Vodacom has announced the successful implementation of Phase 1 of a libraries project for internet connectivity across three provinces – North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
When completed, almost 300 community libraries will be connected using VSAT and Vodacom ADSL services.
The National Department of Arts and Culture multi-million Rand project is managed and driven by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) and is being successfully implemented due to tight co-operation and communication between the service provider and Provincial Libraries.
“This project started when we were implementing the SITA/ NLSA open source Library Information Management System (LIMS),” says Lesiba Ledwaba, CIO National Library of South Africa and head of project.
“There’s a need for all our libraries countrywide to communicate with each other and have access to one another’s collections. Before the roll-out of LIMS, it was noted that there were many libraries without connectivity, so connectivity for LIMS became a priority.
“The next logical step was to extend internet connectivity services to local communities. With so many schools, especially those in rural areas, without libraries or connectivity of their own, it became clear we could really start to make a difference in the education and life-style of these rural communities. We started with the rural areas first, and have also ensured all libraries have ‘reasonable’ internet capacity,” says Ledwaba.
“We partnered with Meso ICT Solutions to implement the project across the first three provinces,” says Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive Vodacom Business Services, “and can report that they were able to bring the libraries online very quickly and efficiently.”
“Vodacom was chosen as the carrier for the system due to them being able to offer both fixed line and satellite connectivity,” says Thibedi Mogoba – CEO Meso Group. “Additionally they provide second tier support from dedicated lines to the Vodacom Call Centre, with us providing first line support. We monitor the performance and usage and thus can be proactive with any issues that might arise.”
With an average of 14 workstations per library and with free access for citizens, the resources provided by this project are invaluable. The project meets the stated national objective to enable all levels of South African society to gain access to knowledge and information that will improve their socio-economic condition. Libraries are already seeing use extending to users searching for jobs, learners researching school projects, and SMEs utilising the many tools available to them on the internet.
“A 1 Mb pipe was implemented for each library,” says Mogoba, “and we have measured optimal use at almost all sites since switch on.”
The North West now has 64 libraries on VSAT and 36 on ADSL; Mpumalanga has 86 on VSAT and 8 on ADSL; with Limpopo having 50 on VSAT and 18 on ADSL.
As the project is running in parallel across all three provinces, over 150 sites are already up and running.
“Meso have done a great job – they have met all our deadlines and provided a very professional service. Their communication with the NLSA has been a key success factor, as has the co-operation of all the provinces,” says Ledwaba.
Lazarus concludes; “Connectivity is so much more than access to the internet – it provides every citizen with information, knowledge and resources that can literally change their lives. The fact that they can now access the wealth of information available globally, for free, brings the outside world that much closer to their everyday lives. This project is a milestone in our education and social services sectors and brings information to the remotest rural communities.”