The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the expansion of its Global Libraries Initiative, a project that will invest $328 million over seven years to help developing countries plan and install free computer and Internet service in public libraries and reading rooms. According to the foundation, 87 percent of people worldwide have no Internet access. The Global Libraries Initiative aims to alleviate the problem of computer and Internet availability in 12 to 15 developing countries.
As part of the expansion, announced Thursday, three new grants were made to three countries, totaling $17.5 million. Of that, $16.2 million will go to the Republic of Latvia as part of a joint effort with the country's government to install broadband Internet connections in all of the country's libraries, provide an average of three computers per library, and train both librarians and library patrons in computer use. Of the remaining grant money, $1.1 million will go to Botswana to aid in a national effort to install computers in public libraries and provide Internet connectivity. Another $220,000 will go to the Republic of Lithuania to make computer and Internet access in public libraries free.