Gates, Youth Ministry in e-library service deal

By John Churu, Gabrone, Botswana

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is extending its philanthropy gestures to Botswana libraries with an e-library service donation. In order to reach the intended youthful citizens of the country they made a pact with the Botswana's Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to provide free internet access through national libraries.

The e-library service, which will be rolled out through the National library Services Department, is available in libraries across 13 towns and villages including the capital Gaborone. The service is operated through Sesigo, Botswana's e-public libraries which is a government's effort of getting the public access to computers and internet at libraries.

The Botswana public library system consists of 24 branch libraries; 4 community libraries (an endowment from Robert and Sarah Rothschild Family Foundation) and 69 village reading rooms (VRRs). VRR's are community initiated mini-libraries varying in sizes run on community-owned buildings (sometimes local council buildings) which are equipped, maintained and managed by the Botswana National Library Service. When fully implemented a total of 78 public libraries will be equipped with computers and Internet for use by the public.

Other towns to benefit from the Foundation’s funding include areas such as Ghanzi, Thamaga, Lobatse, Kanye, Moshupa, Gaborone, Shoshong, Mochudi, Mahalapye, Palapye, Selibe Phikwe, Molalatau, and Ramokgonami.

Staff at Sesigo say the main objectives of the project are to allow meaningful access to computers and the Internet especially by communities that might otherwise have missed out on the benefits of modern ICTs and information services. “Secondly it aims to transform public libraries and allow them to provide the full range of information services and have a measurable positive impact on the lives of users both socially and economically. The project will avail a platform where all can access, at no-cost; ICT services at the public libraries and thus extends the reach of the e-government portal by providing the access points.”

According to information at hand, this is a four-year programme aimed at bridging the digital divide through free public internet and free training on how to get started with computers.

After four years Sesigo will be transitioned to become part of the service line of Botswana National Services department. Meanwhile, visitors to the above libraries who managed to take advantage of the new e-library facility were all praise for the chance to read and surf the net at one place.

A statement says Sesigo signifies efforts by the Government of Botswana and partners to enable public access to computers and internet by all citizens.


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