5 Examples of Sustainable Public Internet Access Programs
May 25, 2013 Editor 0
Public libraries exist in nearly every country and culture as institutions committed to facilitating access to information. With the right policies and support, libraries can serve as cost-effective, sustainable hubs for universal internet access. Their government-funded operations are typically more stable, and are less subject to short-term timelines that affect many other projects. By offering internet access through public libraries, all people, regardless of their economic status or location, are able to access information that will improve lives.
In the report “Providing Internet Access Through Public Libraries” are five governments that have invested in public libraries to deliver information and communications technology (ICT) and have seen a return on investment, producing a wide variety of positive community development outcomes.
In 2003, the national Digital Literacy Campaign was launched with the goal of training 500,000 Chileans in ICT by 2005, largely via a network of over 300 public libraries. At the start of the project, less than 8 percent of public libraries offered public access to technology. Through a nationwide effort that included partnerships with software, internet and other companies, millions have benefited from the program. The free training has helped Chileans launch businesses, navigate market information and develop technology skills to improve their job competitiveness. Today, the BiblioRedes public library network alone has delivered more than 10 million internet and computer workshops, and has helped participants create more than six thousand local content websites.
Jamaica Library Service (JLS), the national government agency managing the island’s public libraries, has the challenging but exciting responsibility of reducing digital disparities to promote individual, community and national development. Through its 2006-2011 Strategic Development Plan, it has introduced new computers in over 100 public libraries. Some of these libraries have even reported a doubling of computer and internet usage over the previous year, in part due to targeted technology training for youth and seniors.
Moldtelecom, Moldova’s national telecommunications operator, entered into an agreement to not only connect all Moldovan public libraries to the internet, but also reduce connection and usage fees. This is enabling thousands of Moldovans to access needed information, particularly government services promoted under Moldova’s new open government plan.
More than 3,500 Polish public libraries are able to offer their users free internet access, and even more libraries will be connected in the future. A 2012 agreement between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Ministry of Administration and Digitalization, the Information Society Development Foundation and the telecom Orange Polska has already brought free online access to millions of library users in Poland.
Uganda’s Hoima Public Library provides free internet access and training for health workers and the general public. Its “Improving Community Health Through ICT” program, combined with a series of public lectures and films, yielded significant results: just two years after the service launched, a survey found that over 38 percent more youth, 39 percent more men and 29 percent more women were using the library to seek health information.
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