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Guest Post: Jennifer DeKalb-Poyer

IMG_6832For the majority of Kibera residents, the last time they set foot in a library was in primary school.  While primary school is free in Kenya, secondary school is prohibitive to many citizens because of the high costs.  Many cannot afford the fees and drop out to find work.  Therefore, books are seen as something for students.  The few informal public libraries in Kibera are mostly used by students and are overcrowded.  Individuals who enjoy reading are not able to regularly borrow books, and buying books is out of the question when you are struggling to pay for your daily needs.

Libraries in Kenya are not the community resource centres that they are in much of the world.  The wealth of knowledge and enjoyment that is in a library is simply unobtainable.  Tunapanda and Common Libraries want to bring the joy and empowerment of libraries to the residents of Kibera.  But, to do that, we need to reinvent what a library means, what it can offer and how it delivers those services.

Together, we have the expertise to build a wireless mesh network in Kibera – one open and freely available to residents – a network with access to e-books from across the globe and East Africa.  It could carry educational talks and longer courses. It could also provide access to community information about local resources that are available – everything from health care centres to how to contact your MP. Most importantly, all of this will be available free of charge to everyone living in Kibera.

According to the World Bank, 93% of Kenyans are mobile phone users .  A large percentage of those phones will be smart phones that will be able to connect to the free network and download a book, talk or information. Larger educational content will also be available on low-tech DVDs or downloadable to pen drives to ensure that anyone can access the content.

It is time to reinvent the library and make it relevant to users in their locale.  In a place like Kibera, a new kind of library is being formed.  It may not be made of bricks and mortar but could make education, information and enjoyment freely available to residents and, with that, all the difference.

We need your support to make this happen, so please give generously:  http://www.goteo.org/project/kibera-mesh-network/

Thank you to those who have already given.

Tunapanda Institute and Common Libraries

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