IICBA organized a launch of the Global Digital Library, offering free learning materials

On 26 April 2018, Ethiopia became the first country to launch the Global Digital Library (GDL), a worldwide effort to provide children with high-quality, open educational reading resources. UNESCO-IICBA in partnership with Global Book Alliance (GBA), NORAD, USAID and Save the Children organized a launch event for the GDL in UN Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As of now, the GDL offers learning materials in seven languages used in Ethiopia; Amharic, Tigrigna, Afaan Oromo, Af-Somaali, Sidama Afoo, Wolayttatto and Hadiyyisa. It covers different levels of difficulty (up to four in Amharic, for example), and adding up to the total of 522 unique, government approved, curriculum aligned titles.


The launch was divided into two parts. The morning, shorter session was more ceremonial and included a symbolic GDL handover from Linda Hiebert of GBA and Aurore Dorelien of USAid, representing the American Embassy in Ethiopia, to the hands of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education. While the Honorable Dr. Tilaye Gete himself could not attend the event, the Ministry’s Director of Planning and Resource Mobilization Directorate, Mr. Elias Girma, delivered an appreciative speech on Dr. Gete’s behalf. Mr. Girma acknowledged that without initiatives like GDL, Ethiopian children could not possibly reach basic reading skills in the desired numbers, as there is otherwise a clear lack of learning materials. He also expressed the Ministry’s eagerness to tackle youth unemployment in the country, with the GDL hopefully being the key instrument in doing so.

In the afternoon session, a diverse workshop took place. Prominent GDL creators, project lead Liv Marte Nordhaug of NORAD and the Library’s CTO Christer Gundersen, then had the opportunity to demonstrate how the platform works. They emphasized the need for contextualizing featured children stories as well as maximizing the access to the resources. The stories are therefore available to be translated into more than 300 languages by the registered users utilizing an embedded translation tool. Furthermore, without even logging in, both the original illustrations and the translations can be freely re-used for educational purposes, as there are no copyright restrictions in place. The GDL creators also thought of schools with limited internet access, as their mobile application Global Digital Library allows everyone to use the materials offline through My Library feature.

As part of the afternoon workshop, numerous voices from development, educational as well as publishing sector were heard, while Dr. Temechegn Engida, Program Officer for ICT use in teacher education, delivered a speech on behalf of UNESCO-IICBA. Thereby, Dr. Engida stressed that teachers are critically important to effectively and efficiently utilize the GDL, and highlighted the importance of supporting the phenomenon of digital storytelling in his paper on the Relevance of the GDL for Teacher Training. All the remarks made were highly appreciated by the present educators who then had a chance to express their own views.

The Global Digital Library shall continue to develop and flourish, while expanding across the African continent, and we invite you to freely use the available material or even contribute by translating storybooks into your mother tongue via registering at www.digitallibrary.io.