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This nonprofit is attempting to combat the digital divide

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“Internet in a box” or “Internet on a microchip” provides an offline imitation of the Internet, via hard drive, to the remaining two-thirds of the world that currently does not have access to it.

The microchip uses smartphones, laptops, and tablets to compile offline information and educational resources to the billions of people without Internet access. The eGranary Pocket Library hopes to help close the digital divide - those communities with access to digital technology, and those without.

Over the past 14 years the WiderNet Project, based out of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has been developing the eGranary Pocket Library. The microchip uses smartphones, laptops, and tablets to compile offline information and educational resources to the billions of people without Internet access. The eGranary Pocket Library hopes to help close the digital divide - those communities with access to digital technology, and those without.

Some are calling it “Internet in a box”, and “Internet on a microchip”, and granted, it’s a pretty impressive undertaking they have embarked on. It provides an offline imitation of the Internet, via hard drive, to the remaining two-thirds of the world that currently does not have access to it.

Starting in 2001, WiderNet began partnering with major publishers such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy and Project Gutenberg, to organize, compile and copy all their website content into a single offline, searchable database that currently has more than 32 million documents - all on a 4 terabyte hard drive, and completely accessible without Internet.

Starting in 2001, WiderNet began partnering with major publishers such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy and Project Gutenberg, to organize, compile and copy all their website content into a single offline, searchable database that currently has more than 32 million documents - all on a 4 terabyte hard drive, and completely accessible without Internet.

There are currently more than 1,000 installations of eGranary on the globe, and it already has millions of users. They access the library though a proxy server on a standard web browser, so it looks and operates just like the Internet.

“We're linking with ministries of education, ministries of health and schools of information science...and we're also working to create chip versions of the libraries," says Cliff Missen, cofounder and director of the WiderNet Project.

Because all the information is educational, WiderNet isn’t worried about outdated information. Facing the question, Missen gave the example of a medical professor in university that teaches out of a five year old textbook.

“We're really looking at the much larger swath of humanity that needs access to information and basic education, and just simply new ideas, whether it's a 2,000-year-old idea or something that's been in a five-year-old textbook and still has value,” he says.

The users of the library can also update the system through a built-in platform and editor, similar to Wikipedia. WiderNet is working with Wikipedia so that communities can edit, create, and update pages offline.

With SpaceX, Facebook, and Google all looking into satellites that will bring Internet to the developing world, Missen contends that eGranary is more important than ever.

"Trillions of dollars have been spent to get one-third of the world connected. It's going to cost trillions of dollars to get the other two-thirds of the world connected. This offline stuff is going to make a big difference for a long time," Missen says.

The company is currently launching an Indiegogo campaign to raise $120,000 to fund the project. Help bridge the digital divide!