Internet ethics groups seeks to bridge global digital divide

By Ecumenical News International
October 13, 2008

A Geneva-based network that promotes debate on ethical issues has launched a global online library, with more than 1 million documents, to help lessen the "digital divide" between the northern and southern hemispheres.

"Access to information and communication is a key instrument of development," said Walter Fust, president of, at a 9 October media conference in Geneva to launch the online resource, called the Global Digital Library on Ethics. "The North-South digital divide is still deep," said Fust, a former Swiss ambassador.

"In the North, people almost drown in a sea of immense information, especially on the Internet," he added. "In the South, the situation is often like people in a desert desperately looking for an oasis, where the water of information can help them to survive." was launched in 2004 to reinforce documentation, networking and research on ethical issues. The network operates mainly via the Internet, and already includes about 500 ethicists and other researchers, as well as 80 institutions.

"Ethics contributes to the efficient, sustainable and transparent use of limited public and private resources," Fust said as he explained what he saw as the importance of access to information about ethical issues for development.

G.. J. (Deon) Rossouw, professor of business ethics at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, told the press conference that the rapid increase in the cost of subscriptions to academic journals in recent years, reaching 178 percent for publications on philosophy and religion between 2004 and 2008, was having a devastating effect on libraries in the global South. "This situation seriously handicaps academics from the South in producing decent research, and marginalises them in the global academic discourse," Rossouw said.

Christoph Stückelberger, the executive director and founder of, noted that the network had developed automated mechanisms that seek out and collect freely available documents from the Internet. In addition, the organization pays licence fees for about 200 journals on ethics in order to make them available in the library.

Registered users can also upload scholarly documents into the library in order to make them available to others. "We are only at the beginning; new documents are being uploaded every day," said Stückelberger.

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[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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