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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RIC-NET PARTICIPATES IN THE FIRST AFRICAN PUBLIC LIBRARIES’ SUMMIT


Quotations can pack so much wisdom in such few words, and this is exactly what several speakers at the African Public Libraries Summit did.  So much was shared and or implied in these few quotations; Public Libraries should be made temples of knowledge, creating innovative ways of addressing lives and providing knowledge”: Adama Samassekou, Chairman Board of Philosophy and Humanities and President of MAAYA Network Global Linguistic Diversity.
Key Note Speakers at the Summit
If you are planning for tomorrow, grow rice, if you are planning for the future, grow trees but if you are planning for a life time establish a library”: Omara Jatta, Acting Director of the Standards and Quality Assurance Directorate, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Gambia.
Libraries provide the oxygen for today’s information economy”: Garoma Daba Jaleta, African Union representative.
The incorporation and use of ICT tools and resources in libraries is very key because it opens up new possibilities for both libraries and library users. It should be noted that Libraries today have moved away from the old traditional book stores to more dynamic and digital social centers geared at addressing all community needs as identified from time to time”: Monika Elbert, Eifl.
These quotations seemingly summarize what the participants at the African public libraries summit discussed during the three days. The Summit that was conducted at Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg started on 19.09.12 to 21.09.12 and brought together approximately 150 delegates and speakers from all over Africa.
The participants included key librarians and directors of Public libraries across Africa, some Lecturers of Library and Information Sciences from Universities in Africa, Permanent secretaries and Ministers of culture and education, and other institutions running library projects like RIC-NET, Life line Project-Botswana, Masiphumelele Library, Eifl, World reader, Read Nepal, to mention but a few. 

The summit whose theme was “Informing Africa, Developing Africa” was funded by Bill and Melinda gates foundation.

The purpose of the summit was to get African Policy makers and Librarians to meet and discuss issues related to the C21st libraries, the contribution of Libraries to development priorities, sharing success stories and experiences about public libraries’ impact and above all to agree on the establishment of a public library network.

During the summit participants discussed several topics like Public libraries in an inclusive African knowledge society, how public libraries can contribute to existing regional and national policies, developing national policy in support of African public libraries, beyond access-a conversation about the global effort to turn all libraries into hubs for development, how public libraries contribute towards Africa’s development, technological change development and public libraries good practice, regional perspectives on public library policy in Africa.
Other things shared were success stories from community and public libraries as well as the requirements for establishing a public libraries’ network.  
Sharing their experiences and success stories, a participant from Botswana shared how libraries were helping youth entrepreneurs to find jobs, get connected to other local entrepreneurs and as well supported them do develop marketable business plans, while Read Nepal shared how libraries have transformed the livelihoods and the social economic status of the women there. 
Mr. John Silco ; Presenting RIC-NET Community Library  work with Farmers
On the other hand Stephen Agbenyo from Ghana shared how libraries/technology had improved maternal health in Ghana, while Nyasha Sithole shared on how the library has bridged the digital divide in Cape Town. In the same vein John shared how community libraries have reached out to farmers in the Rwenzori Region of Uganda. Last but not least one Zev Lowe of World reader also shared how the use of digital books has transformed African classrooms and libraries in Africa.  

Commenting on the success stories shared, Ms. Deborah L. Jacobs, the Director Global Libraries’ initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, noted that it’s impressive to learn of how much the libraries are impacting on the lives of and economy of Africa. She however noted that it’s up to us (librarians) to develop and sustain libraries that will have continued profound impact on the people in Africa. 

Adding on this Professor Adama noted that it’s also up to us (Librarians) to document, share and tell people what we are doing and offering asserting that Africans have a problem of not documenting what they do, that is why as much as a lot is being done little is being reported and shared thus the continued fallacy that Libraries aren’t relevant in today’s era.

Presenting at the Summit Professor Adama among others highlighted the key challenges for public library advancement.  He noted that while progress has been made to advance and expand how public libraries in Africa contribute to development priorities, there are still significant challenges. And these include lack of adequate funding, need for digital technology, absence of professional staff/training, physical resource limitations, and scarcity of national policies among others. These Prof. Adama emphasised must be addressed at both the country level and across Africa.

Other facilitators and presenters at the summit were Dr. Kingo Jotham Mchombu, Professor and dean of the faculty of humanities and social science, University of Namibia, Dr. Ingrid Parent, President, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Dr. Victoria Okojje, Mr. John K. Tsebe, Dr. Buhle Mbambo, Executive Director of Library services, University of South Africa, Getrude Kayaga Mulindwa, Director National Library of Uganda, Dr. Justin Chisenga, and Dr. Helena Asamoah- Hassan to mention but a few.

