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South Africa’s Smart Cape recognized with 2003 Access to Learning Award

subject: Access to Learning Award
international library award
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award
2003 ATLA winner
Smart Cape

CLIR Press Release:

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Kara Palmer

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

(+1) 206.972.7818

Alice Bishop

Council on Library and Information Resources

(+1) 202.939.4763

Mymoena Ismail

City of Cape Town: Smart Cape Office

27 21 400 2030


South Africa’s Smart Cape recognized with 2003 Access to Learning Award

Cape Town’s program will receive US $1 million monetary award to expand public access to information, computers and the Internet

BERLIN—The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today presented the Smart Cape Access Project of Cape Town, South Africa, with the 2003 Access to Learning Award for their exceptional efforts to provide free access to computers and the Internet to the people of Cape Town. Smart Cape also received a US $1 million monetary award to replicate the pilot project in all 107 public libraries in Cape Town, provide training for library staff, patrons and volunteers, and further their innovative work to bring information technology to the public.

“Smart Cape has made impressive strides in improving public access to information in Cape Town. We are eager to see the benefits this project will reap on a larger scale,” said Carol Erickson, Senior Program Officer of the International Library Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “With these computers, patrons can type résumés, conduct business, communicate with friends, family and other cultures, and find job opportunities across town or across the world.”

In a city where more than 60 percent of residents have never used a computer, the Smart Cape pilot project has installed 30 computers in six libraries. The computers have attracted 5,600 new users and an average of 7,000 people each month. The project, implemented by the city’s Directorate for Information Technology in 2002, is the first to provide no-cost computer and Internet access to patrons in disadvantaged neighborhoods who may not otherwise have such access.

“The Smart Cape Access Project has helped connect the people of Cape Town with the world—putting critical information about government services, health and education at their fingertips,” said Nomaindia Mfeketo, Executive Mayor, City of Cape Town. “This award will help us expand our efforts and bring the project to the remaining 101 libraries in the city.”

Smart Cape is a successful partnership between local government, public libraries and private enterprise. The city of Cape Town supplied the refurbished computers, and Xerox and CableCom Ltd. donated printers and network cables. The six libraries participating in the project include Brooklyn, Delft Main, Grassy Park, Guguletu, Hector Peterson-Lwandle, and Wesfleur-Atlantis.

The Access to Learning Award annually recognizes an outstanding library, library agency or similar organization that provides patrons with no-cost public access to information in innovative and useful ways. Only entities outside of the United States are eligible for consideration.

This presentation marks the fourth year of the award. The BibloRed library network of Bogotá, Colombia, received last year’s award. In 2001, both Proyecto Bibliotecas Guatemala (Probigua) and the Biblioteca del Congreso de la Nación Argentina were award recipients. And, the Helsinki City Library of Finland was the first recipient in 2000. Each year the award is presented during the World Library and Information Congress.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) administers the Access to Learning Award. An international advisory committee of librarians and information technology experts reviewed more than 300 applications based on efforts to make technology freely accessible to the public, train the public in using technology, educate staff on technology use and reach out to underserved communities.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is building upon the unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in global health and learning. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $24 billion.

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to expand access to information, however recorded and preserved, as a public good. In partnership with other organizations, CLIR helps create services that expand the concept of “library” and supports the providers and preservers of information. Through projects, programs, and publications, CLIR works to maintain and improve access to information for generations to come both in the United States and around the world.

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