Hanoi, April 20, 2009 — The Asia Foundation, the premier non-profit organization devoted to Asia’s development, announced today an 18-month project to strengthen public library institutions and support public Internet access in Vietnam, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The award of U.S. $400,715 is the first Gates Foundation grant received by The Asia Foundation. The project will help expand the public’s access to information in rural areas and provide opportunities for Vietnamese citizens to significantly improve their daily lives. The project will complement, reinforce, and broaden a concurrent planning grant from the Gates Foundation to Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC).
The Asia Foundation will work closely with its long-term partner, the National Library of Vietnam (NLV), and other public library institutions in Vietnam to expand access to information, especially for disadvantaged groups and communities. Project activities will seek to strengthen the capabilities of public library institutions to create a more welcoming and accessible library environment, and to promote public access to computers and the Internet through mass media, public campaigns, and community events.
Under this initiative, approximately 90 public library staff at the provincial and district levels, and 270 commune staff from 90 selected sites will be trained to educate library patrons on effective use of the Internet, significantly increasing their access to information. To further interest and inform citizens about these new services, local “Internet festivals” and other public outreach activities will be held in Vietnam. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a rapidly growing service area in Vietnam, with annual growth in ICT penetration nationwide estimated at 8 percent, and Internet access becoming a top demand.
While The Asia Foundation will support public access to computers and the Internet through the development of management and public outreach skills, Vietnam’s MIC will focus on developing and testing models to deliver public Internet access to pilot sites.
The purpose of the MIC pilot program is to learn which tools are most conducive to helping rural Vietnamese improve their lives. In addition to testing models of public access, MIC will take an integrated approach, including access, content, training, and advocacy. The program will focus on 99 pilot sites, primarily located in public libraries and Cultural Post Offices in three rural provinces, and will plan for potential implementation on a national scale.
The Asia Foundation has partnered with the National Library of Vietnam since 1993 on numerous education programs, including the donation and distribution of almost 400,000 English language books to provincial public libraries, research organizations, and educational institutions throughout the country over the last fifteen years.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative is working to open the world of knowledge, information, and opportunity to many more people. Part of the Global Development Program, Global Libraries works with select countries that demonstrate a need and a readiness to help public libraries provide free access to computers and the Internet and training on how to make full use of these tools. The initiative is working to transform public libraries into vital resources that can help improve the lives of millions of people.