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Digital divide data: content conversion for libraries.

Digital Divide Data (DDD) was started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with a single project: to digitize Harvard University's student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. Fourteen years after it began, DDD has become the largest technology-related employer in both Cambodia and Laos and has offices in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as in the U.S.

The company offers content digitization and conversion, data services, and research services. Essentially, says Gabor Toth, VP of operations, DDD preserves strategic data for clients and makes it available in digital form. "An important part of our business is content conversion and digitisation for libraries and archives," Toth says. In addition to Harvard, DDD has also worked with Stanford University and helped digitize Yale University's newspaper, Yale Daily News.

Recently, DDD partnered with the National Library of Australia (NLA) to digitize its collection of newspapers, journals, and books. "Australia has been in the forefront of digitising their national archives and the NLA has an amazing collection of Australia's written history already digitised and available for the readers and collaborators," says Toth. The digitized materials are then searchable by Trove, NLA's database of content from across Australia's libraries, museums, archives, and research organizations. DDD accomplishes this through optical character recognition (OCR) services, as well as by converting scanned images of text into machine-readable format.

DDD practices a form of business process outsourcing called impact sourcing, which was recognized by The Rockefeller Foundation as "a practice through which companies, both African-based and multinational, intentionally employ people who have limited opportunities for sustainable employment, often in low-income areas." The Rockefeller Foundation provided funds to launch DDD's Nairobi office.

"Our social enterprise model, which was pioneered by our CEO Jeremy Hockenstein, gives us the benefit of a very stable workforce at the data management operator levels, which is an especially unique feature in the developing countries that we operate in," says Toth. "We don't hire and fire employees. DDD offers a career path to our people on the day when they join us."

Toth says that DDD strives to maximize its social impact through its social enterprise business model, rather than being driven by shareholders' interests. "Our social mission objectives stand side-by-side with our financial objectives and do not replace them," he says.

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Author:Griffin, Donovan
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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