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University of Iowa News Release

June 27, 2003

Leach To Present UI Widernet Project With Substantial Grant

Photo l to r: Cliff Missen, Jim Leach

Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) will present The University of Iowa WiderNet Project with a federal grant awarded last month at a noon luncheon in the International Center Lounge on Monday, June 30. The grant will fund the construction of WiderNet's African digital library project called "eGranary: Storing the Seeds of Knowledge."

The grant totals approximately $236,000 and will be used over two years, said Cliff Missen, co-director of the WiderNet Project. The grant was donated by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Leland Initiative, a U.S. government effort to extend full Internet connectivity to 20 or more African countries over the next five years. The initiative is named after Mickey Leland, former chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger, who died in a plane crash while on a mission in Ethiopia in 1989.

The WiderNet Project grant will help African universities expand and update their off-line digital libraries and will aid in the delivery of large amounts of digital educational materials into African institutions using satellite broadcast technology.

"With the creation of the satellite, the universities will be able to update their systems as close to real time as possible," said Ryan Wells, a WiderNet project assistant working on the digital library.

The satellite broadcasts will occur weekly, and African universities who pay a nominal subscription fee will receive the updates.

WiderNet staff members are currently collecting copyright-free materials from the web for the eGranary digital library. They are then securing permission from publishers to distribute these materials in Africa.

Along with updating the digital materials via a satellite, the WiderNet staff will also train African library personnel to digitize their materials so that African research can be shared more easily with other world educational institutions.

More information on the eGranary digital library project can be found at

Representative Leach will also be making a speech about the importance of creating linkages between universities, and what the State Department is doing to help further that.

The WiderNet Project is an independent, nonprofit project that focuses on the improvement of educational communication systems in Africa by providing faculty and students with access to computers, email and the Internet. Composed of a staff experienced with work in Africa, international developmental studies and technology, The WiderNet Project is building a digital bridge between The University of Iowa and African universities.

The WiderNet Project is part of University of Iowa International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree and academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and training.

The WiderNet Project is funded by the University of Iowa, the MacArthur Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Nigerian National Universities Commission. Additional funding for some participants has been provided by the Carnegie Corporation.

More information about the WiderNet Project can be found at their Web site WiderNet is currently collecting used computer and network equipment for use in Nigerian universities. For information on how to make donations, visit the web site, or contact WiderNet at 319-335-2200.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026, Program: Andrea Murphy 319-335-2200