READ bags Bill and Melida Gates Foundation award

Kathmandu, August 21 :

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today presented its 2006 Access to Learning Award of $1 m to Nepal’s Rural Education and Development (READ) programme, an NGO, for providing no-cost public access to computers and the internet to citizens and its commitment to promoting information and literacy.

A statement issued today by the Foundation said, the award is given to READ for providing strategies for communities to develop and maintain access to information over the long term.

“READ’s approach reinforces our belief that public libraries serve a vital function in communities and that by providing access to information and learning, they can make lasting impacts on generations to come,” said Martha Choe, director of Global Libraries Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in the press release.

Since 1991, READ has established 39 self-supporting community libraries in Nepal affecting the lives of more than half a million people.

The organisation provides seed funding to design, build, furnish and stock libraries, train librarians and launch an income-generating enterprise in each community to help pay for the library over the long term “The success and local support of our program shows the crucial need for greater access to information and technology in the developing world,” said Sharad Babu Shrestha, country director of READ.

“Even in the poorest communities we serve, families that can only contribute a handful of rice to sell in support of the library construction are strongly committed to developing new resources that will help their families and communities prosper and grow.”

The Access to Learning Award will help sustain READ’s library development projects and will specifically expand its capacity to provide information technology to communities throughout the country.

The funds will help increase the number of computers available in libraries, support the development of a community internet network that can reach remote areas not yet served by the existing communications infrastructure, and bring new interactive educational and medical resources to the libraries.