Ms. Alice Mbayahi from RIC-NET (with glasses) Presenting  committee report 
From the discussions several issues emerged and or were agreed upon. These included; Participants agreed that since libraries have the potential to transform the local economies through the provision of the necessary information and knowledge transfer they must be in the fore front of the knowledge society and knowledge economy relating to the national development agenda.
Public Libraries must offer ICT access and also promoted e-governance.
Public libraries should link with the education sector and all stakeholders to incubate a habit and culture of reading for education and leisure.
In addition to this, participants agreed that Public libraries should become self sustainable, have community ownership and take lead in owning our knowledge and that public libraries should not only provide a service but should also know the community needs and then tailor their services to meet/address these needs.
Finally it was also discussed that an enabling/supportive national or regional policy on libraries should be advocated for and put in place by the relevant policy makers to enable libraries deliver their best. Unfortunately only 11 out of 40 countries in Africa have library policies, while 22 countries do not have, whereas 2 other countries (Uganda and Botswana) have pending policies while for the remaining 5 it is not yet established if they have one or not. Participants acknowledged that if given a chance libraries can contribute to existing regional and national policies.
And that whereas many Africans do not see the connection between education and reading, they should be encouraged to read.

In summation, it was recommended that; Libraries should move away from telling what they provide to proving that libraries can change lives of individuals in the community.
And that Librarians should commit to causing impact and also be willing to be measured although their skills and capacities in several areas like impact evaluation, advocacy, use of ICT tools and resources, public relations and library management should be enhanced and or strengthened.

Summit Outcomes
  1. A minute to establish a public Libraries network was passed and a draft proposal about the same also discussed. It highlighted the terms of reference, the staffing, and membership of the Network.
  2. A draft communiqué about the summit highlighting key issues discussed and agreed upon was developed and shared with the participants.
  3. Several action points and recommendations as highlighted above were made and agreed upon and commitment to implement them secured.
On a light note, participants were treated to yummy African and western dishes and also introduced to/entertained by exciting Poets, Music and dance groups and bands that kept them refreshed, excited and feeling at home even when they were practically miles away from their mother lands.

Officiating over the closure, Ms. Deborah L. Jacobs, the Director Global Libraries’ initiative Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations and Dr. Ingrid Parent, IFLA President expressed gratitude to the organizers for the tremendous and organized work they had done, the participants for their turn up and all the facilitators and presenters for their willingness to share their knowledge and experience with others.
Ingrid also congratulated the participants upon making history- participating in the first African Public Library Summit ever.

They also challenged the participants to carry with them everything that had been discussed and ensure that they implement them. And to the policy makers Deborah called upon them to view libraries as key development partners with the potential to transform society. She appealed to them to work towards passing enabling policies for libraries across Africa.
Deborah and Ingrid pledged continued support towards Library activities in Africa and even beyond.
Participants at the African Public Library Summit at Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg. South Africa

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kamwenge E-society Center Up and Running


Kamwenge District Local Government last week received ICT equipment for the set up of the center at the district. This comes after the signing of the MOU with Rwenzori information centers Network (RIC-NET) on behalf of RWECO.
Computers, heavy duty printer/copier/scanner, furniture among other things were delivered at the District by the RIC-NET ICT team.
The equipment was received at the clerk to councils’ office by the District planning unit and there after the ICT team went ahead to assemble and laying the Local Area Network for the center.
In her remarks the clerk to council was so thankful for the partnership and said that it would boost information sharing and skills at the district. Mr.Binyina Kiiza who works with the District Planning department also was thankful and worked closely with the RIC-NET team in the set up.
Other officers at the district were also happy and appreciated such a big package that was availed to them (District).
The E-society center is in full operation this morning with an ICT staff their attending to it and receiving every interested user. The two days of serious work have left Kamwenge District Local Government headquarters with a working Local Area Network (LAN) and a wireless hotspot with active internet.
The district website will also be online very soon as we are starting the design with immediate effect.
Staff terminating cables
Center ready for use

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Prof. Katte Parry commends RIC-NET efforts on Community Library


John Silco (ED RIC-NET) , Prof. Kate and her volunteer student.

'Watering the seeds" describes the visit of Prof. Kate to RIC-NET. Her second visit to Information Centres in Kyaka, Busongora and Fort Portal encouraged the members and staff to remain Committed to Uganda Community Libraries Association(UCLA).


BRIC location at Base Camp lower, Kasese; on the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori.
Having planted the seed of Community library in 2010, the existing information centre have now turned their resource roomms to  Community libraries.




 A vibrant Busongoro Community library is now gracing the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori as one moves towards the copper and Cobalt rich valley of River Nyamwamba in Kilembe.
  
