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São Paulo Receives International Library Award

Government-run program will use $1 million Access to Learning Award to advance digital inclusion in Brazil’s most populous state

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August 19, 2013, SEATTLE – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today presented its 2013 Access to Learning Award of $1 million to Acessa São Paulo, which works to ensure all São Paulo residents have free and easy access to computers and the Internet. Acessa is part of the government of São Paulo’s multipronged approach to help the most vulnerable lift themselves out of poverty.

Less than half of the population of Brazil can access the Internet using their own resources, and access in the home is limited to those with higher incomes. While São Paulo is the wealthiest state in Brazil, income disparity is a challenge. Acessa São Paulo is designed to ensure that everyone, regardless of income, has access to the technology and training needed to advance their education, secure a well-paying job, or start a business.

Microsoft, a foundation partner, will donate approximately $8 million in software to Acessa as part of its commitment to global citizenship to bring the benefits of relevant and accessible technology to communities. 

This is the fourteenth year of the foundation’s Access to Learning Award, which recognizes the innovative efforts of libraries and similar organizations outside the United States to provide free access to computers and the Internet. It is awarded by the foundation's Global Libraries initiative, which works to open the world of knowledge, information, and opportunity to help improve the lives of millions of people.

“Access to digital information and technology is crucial for people’s education, citizenship, and livelihood,” said Davi Zaia, State Secretary of Public Management. “We believe it is the responsibility of the government to guarantee all people, no matter their financial status, have this access. But Acessa doesn’t only provide computers and the Internet. It gives people the education and instruction they need so they can use these tools in the best way possible.”

One of the most innovative aspects of Acessa São Paulo is where it has located over 700 technology stations. They have been placed in train and subway stations, bus terminals, hospitals, libraries, government service centers, housing projects, and more. The idea is to reach people where they are, to make it as easy as possible to access technology as they go about their daily routine. 

“This program has taken the idea of ‘access’ to a whole new level,” said Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries initiative for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at an event in Singapore where the award was announced. “Rather than placing the burden on the users to find their way to these stations, the technology is positioned so that people can use it on their way to work, when they’re at the hospital visiting a relative, or when they are filling out forms at a government agency. In a city where getting from one end of town to the other is a real challenge, this is an ingenious approach.”

Acessa São Paulo will use its award to expand its network of stations, hire and train more monitors to run the stations, and develop more projects to meet the needs of the communities it serves.

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About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

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