Digital historical newspapers and impact sourcing

Question:  What are two things that the British Library’s British Newspaper Archive (, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek’s Historische Kranten (, and the Singapore National Library Board’s NewspapersSG ( have in common?
Answer: First, each of these historical digital newspaper collections is huge! 6,000,000+ pages, 8,000,000+ pages, and 3,000,000+ pages respectively and growing.  Second, is each collection was not digitized by an army of librarians tagging metadata in library offices, but by outsourcing the labor intensive task of creation and production of digital objects to companies which specialize in it.  These three newspaper collections–as well as similar collections from Stanford University, Harvard University, the Library of Congress’s National Digital Newspaper Program, the California Digital Newspaper Collection, and others—were digitized by a social business called Digital Divide Data ( using a model called impact sourcing.
That’s nice.  Everyone knows about outsourcing but what is impact sourcing? 
According to a recent report by Accenture, impact sourcing is
outsourcing that benefits disadvantaged individuals in low employment areas. It looks beyond the common source of supply for traditional outsourcing to provide higher-income employment and access to new income opportunities to individuals that might not otherwise be employed in this sector.
(Gib Bulloch and Jessica Long. “Exploring the Value Proposition for Impact Sourcing.”  Accenture. Oct 2012. July 2013.)
This May at the World Economic Forum, the Rockefeller Foundation announced an initiative to create 100,000 digital jobs in Africa through Impact Sourcing.  More than a dozen organizations in India are using this model to transform lives in a country where digital work is a huge industry. 
One impact sourcing group has found a sweet spot working with libraries and archives. Founded in 2001, Digital Divide Data (DDD) recruits motivated and talented youth in emerging markets who do not have access to or opportunities for good jobs or higher education. These youth learn computer skills in DDD’s training programs in Cambodia, Laos, and Kenya.  Once trained, they are employed part-time in DDD’s service centers, creating digital newspaper objects for the British Library, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Singapore National Library Board, and many others.  While DDD does many library digitization projects, their service centers don’t only produce digital newspapers; they also create eBooks and magazines for publishers, provide data entry services for government entities and corporations alike, and transcribe hand-written documents. 
Impact sourcing still sounds a lot like outsourcing.  What’s the difference?
First impact sourcing service providers, hire individuals from low-income families, most of whom have never worked in the formal job before; their work enables them to help support their families and pay school fees for siblings. DDD in particular focuses on hiring high school graduates and helps its employees to attend local universities, by providing a partial scholarship and arranging a schedule that permits them to attend classes. Eventually, most DDD employees “graduate” from DDD and the local university and go on to high skill positions in which they typically earn more than four times the average regional wage. This enables them to break the cycle that trapped their families in poverty.
For example, 18 year old Chantheng Heng came to work at DDD after helping her mother sell rice and bread in the markets of Phnom Penh. Chantheng was capable and had an affinity for computers; she was soon promoted from data entry work to managing the IT help desk.  And while she was working, she studied computer science at the local university.  After graduation from DDD and the university, she got a job advising the Ministry of Education on a computer education curriculum for Cambodia’s high schools. Chantheng then received a scholarship to study comparative economic development in Europe.  Now after completing her master’s degree, she works as the Deputy Program Manager for the Open Institute ( and continues to work on information and communications technology development in Cambodia.
Another DDD’er, Kunthy Kann, failed his high school exit exams and was working on his mother’s farm in Kampong Speu, Cambodia.  He realized this was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life so he rode his bicycle to Phnom Penh.  Kunthy eventually he found his way to DDD’s offices and was hired to do digital work.  In time, he became a manager at DDD in Cambodia. More than a decade later, he speaks fluent English,  has a wealth of technology and management experience including a stint at the Nippon-Keidanren International Cooperation Center in Japan.  Kunthy is currently CEO of the Battambang Rice Investment Company.
These are just two of hundreds of examples of how Impact Sourcing helps people who once faced a future without opportunity.   Impact Sourcing helps to create a level playing field by enabling very poor people to learn 21st century skills and participate as equal partners in the global community.
How can Impact Sourcing save your library time and money while creating greater social equity?


Next time your library is contemplating a digitization project, consider Impact Sourcing.  For more information, see the resources available at and