Vodacom connecting South African libraries


Vodacom has announced the successful implementation of Phase 1 of a libraries project for internet connectivity across three provinces - North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. 50 sites are up and running. When completed, almost 300 community libraries will be connected using VSAT and Vodacom ADSL services.

The National Department of Arts and Culture’s multi-million Rand project is managed and driven by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) and is being successfully implemented due to tight co-operation and communication between the service provider and Provincial Libraries.

"This project started when we were implementing the SITA/ NLSA open source Library Information Management System (LIMS), says Lesiba Ledwaba, CIO of the National Library of South Africa and head of the project. "There's a need for all our libraries countrywide to communicate with each other and have access to one another's collections. Before the roll-out of LIMS, it was noted that there were many libraries without connectivity, so connectivity for LIMS became a priority.

"The next logical step was to extend internet connectivity services to local communities.  With so many schools, especially those in rural areas, without libraries or connectivity of their own, it became clear we could really start to make a difference in the education and life-style of these rural communities. We started with the rural areas first, and have also ensured all libraries have ‘reasonable' internet capacity, says Ledwaba.

"We partnered with Meso ICT Solutions to implement the project across the first three provinces," says Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive Vodacom Business Services.

With an average of 14 workstations per library and with free access for citizens, the resources provided by this project are invaluable.  The project meets the stated national objective to enable all levels of South African society to gain access to knowledge and information that will improve their socio-economic condition. Libraries are already seeing use extending to users searching for jobs, learners researching school projects, and SMEs utilising the many tools available to them on the internet.

Thibedi Mogoba, CEO of Meso Group, says: "A 1 Mb pipe was implemented for each library, and we have measured optimal use at almost all sites since switch on.”

Lazarus concludes: "Connectivity is so much more than access to the internet - it provides every citizen with information, knowledge and resources that can literally change their lives. The fact that they can now access the wealth of information available globally, for free, brings the outside world that much closer to their everyday lives. This project is a milestone in our education and social services sectors and brings information to the remotest rural communities."