforms the value of information access, and triggers creative disruption in global manufacturing industries. This trend presents many opportunities, especially as the costs of these devices are lowered. Already American libraries are offering maker spaces in their libraries that allow patrons to craft all manner of objects using blueprints that are in the Library’s collection.


More opportunities for collective action are realized in hyper-connected societies --enabling the rise of new voices and promoting the growth of single-issue movements at the expense of traditional political parties. Open government initiatives and access to public sector data will lead to more transparency and citizen-focused public services.

Because this trend is directly related to the strategic goals of the E-Parliament movement, I want to provide more detail on what our experts concluded are likely developments as a result of this trend.

  • First, the size of the digital universe is predicted to double every two years, with its content increasingly shaped by different social, political, and commercial agendas. Among the likely outcomes is that technology that drives better communication and collective action will continue to support positive outcomes: empowering individuals, increasing civic participation and commercial accountability. Negative outcomes can also arise from use of the same technology: empowering cyber criminals, terrorists, and extremist networks.
  • Democratic countries benefit from greater transparency, access to public sector data and a growing momentum behind open-government initiatives designed to empower citizens, reduce corruption and strengthen governance through new technologies.
  • Traditional political parties are weakened as voters increasingly gather around single issues which support their values and interests.
  • Wide-reaching digital resources transform the status of women by expanding access to health, business, and related social network information. The same resources offer a global voice for many citizens to endorse or condemn policies and politicians from other countries – and empower diaspora and migrant communities.
  • More use of simulated virtual environments enables people to test potential decisions in a simulated context before application in the real world. Consequently, voters can project the likely social and economic impact of political party policies before deciding which to support. The same process helps governments to determine policy.
  • Future governments do not just gain legitimacy through elections – their ability to deliver on open government and transparency objectives supported by digital technologies could also become major new sources of political and institutional credibility.

The 2012 World E-Parliament Study recognizes the importance of this trend. It states in the introduction that “since the advent of newer generations of mobile networks, social media and multimedia platforms, parliaments have been increasingly experimenting with these technologies primarily for two purposes:

a) to raise public awareness and understanding of the role of parliament in the country’s governance by informing citizens about its history, functions, processes and actions; and,

b) to increase the participation of citizens in the law-making process by engaging them in consultations, hearings, committee work and polls through technology tools.”  

It goes on later to state “The explosive growth of social media and access to the supporting mobile technologies has created unprecedented opportunities for citizens to communicate with parliaments, to share concerns among themselves, and to come together to engage in direct political action. These technologies have sometimes been used to initiate and coordinate protest movements, including confrontations among competing factions and, in some cases, popular uprisings that resulted in regime change.

These are particular opportunities for parliamentary libraries and the parliaments they serve.

The 2012 Study also discovered that use of social media is growing. Two of the top 10 methods of communicating with the pubic are social media tools, social networks, and Twitter. Of those not currently using these tools, a large portion will begin in the coming year. There is also an increase of government information being made available through parliamentary websites.  There is still a long way to go.

However, there are technology gaps. Twenty-five percent of parliaments reported that citizens do not have access to the Internet and 25% responded that citizens were not familiar with the technology. Most parliaments do not have any system to help them organize and benefit from communications from citizens. Who sees opportunities for libraries in these findings?

This brings me back to the first IFLA trend: New technology will expand access to information but also present barriers.

In a hyper-connected world, access to information becomes the gateway for health, education, and employment resources – as well as social, political and economic freedoms.

Many of the likely outcomes envisioned in this trend report are only possible through access to information. Deborah Jacobs , Director of Global Libraries Development Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation noted in her paper submitted for the trend report that “While the IFLA Trend Report highlights many of issues related to accessing information, new technology, broadband adoption, and copyright in the digital age, many of the trends will not affect the majority of the world’s population as currently only 35% are connected to the internet, with people in rural and poor communities the least likely to be online.”

It is important then that all governments recognize that access to information and the skills to use it effectively is required for an informed citizenry and also for sustainable development. It is transformational, leads to better decision making and improved allocation of resources. What about those areas where citizens do not have direct access to technology? How do they reap the benefits?

One of IFLA’s partners, the Beyond Access program recognizes that “development demands access to information technology, support to use it, and physical spaces to connect with others suggests that at a time of tight budgets, investing in existing trusted local institutions is efficient and smart.” They go on to note that “more than 230,000 public libraries, 73% of the world’s total are located in developing and transitioning countries.” I would like to suggest that those libraries can be your partners in engaging citizens that cannot reach you directly. Libraries are the bridge across the digital divide that brings the benefits of access to information to citizens that do not have access to the technology.

Trends represent change and are a call to action. Regarding the IFLA trends it is a call to action at many levels. IFLA is advocating at the international level to have access to information recognized as the Foundation for the U.N. post 2015 Development Agenda. It will be issuing the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in August. The Declaration proclaims that access supports development by empowering people to learn and apply new skills; participate in an active and engaged civil society; create community based solutions to development challenges; and exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

We hope that your delegations to the U.N. will agree with us on this issue.

Each of you can look at these trends and find many policy issues relevant to the situations in your countries and the national library associations for each country will be looking at what they need in a national policy agenda and working with you.Much work is already being done at the institutional level in the parliamentary community.

I would like to close with these words from Eric Schmidt, the CEO of GOOGLE, “We have an opportunity for everyone in the world to have access to all the world's information. This has never before been possible. Why is ubiquitous information so profound? It's a tremendous equalizer. Information is power.”

The IFLA Trend Report shows us there is much work we can do together to empower citizens everywhere. Thank you for this opportunity to share our findings with you, the decision makers of the world.