The Kenyan government has rolled out an initiative that will see all the 61public libraries across the country digitized in an attempt to set up a world-class library system to foster reading habits and facilitate research among digital-savvy generation.
The two-year project launched Tuesday by Kenya National Library Services (KNLS) and World Reader targets over 580,000 learners across the country with access to digital books (e-books) in Kiswahili and English using mobile devices – and will be undertaken in four phases in the 34 counties where Knls has presence.
Under the proposed pilot project, 11public libraries in Kibera, Kakamega, Siaya and Kisumu have already been developed to serve as model libraries with more emphasis expected to be laid on the economically backward counties.
“Our libraries are closed or simply lack relevant books. These conditions have left visitors starved for reading material. We will in partnerships with other stakeholders establish networks of digital libraries for sub-Saharan Africa and help ensure a smooth transition to a digital future,” said Hassan Wario, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts during the product launch in Knls’ Buruburu branch.
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The project titled Libraries, e-Reading, Activities and Partnerships (LEAP) the Kenyan national library service received 3,000 e-readers each preloaded with 200 books at a total cost (grant) of $3.5million from World Reader in form of equipment (e-readers) and digital books as well as in training facilitation.
The KNLS anchored in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts said it will fashion a national virtual library in the public libraries in order to aid an inclusive database on digital resources with the help of information generated in the country.
“The KNLS board has committed a matching fund of Sh7.2million to cover costs for training libraries, customs clearance charges for the e-readers, charging and storage system and monitoring,” said KNSL Director Richard Atuti.
The government has a similar ongoing initiative, dubbed laptop project that targets primary schools with laptop gadget and is being undertaken by the ministry of Education.