The Global Digital Library Indigenous language campaign 2019

Indigenous languages matter for social, economic and political development, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation in our societies. Yet many of them are in danger of disappearing. The United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages in order to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalize and promote them.

In partnership with UNESCO, the Global Digital Library supports this effort as we work to increase the availability of high-quality reading resources in indigenous languages worldwide. 

The campaign has the following main goals:

  • Support the UN efforts of the International Year of indigenous languages 2019
  • Add more indigenous languages as translation target languages on the GDL platform
  • Encourage local communities to organize translation workshops to translate books into indigenous languages

The world’s indigenous languages foster and promote unique local cultures, customs and values which have endured for thousands of years and these languages add to the rich tapestry of global cultural diversity. Without them, the world would be a poorer place.

However, despite their value, languages, especially indigenous languages, are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate due to a variety of factors. According to the Forum on Indigenous Issues, 40 per cent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world are in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.

The GDL indigenous language campaign

The Global Digital Library supports underserved and indigenous languages by collecting existing high quality open educational reading resources, and making them available on web, mobile and for print. The GDL platform also supports translation into more than 300 languages, a number that is growing every month. 

We want to support even more indigenous languages. If your local language is missing from the list of translation languages on the GDL, please fill out this form with basic information, and we will work to add your language if possible. 

We also want to encourage local communities to organize their own translation workshops with the GDL platform. The translation capabilities on the GDL platform is a great opportunity for local communities to translate new books into indigenous languages.

Languages play an essential role in the daily lives of all peoples. Through languages, people not only embed their history, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression but more importantly construct their future. Languages are pivotal in the areas of peacebuilding, human rights enhancement, education, research, innovation, protection of the environment, and sustainable development. 

Who can use the Global Digital Library?

The GDL is aimed at many different types of users and the platform will be open for everyone. Intended users include ministries of education, school managers, teachers, donor agencies and their implementing partners, international and national non-governmental organizations, local publishers, digital distributors and content providers, and households in developing countries.

Ok Google, can I talk to the GDL Library?

We are excited to announce that from today, you can access the GDL Library with Google Assistant, using only your voice to interact with the GDL. This is a totally new way for our users to access our platform, giving users the option of asking the assistant to search for books and read books aloud.

How does it work?

If you open your Google Assistant on your phone and say “GDL Library” in any sentence, you will start a conversation with the GDL. For example, you can say: “Can I speak to the GDL Library?”

The assistant can help you search for books and read them for you. For example:

  • To search for a book just name the topic of the book, for example, “dog” or “list books about dogs”.
  • If you want the assistant to read for you, simply use the word “read”. For example “read a book about dogs” or “please read the book Come Back, Cat!”. The assistant will read books out loud and show the illustrations for the relevant page on your screen.
  • You can also ask the Google Assistant to list books on level 1 -4.
  • To exit the conversation, simply say “Goodbye GDL”.

This is how it would look on your screen:

UNESCO Mobile Learning Week 4-8 March 2019

UNESCO Mobile Learning Week will take place on March 4-8, 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
The event convenes education and technology experts from around the world. Some 1000 participants have already registered for the event that provides the educational community, governments and other stakeholders a unique opportunity to discuss the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for sustainable development.

The Global Digital Library – prototyping new reading experiences with AI

The GDL project will host a workshop and speak at the conference. We are looking forward to seeing you all there.

Time: March 6, 16.30-18.00.

Place: Room 3 at the conference venue

In this workshop the Global Digital Library team will demonstrate how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to create new reading experiences, using Google Voice Assistant to facilitate a simple conversation between the end-user and the GDL platform.

The workshop will also include a live demo of the GDL platform and its localization capabilities, and participants will get the opportunity to test the translation of books on the platform.

The workshop will be organized in collaboration with the Global Book Alliance and All Children Reading. The Global Book Alliance (GBA) was created with the aim of ensuring that all children can access the books they need to learn to read by 2030. Alliance Steering Committee members include major global education stakeholders such as UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, DFID, Norad and the World Bank.

