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Government, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation equips libraries with internet

The importance of ICTs to people’s socio-economic livelihoods cannot be over emphasised in todays’s information era.Botswana national vision 2016 aims that by 2016, all citizens should be able to gain access to and exploit ICT’S for various aspects of their lives.

But the million dollar question is how to ensure equitable access to ICT by all citizens when the cost of computers and internet is still high in Botswana?

The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to transform Botswana’s Public Libraries and bring their services in line with the information age.The two partners are implementing a project now known as Sesigo, that is aimed at enabling free computer and internet access to all citizens.

Sesigo project complements Government’s efforts to ensure access to esential ICT services such as e-government portal, that avails online government services.It also narrows the digital divide by ensuring that all acquire the necessary skills to use ICTs as well as avail a platform for all to access ICT’s.

In this partnership, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a US $4.75 million (P33.25 m) grant towards computer and internet infrastructure as well as training on the use of computers and internet for library staff and communities served. In addition library staff receives training on advocacy, monitoring and evaluation. The Botswana Government on the other hand, committed US$6.5 million (P45.5 m).This is inclusive of library building maintenance and upgrades, recurrent internet charges as well as in-kind contribution. Microsoft Corporation also donated software valued at US1.5 million (P10.37 million) to the project to be installed in all personal computers and servers.

Sesigo project conducted the first annual impact study after a year of implementation. The main findings, among others were that access to computers is still limited in the country, and Sesigo project is largely unknown because of limited marketing. The project has as a result,recently embarked on a communications campaign to inform the public about the project and call them to action

Significant progress has been made so far regarding the four year project targets. Of the 78 public libraries targeted to be equipped with computers and internet, 23 have computers with 19 offering public access to internet. Computer deployment is targeted at 412 and so far 193 computers have been deployed in the 23 libraries.

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