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The Colombian Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Join Forces to Strengthen the Country's Public Libraries | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Access to sources of knowledge through technology, and improvements in quality of life, are the benefits of this partnership

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

BOGOTÁ, D.C. Colombia -- On September 27 the Colombian Government will launch the "use and adoption of ICT in the National Network of Public Libraries" project, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This project will last 24 months, during which research, needs assessments and pilot efforts to provide connectivity and technology to public libraries in the country will be implemented, alongside the training necessary to allow relevant and useful use of these new services. The project will receive US$ 3.2 million in funding from the Foundation, and it will benefit from a donation of software by Microsoft.

The project is developed under the framework of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation´s Global Libraries initiative of its Global Development Program. The initiative aims to close the digital divide by providing access to information and technologies through public libraries, changing individual lives and strengthening communities. Countries like Mexico, Chile, Poland, Vietnam and Romania, among others, have already benefited from this program.

The Ministry of Culture – National Library and the Foundation recognize that Colombia’s public libraries can play a critical role in all aspects of the country’s social, economic and cultural development. They offer public access to information and knowledge, they promote reading and writing skills, and they enhance the flow of ideas, culture and national heritage.

This project will conduct an assessment and analysis of the conditions required to expand the program to national scale in the near future, while ensuring both sustainability and responsiveness to the needs of the people. This analysis will include pilot projects to test the provision of technology and to strengthen their use and usefulness through training, research and support for the creation of digital content in the public libraries.

This project will be implemented within the framework of governmental development programs such as the National Reading and Libraries Plan (NRLP) and the National Plan for Reading and Writing, led by the Ministry of Culture, and the "Live Digital" Plan led by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

The library sector will be the primary protagonist of this process, because the libraries that form part of the pilot, their staff and users will be the foremost beneficiaries. During this planning period, 25 public libraries will be selected through a public process. The National Library will play an active role in the pilots and will be pilot site #26. In parallel, there will be ongoing stakeholder consultation within the library community and other strategic actors in the country so that this project is implemented following the lines of the National Reading and Libraries Plan, of the Ministry of Culture and of the National Government in general.

According to Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative: "The presence of a strong public library network, the committed leadership demonstrated by the National Library, and the ongoing support for public access to technology will all contribute to the successful implementation of this project. This will improve Colombians' lives, as we have seen happen in other programs around the world. We recognize Colombia’s leadership in development of their public libraries and we believe that our support will have a positive impact."

In this respect, the Minister of Culture, Mariana Gárces Córdoba said: "We want to create spaces where information and communication technologies are a means for participation, inclusion and an improved quality of life. That would be our ideal library and this is the idea we are pursuing and encouraging."

"Colombia has made and continues making great efforts to reach all people with basic library services to improve reading levels and communication skills among citizens," added Ana Roda, Director of the National Library of Colombia.

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