Our History

Prof. Cliff Missen and Dr. Michael McNulty founded The WiderNet Project in 2000.

As a Fulbright Scholar studying in Nigeria in 1999, Missen had first-hand experience with the frustrations a lack of Internet access caused. He had this experience while teaching at the University of Jos.

WiderNet founder Cliff Missen and students in NigeriaUpon returning to the University of Iowa, Missen and McNulty founded The WiderNet Project to provide training and research in low-cost, high-impact uses of information technologies in developing countries.

Since the organization began, staff, students and volunteers have worked continuously to deliver educational materials to the five billion people worldwide who lack adequate Internet access.

Today, the project has donated more than 1,600 computers for use at universities in Africa and has installed the eGranary Digital Library at over 800 partner institutions in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Haiti, and other locations -- including U.S. prisons.

The organization continues to make steady progress toward bridging the digital divide on a global scale. It has worked in numerous countries and institutions and has made "a world of difference" in the lives of many people.

We conduct research into inexpensive, cutting-edge technology and provide numerous training opportunities, through which thousands of university staff and administrators have been trained in programs customized to suit their institutions' specific needs.

The eGranary Digital Library

While at the University of Jos, Missen created the first version of an off-line digital library after requesting that a UI graduate student send him some Web sites on a CD-ROM. 

eGranary Digital LibraryFrom this first CD-ROM, the WiderNet Project continued to work to overcome digital communication obstacles, eventually placing materials onto a hard drive through a process of copying Web sites with permission, then uploading materials to a server at partner institutions.

The project, which was a tremendous success, was dubbed the "eGranary Digital Library" because the digital library holds the seeds of knowledge just as an African granary holds the seeds of a future crop.

The WiderNet Project continues to further development and distribution of the eGranary Digital Library, which has enabled the delivery of millions of educational resources to individuals and institutions around the world. 

We strive to serve the information-poor with our programs and spread the gift of knowledge worldwide, with a focus on implementing technology in places where it simply didn't exist previously. 

Much has changed through the years, but as long as there is a need for information and education in the world, we will keep working for change.