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.