Leading the charge to ensure greater access to reading materials is the GBA’s flagship initiative, the Global Digital Library (GDL). The GDL collects existing high quality open educational reading resources, and makes them available on web, mobile and for print. The GDL offers resources in 23 languages, and by end 2020 the platform will offer at least 100 languages. The GDL facilitates translation and localization of GDL-resources to more than 300 languages.

Agenda for the workshop:

  • Welcome, Liv Marte Nordhaug – Norad
  • Demo of the GDL platform, Christer Gundersen – GDL
  • Demo of translation
  • Workshop participants trying out translation into their languages.


The GDL launch on April 26 2018

The GDL platform was launched on April 26 2018, with an initial total of 900 resources in 15 languages, including Kiswahili (Kenyan), Bangla, Hausa and 7 Ethiopian languages. The launch itself was a success, with various stakeholders showing great excitement around all the opportunities the GDL can represent in Ethiopia and elsewhere. The launch was planned and executed with the help from USAID Ethiopia and UNESCO-IICBA.

The GDL team is currently planning user testing in Kenya and Bangladesh in July and workshops in Cambodia in September 2018, in conjunction with/or leading up to World Literacy Day on September 8. 

The design of the GDL has been based on a “mobile first” principle. At the time of the launch, the GDL platform included a website and a native app for Android, providing users with the option of:

  • Reading the titles on their mobile, tablet or computer
  • Downloading for print
  • Downloading the mobile app, providing the user with extended offline capabilities   
  • Translating titles into more than 300 languages

Quality assurance (QA) standards

The GDL team has developed quality assurance (QA) standards for different content categories, in close cooperation with reading experts from USAID, GPE and URC. The standards have been approved by the GBA Steering Committee. These QA standards serve as minimum criteria for the acceptance or rejection of various types of reading books submitted for upload to the GDL. In terms of responsibility for verifying that content quality is in accordance with these standards, URC has the lead on this for Classroom resources, whereas the GDL-team organizes this for Library resources.

Pictures from the Launch in Addis Ababa

GDL event at UNESCO Mobile Learning Week in Paris on March 27th

The workshop is co-organized by The Norwegian Agency and for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Global Book Alliance on March 27th, 2018 from 14:00-15:30 pm in Room 9 and will take place during the Mobile Learning Week (MLW) at UNESCO, Paris, France.

The GDL is now in its final stage of development and user testing before it will be launched in late April. At the time of launch, the Library will hold reading resources in approximately 10 languages, whereas by the end of 2020 this will have been expanded to more than 100 languages. The GDL will also facilitate translation and localization of these resources to more than 300 languages. All resources available on the GDL will have been quality assured in accordance with quality standards set by the Global Book Alliance.


In this workshop, we will give an introduction to the project, a live demo of the platform, and we will go through GDL content categories and quality assurance standards. 


Agenda for the workshop: 

  • Introduction to the Global Book Alliance, Brooke Estes 
  • Introduction to the Global Digital Library, Liv Marte Nordhaug 
  • Demo of GDL web and native app, Christer Gundersen 
  • Demo of translation and localization features, Christer Gundersen 
  • Panel discussion with collaborating partners:
    • Asia Foundation, Kyle Barker 
    • Learning Equality 

If you are attending the conference, we are looking forward to seeing you at our workshop. Please confirm your participation by 17th March 2018, by filling out the registration form

Mobile picture in the dark

GDL reusing open source code and design

The Global Digital Library has a clear strategy of sharing all system code under a free license. This will make it possible for other projects to reuse our technology to create new solutions. We are also developing APIs to give easy access to all GDL resources.

For the GDL project it is just as also important to reuse technology and components from other open source and open content projects, to make our platform better and easier to develop.

Material Design from Google

The UX/design on the GDL platform is based on the principles of Google’s Material Design, with heavy inspiration of well known layouts from large e-book providers and SoMe-platforms. Material Design makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows. GDL makes use of system fonts on the platform, to make the experience as smooth as possible for the user, and without need to load external fonts.

Icons are all taken from Google Material Icons, Google’s open source icon library (Apache License Version 2.0). They are lightweight, easy to use, and well tested for over all use. The icons are also available as a git repository, making it even easier for developers to customize, share, and re-use.

App from New York Public Library

The Global Digital Library app for Android have reused the source code for the New York Public Library’s app SimplyE and used it as a starting point for our own app. We have removed the parts we didn’t need, like support for DRM, lending books, and support for multiple user accounts (for different libraries).