Busongora Rural Information Centre (BRIC) formerly ORDISEF
 
The Agriculture section at BRIC
Her face radiated a sign of happiness and feeling fulfilled for her effort in supporting community libraries in Uganda.
she applauded RIC-NET for successful winning the EIFL funds and was pleased to see the project being implemented as planned as she witnessed at Busongara Information Centre.
she promised to continue supporting community libraries in the region by linking them to companies that sell books at subsidized prices.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Access to information for better service delivery-Bundibugyo in Agreement

Bundibugyo District Local government has embraced information sharing and accessibility through ICT tools. This was witnessed by the District Authority signing an M.O.U with Rwenzori Information Centers Network (RIC-NET) for the provision of an E-society resource center. 
Later, on a bright Thursday morning the RIC-NET ICT team left for Bundibugyo District to set up the center at the headquarters. Delivered were the heavy duty copier/printer and scanner, Desk top computers with all accessories and furniture. The equipment was received by the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (ACAO) Mr. Kasungu who thanked the team for having delivered and fulfilled the promise to the district.
During the set up, the District Vice Chairperson also thanked the staff and the entire RIC-NET secretariat for the work well done to enable information accessibility for social accountability.
After the two days of work Bundibugyo now has a functioning E-society resource center with an active local area network (LAN) and wireless hot spot within the district offices’ premises.

The center is going to offer a number of services to the district staff, civil society and the entire community of Bundibugyo district. Services will include;
Ø  Trainings in computer literacy and web 2.0 tools
Ø  Timely information availability through the use of online platforms like the district website, d-group, e-library among others
Ø  Internet accessibility to mention but a few
The ICT team has embarked on the online platforms after the set up of the physical center. The website will also be online soon however you can now access bundibugyo news at http://bundibugyo.blogspot.com
 
During the set up the center received and recorded 15 visitors (according to the visitors’ book). The center will start full operation on Monday 10th September 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

EIFL STAFF VISIT THE RIC-NET LIBRARY PROJECTS


Supported by Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), RIC-NET through Busongora Information Center (BRIC) in Kasese is implementing a library project. The project which aims at Strengthening community libraries’ capacities to access, repackage and share timely, reliable and relevant Agriculture information with rural Farmers is run by Plant doctors, Community Information Facilitators, Librarians and RIC-NET ICT staff.
It is this project that Monika and Sandra of EIFL, visited on 24.08.12. The purpose of the visit was to learn about the progress of the project and its relevance to the community.
Wholesomely this project looks at two things; transforming the community library at BRIC from the traditional book store to a more dynamic and digital social center, where the community can access more than books but also internet and other multimedia services. And at supporting farmers to access and share information related to plant pests and disease management. This intervention is aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, improving household incomes and consequent eradication of poverty and hunger in the Rwenzori region.
Under this project sixteen (16) trained plant doctors (largely farmers) are charged with  sourcing for agricultural related information from the library internet, books, and their smart phones and passing it on to the communities during plant clinic days, conducted on market days or farmer to farmer  farm visits (extension work). 
In attempts to realize this, several activities have been conducted; procurement of books and the establishment of an agricultural section in the library, procurement of equipment; computers, smart phones, modems to mention but a few. And the training of the project staff on the use of the different ICT tools and established online platforms; webportal, http://library.ricnet.co.ug and blog http://busongoranews.blogspot.com.

Apart from the Library at BRIC, the team also visited, RIC-NET secretariat, the RIC-NET E-society centers at Kabarole and Kasese Districts’ headquarters and Kabarole Public Library as one of the RIC-NET partners in the region. At the Public Library the team met  Mr. Martin the Librarian, while at the E-society centers, the team met with the E-society center attendants, and the Kasese Deputy Chairperson Local Council five Hon. Muhindo Tadeo. 


Hon. Tadeo expressed gratitude to EIFL for choosing to support information sharing in the district and strengthening the knowledge and capacity of farmers to manage crop pests and diseases; which he said was a major threat to crop productivity and household incomes in the region.
Hon. Muhindo Tadeo the Vice Chair person LC V Kasese

He revealed that the District was grateful to RIC-NET for the information sharing (E-society Center) and Plant clinic initiatives in the region, asserting that the increased access to information and knowledge by the community/farmers is going to accelerate community development.
  
Sandra and Monica from EIFL posing for a photo at Busongora Community Library-Kasese
In addition to this, the team also interacted with the some of the plant doctors (Asthaluzi and Wilberforce) at BRIC, the BRIC Chairperson Mr. Isingoma Patrick, the  Librarian Ms. Kobusingye Lovence and some of the Library users at the Center. Other staff that participated in this activity were; the RIC-NET Information Officer-Alice, ICT Officer- Yosia, Community Out-reach Officer- Charles and the Program manger- Joselyne.

Monica and Sandra from EIFL with Staff of RIC-NET in Fort Portal
   

In a nutshell the visiting team was excited about the progress of the project and also learnt several things like, how it’s implemented, who implements it, the opinion of the beneficiaries, and milestones registered so far.