Students, teachers and researchers in Myanmar (Burma) are being given access to educational resources through a new University of Manchester e-Library.

The eTekkatho library has been developed and is hosted by Mimas at the University and contains online text books, datasets and research papers covering forestry, earthquake maps and reference data from the World Bank.

Critical to access in developing nations, it uses special compression and network technology to enable it to operate in areas with low bandwidth (25kbps) or fragmented Internet.

“During a period of rapid reform, there is an overwhelming demand for up-to-date digital educational resources in Myanmar and this exciting collaboration helps to address this need. The country is rebuilding and needs the educational resources to match,” explained project lead Dr Celia Russell.

“We wanted to build a digital library that runs on Myanmar’s current Internet infrastructure which present-day students could use straightaway. So we measured and mapped existing connectivity at partner universities in Myanmar and talked to researchers and students about what they needed from a digital library.

“The project has faced some tricky technical and logistical challenges, but the recent political opening has allowed increasing engagement between Myanmar higher education and universities elsewhere in the world.”

Self-contained mirror versions of the e-library will be set up at 6 of the partner universities, where staff and students can access it at full broadband speed – even where there is little or no internet connection.

“Each partner university presents its own challenges, requiring practical and locally-driven solutions,” added technologist Paul Murphy.

“Although the project uses some complex technologies at Manchester to catalogue, compress and deliver the library, our philosophy is to make sure the technologies used in the local set-ups are robust, flexible, appropriate and easy to fix.”

The library covers human and physical geography, research methods, earth sciences and the environment, along with material on computer literacy, maths and English language.

The project is funded by the Open Society Foundations (Burma project/South East Asia Initiative) and by the University of Manchester through its social responsibility remit.