Open Content Alliance scans while Google hits the airwaves

By now you probably know that our Neighbors to the North have applied to provide Wi-Fi – for free – to our other neighbors to the north, the city of San Francisco. San Francisco has launched its wireless initiative a few months back in hopes of addressing the digital divide. Without getting into the digital divide, it’s pretty clear that the entirety of San Francisco, rich, poor, and in-between have a lot to gain from this initiative. Who stands to loose, potentially, are the “for pay” and very much wired telecom and cable service providers including, Comcast, SBC/Yahoo!, and Verizon.

When I think of who might gain from this project, I think of course of the academic researchers and students based at San Francisco’s large and small colleges and universities. I think of faculty and scholars who work or study at one of the Bay Area’s many other institutions of higher learning (think UC Berkeley and Stanford University), but who live or spend time in San Francisco. I also think of high school students, who can be mobile with their laptops and other devices. For the poor, I think of the $100 laptop being designed at MIT. Even though this computer was designed for use in developing countries, it certainly has application in the U.S.

And what might these users be looking at? In addition to licensed and purchased materials, they could be looking at out-of-copyright materials scanned courtesy of the Open Content Alliance. The OCA is an alliance that includes the European Archive, the Internet Archive, the National Archives (UK), University of California, University of Toronto, and Yahoo! San Franciscans might also have access to a wealth of material made available through the European Commission. Oh yeah, and there’s also that Google Print for Libraries project.