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University of Iowa News Release


March 14, 2007

Des Moines Philanthropists Help Bring Technology To Liberia

A group of students in Liberia just regained electricity for the first time in eight years. Now, in trans-global partnership with the University of Iowa, they will receive a full computer lab and digital library, thanks to a generous gift for the UI's WiderNet Project from J.C. "Buz" and Sue Brenton of Des Moines.

Amidst Liberia's war-torn and famine-stricken status, the University of Liberia will launch a three-year project to increase access to technology and information at their A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine. The first step includes reconnection to electricity after years of civil war in the country, located on the northwestern coast of Africa.

The apex of this project includes the installation of a fully functioning computer lab. The Brentons' gift funds a new Pentium4 eGranary Appliance Server, an eGranary Digital Library, 12 refurbished workstations and two weeks of on-site training for librarians and technicians.

In a country where the government still struggles to regain control from rebels four years after their second civil war, connectivity to the Internet seems to be a thing of legend.

Many organizations aim to improve access to information in countries like Liberia by creating portals to free and subsidized knowledge via the Internet. However, limited Internet access in these regions renders these resources inaccessible and useless to the majority of the population.

The WiderNet Project, a service project of the UI, overcomes the lack of an Internet connection with the eGranary Digital Library. The eGranary Digital Library is a high-capacity hard drive containing Web sites and CDs with digital multimedia resources, contributed by hundreds of Web authors and publishers. With these drives, which are about the size of a paperback book, users can open Web pages instantly, without waiting on a slow Internet connection.

On Thursday, March 8, Cliff Missen, director and founder of the WiderNet Project traveled to the A.M. Dogliotti College to begin their training and introduction to the modern information communication technology. Missen's itinerary also included meetings with government officials, aid agencies and the U.S. embassy to further progress of the proposal.

The Brentons made their gift for WiderNet through the UI Foundation. The university acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the foundation, visit its web site at

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

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,; Program: Cliff Missen, 319-335-2200,; Writers: Amanda Kusek and Abbie Sawyer