Questions & answers

Why did Latvia receive a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?

Computers and the internet are powerful tools connecting people with information and knowledge which, in turn, create opportunities, fairness and hope. However, they only provide real benefits if all people, regardless of their age, race or birthplace, have access to those tools.

Representatives of the Global Libraries initiative programme invited Latvia to apply for a grant on the basis of several criteria, including – warranted necessity, the existence of a strong library systems, appropriate infrastructure (for example, capacities of the electrical and internet networks), proven management skills and a determination to ensure public access to technologies, also the capabilities required to introduce and maintain such services.

What is the Foundation grant financing?

The grant provides Latvia with the resources required to provide free access to computers, including the provision of broadband internet connections at all of Latvia’s libraries, the development of wi-fi systems for visitors to the library, the provision of around three computers per library, also providing basic training in computer skills to library users and librarians.

Who will pay for the installation of computers at libraries?

The Foundation’s cooperation partner is the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia which, together with all of Latvia’s municipalities, is providing co-financing of US$21.2 million.

The programme is being implemented by the Culture Ministry’s State Agency Kultūras informācijas sistēmas. Microsoft has donated software to the value of US$8.9 million to the project.

What is the Global Libraries initiative?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Library initiative is a programme under which the Foundation assists libraries throughout the world to provide free access to computers and the internet. In Chile, the Foundation is cooperating with national and local government leaders to ensure free access to computers and the internet as well as training in all 368 public libraries. Since the project was commenced in 2001, the proportion of libraries equipped with computers has increased from 10 to 100%. In Mexico, the Foundation cooperates with the Ministry of Culture to support free access to computers in 30% of the country’s 8 000 libraries. In the United States, the Foundation provides libraries with the necessary equipment, training and support for public-access computers and internet access to library users. As a result of this, almost every USA library now provides free access to the internet.

What is the role of local governments in implementing the project?

The participation of local governments in the project is very significant because they must ensure the sustainability of the activities introduced under the project after the programme’s initial implementation stage.

Every single Latvian municipality is involved in the project, thus providing access to information technology and the global network to every resident, even those in Latvia’s most remote parishes.

What does State Agency Kultūras informācijas sistēmas do?

Latvian State Agency Kultūras informācijas sistēmas comes under the direction of the Ministry of Culture and is tasked with making the information resources and cultural treasures held in libraries, museums and archives more accessible to the public through the implementation of national and international projects and programmes – the National Integrated Library Information System (VVBIS), the joint catalogue of the State museum collections (NMK), the Integrated State Archive Information System (VVAIS) and others which can be viewed on the Agency’s website

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