By Donna Gordon Blankinship
The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend $57 million to improve Internet access at public libraries in Poland, Romania, and Vietnam.
The grants announced this week will focus largely on training librarians to use Internet resources, to make it easier for library patrons to get vital information, and to educate themselves and their children, officials said.
“Our goal is really to use technology to make sure that we’re making the world a good place for everybody, regardless of where they live,” said Deborah Jacobs, deputy director for the foundation’s Global Libraries program.
The foundation, headed by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, is also working with local governments and organizations to raise money for related expenses, like equipment and high-speed connections. In addition, Microsoft is donating millions of dollars’ worth of software to support the project.
The Gates Foundation started trying to bring Internet access to every library in the United States more than a decade ago, and it has since expanded its goal to help libraries around the world.
In November 2006, it announced similar grants for Botswana in Africa and Latvia and Lithuania in Eastern Europe.
The foundation does not expect its project to expand all over the world, but it does plan to share what it has learned so others with similar goals will have a head start. ♦