Chilean Libraries to Receive Computers, Internet Through Partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Program to provide improved access to information for all public libraries
SANTIAGO, Chile -- President Ricardo Lagos announced today that all 368 Chilean public libraries will benefit from a US$9,284,339 million grant from the U.S.-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will provide training, computers and Internet access for all the libraries.
Speaking from the Casablanca Public Library President Lagos stated: "The Network of Public Libraries for the New Millennium project, which we are launching today, aspires to guarantee equal access to new information and communication technologies to all the people of Chile, thus helping to bridge the digital divide and providing information, knowledge, culture and entertainment."
In addition to support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the effort to bring computers to all Chilean public libraries has a number of local partners contributing to the project. The Chilean government has committed US$6.7 million, Microsoft Chile has promised a software donation of US$1.2 million, and at this point more than nine other Chilean nonprofit organizations and departments are contributing to the training component. The Chilean Association of Municipalities is also actively involved in the project in representation of its members, the majority of whom provide public libraries in their communities. The total project cost, including these contributions, is estimated at more than US$20 million.
"The Chilean effort to expand public access to digital information is a tremendous example of the power of partnerships," said Richard Akeroyd, executive director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Libraries and Public Access to Information programs. "The impressive set of partners that the Chileans have assembled inspires us. They have truly set an example to which libraries in the United States and around the world should aspire."
The program marks the foundation's first effort beyond North America and the United Kingdom to provide individuals in low-income communities with public access to technology and digital information through public libraries. Foundation officials selected Chile as a partner because of the country's leadership in the effort to provide free and open access to public libraries for all citizens.
Clara Budnik, Director of Libraries, Archives and Museums, (DIBAM) further emphasized the importance of the initiative: "Today we begin a project which will provide free access to Internet to all Chileans, without discrimination, training them in effective use of new technologies, stimulating the generation of local contents in each community and strengthening the transfer of acquired knowledge to future generations."
Installation of computers will begin in February 2002 and continue through April, reaching all 368 libraries. The grant will fund an estimated 1800 computers, including 17 computer training labs and four mobile laptop labs. Sixteen Chilean librarians will travel to the foundation's Seattle headquarters in October and November of this year for intensive training; onsite training in Chile for all librarians will continue through June 2002. The Chilean Directorate of Libraries, Archives and Museums (DIBAM) will administer the grant and oversee the project.