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By 26 January 2012 | Categories: news

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Local cellular service provider Vodacom is looking to provide internet connectivity services to more South Africans, announcing the successful implementation of phase 1 of a libraries project for internet connectivity across North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. When this project has been completed, almost 300 community libraries will be connected using VSAT (very small aperture terminal) 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 implemented through 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),” explained Lesiba Ledwaba, CIO of NLSA and head of 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.”

According to Ledwaba the next 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,” Ledwaba stated.

Chris Lazarus, managing executive Vodacom Business Services, said that Vodacom partnered with Meso ICT Solutions in order to implement this project across the first three provinces and according to him, “they were able to bring the libraries online very quickly and efficiently.”

With an average of 14 workstations per library and with free access for citizens, the resources provided by this project will prove to be 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. The proof of this being that libraries are already seeing use extending to users searching for jobs and learners researching school projects amongst others.

According to Vodacom the North West currently has 64 libraries on VSAT and 36 on ADSL; Mpumalanga has 86 on VSAT and eight on ADSL; with Limpopo 50 on VSAT and 18 on ADSL. As the project is running in parallel across all three provinces, over 150 sites are already up and running.

“Meso have done a great job – they have met all our deadlines and provided a very professional service. Their communication with the NLSA has been a key success factor, as has the co-operation of all the provinces,” stated Ledwaba.

Lazarus added: “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.”
 
In related news Google recently announced the launch of Woza Online, an local initiative with which the company and its partners (including Vodacom) are aiming to bring local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) online.

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