ACCESS | Asia 's Newspaper on Electronic Information Product & Service
December 2005 No.55  
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Boat-Library program in Bangladesh receives Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award 
Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS), a nongovernmental organization in Bangladesh, has been named the recipient of the 2005 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award. SSS was recognized for an innovative program that uses indigenous boats to provide free public access to computers and the internet to residents in impoverished remote communities.
The award was announced August 16 at the annual International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' World Library and Information Congress in Oslo.
Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities of any nation in the world. Many of its people are forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land. SSS educates farmers about effective agricultural practices as well as other issues affecting their livelihood and health. During the annual monsoon season, which lasts three to four months, the boat libraries, schools, and mobile internet units dock at riverside communities. The SSS-supported boats are equipped with computers, printers, mobile phones, multimedia projectors, books, and other information resources. The project area has no electricity; the computers that provide internet access are run by solar energy and fuel-efficient generators.
Females account for half the population of Bangladesh, but religious and cultural traditions prevent them from traveling far from home to receive education or training. Through the boat program, girls can attend school without leaving their villages. Locally developed Web tutorials, recorded documentaries, and other electronic resources offered on the boats are helping these girls become literate, contributing members of their communities. In 2004, the SSS boat program reached about 86,500 families. 
CLIR manages the USD1 million Access to Learning Award, which is given annually to public libraries or similar organizations outside the United States for innovative programs providing free public access to computer technology, particularly for underserved communities. Past award recipients include libraries and organizations in Argentina, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Guatemala, and South Africa. CLIR is soliciting applications for 2006. For information, visit here. (Reprinted with permission from CLIR News #47 Sep/Oct 2005, published by the Council on Library & Information Resources.) 
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