We have mostly kept the same flow of the user interface, but we have rewritten all the screens to match our own design. After user testing the original app from NYPL in Nepal we have also made some important changes to the user interface, particularly focusing on how the user interacts with the app on download and reading the actual ebook.

The creative commons logo

GDL content and Creative Commons

The GDL core platform will hold digital copies of Creative Commons or otherwise openly licensed, publicly accessible materials.  

The primary licenses for the GDL will be CC BY and CC BY-SA. These licenses drive innovation and creativity – including commercial reuse. Furthermore, they strongly support the overall GDL goal of sharing, translation and contextualization of early grade reading educational materials, open textbooks and open educational resources. The GDL project will also accept other CC licenses.

We are collaborating with several content platforms who are addressing the increasing public demand for sharing under CC licenses, and for public domain tools. We encourage all projects developing content to visit for more information.

Creative Commons has developed a cc toolkit for user-generated content platforms. This toolkit covers the elements for a basic Creative Commons platform integration, including aligning legal terms to CC tools; installing the CC license chooser; displaying CC licensed content with the correct logos and links; and how to communicate CC to your users.

The Global Digital Library

Major progress has been made towards increasing primary school enrolment rates. Still, 250 million children of primary school age are not able to recognize basic letters and numbers, despite most of them having attended school for several years. There are also 750 million illiterate youth and adults. One important reason for one billion people not learning to read is that they do not have access to quality early grade reading resources in a language they understand.

The Global Digital Library (GDL) is being developed to increase the availability of high quality reading resources in underserved languages worldwide. “Underserved languages” refer to languages where there is currently a lack of quality early grade reading resources. “Reading resources” refer primarily to supplementary reading books and reading textbooks, but the GDL will also link to some more interactive resources, such as literacy games.


The GDL will collect existing high quality open educational reading resources, and make them available on web, mobile and for print. It will also facilitate translation and localization of these resources to more than 300 languages. The GDL’s initial purpose is to support access to high quality early-grade reading resources. Other types of learning resources may be included at a later stage.

The goal is to make at least 50.000 titles in 100 languages available on the GDL-platform by the end of 2020.


The GDL is aimed at many different types of users and the platform will be open for everyone. Intended users include ministries of education, school managers, teachers, donor agencies and their implementing partners, international and national non-governmental organizations, local publishers, digital distributors and content providers, and households in developing countries.


The GDL-platform is a collaborative endeavor which will require involvement from a broad spectrum of stakeholders in order to be truly successful and widely used. It is being built based on existing quality learning resources provided from a variety of initiatives. The content pool will expand over time through discovery and sharing or more existing quality content, translations and localizations of the platform’s content, as well as additions of newly created content. The Platform will be designed both for direct use by a variety of user groups and for integration with existing initiatives in the field.

The Global Digital Library is part of The Global Book Alliance, an international effort involving multiple stakeholders working to transform book development, procurement and distribution to ensure that no child is without books. The mission of the Global Book Alliance is to guarantee that children everywhere have the books and learning materials they need to learn to read and read to learn.

The idea to develop a Global Digital Library for reading resources came from All Children Reading: a Grand Challenge for Development (ACR) in 2014. ACR and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) subsequently conducted joint feasibility work in 2015 and 2016, which outlined important parameters for such a project.

The GDL-platform is being developed and will initially be operated by the Norwegian Digital Learning Arena (NDLA), based on NDLA’s open source digital infrastructure. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has the overall project management responsibility.

GDL-content is currently being provided by the following initiatives and organizations; StoryweaverAfrican Storybook ProjectUSAID missions, All Children Reading: a Grand Challenge for Development and Benetech. GDL’s open source-digital infrastructure has so far been provided by NDLA and the the New York Public Library.

A GDL advisory group provides technical advice and expertise input for the project implementation. The group is composed by representatives from the following organizations; All Children Reading: a Grand Challenge for DevelopmentUNESCOThe Global Partnership for Education , UNICEFthe Global Book AllianceBenetech , StoryweaverCreative Commons, and the GSMA. In addition a range of institutions and individuals have provided and are providing invaluable input.