Libraries as Portal for Knowledge Driven Rural Community Development Cases from Botswana

Libraries as Portal for Knowledge Driven Rural Community Development Cases from Botswana

Rebecca Lekoko (University of Botswana, Botswana), Josephine Modise-Jankie (University of Botswana, Botswana) and Christopher Busang (University of Botswana, Botswana)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-117-1.ch004
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Realizing that the rural communities lag behind with information that can help improve their lives, the government has set up the Rural Communication Program (RCP) with a goal “to provide telecommunications services to the rural areas in the most cost effective, efficient, logical and transparent manner possible” (Ministry of Communication Science and Technology, 2006, p. 14). Among specific objectives of the Rural Communications Program (RCP) is using appropriate technology to provide services, and in this case, the Internet or computers have been used to augment information found in local libraries. The Botswana Long Term Vision 2016 stipulates as a challenge the need to ensure that all people in Botswana especially those in the rural areas or those who need special assistance, receive the same benefits, and achieve their maximum potential, and RCP is the main foundation on which efforts for availing information that reaches the rural communities are based. Rural here refers to isolated and poorly served communities. These are communities where the government has identified that essential and basic services are required as part of its social obligation and mandate to integrate these areas into economic and social development of the nation. While these communities are of interest in this chapter, the chapter draws some cases from urban places because Internet connectivity in the rural areas of Botswana is still a problem.
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Libraries in Botswana are positively impacting the lives of young people in many respects. Significant breakthroughs come as a result of using the computer and Internet free of charge in public libraries. Stories presented in this case include those of a youth trained in a library on how to use computers. After this short training he pursued more studies and researched on ICT. He has now opened an Internet café in Lobatse using the Youth Grant. The business is doing very well and he is now sharing his success story as a way to motivate other people to use libraries as sources of livelihood and potential tools to eradicate poverty.

The government of Botswana through the Ministry of Youth and Culture provides the grant for funding youth. Young people are encouraged to come up with innovative ideas and if found viable, they are funded to start their businesses. Another case is that of a youth who developed his website after being trained in the Lobatse public library. He is now into business of designing and developing sales for shops in and around Lobatse. He has also completed his business plan for website development for businesses using the library facility. The third case presented is that of a young person who used the library books to learn about designing and making an airplane, The young man was able to complete the project and the airplane was tested and was able to fly. His story was broadcasted and shared on the Botswana Television program although this was a one time off report and as such the future of his project remains unknown to the public.

Some libraries are also cultural centers, for example, Mmankgodi Community Library and Cultural Centre. These libraries promote culture and are used intensively during the cultural heritage month of July each year. Throughout the year, community elders are invited to share their rich knowledge with the community especially the young generation to preserve culture. Different people with different skills on local games are invited to share their valuable knowledge. Furthermore, there are youth clubs formed by librarians and youth in the communities, e.g. there is club called My Life, known as Lifeline. Members meet every Saturday at the library or library hall to teach each other about issues affecting the nation like HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse, wrong associations and gangs. Members of the club are assigned some reading tasks and librarians assist with relevant books and or research materials for each topic.

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