Bill Gates Foundation to help Lithuania and Latvia

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the launch of a new charity program. It is similar to the well-known “Soros grants” in the past and aims to eliminate the “digital section” in developing countries through the organization of public and free Internet access points, re-equipping libraries and staff training.

    The total budget of the new program is $ 328 million, and the first countries to receive funding from Bill Gates are Latvia and Lithuania .

    More than 80% of public libraries in Latvia are connected to the Internet, but in rural areas the quality of communication is rather poor. Gates Foundation is going to allocate $ 16.2 million to help Latvian villagers.

    As part of the program, 3833 new computers will be installed and connected to the Internet in 874 Latvian libraries by 2008, and for 17 libraries this will be the first connection. Each library will have at least three computers with broadband and wireless connections.

    More than 1,400 librarians will receive special training in the skills of working effectively with information technology.

    The Latvian parliament has allocated an additional $ 21 million to finance this program, while the Microsoft Latvia division will install software worth $ 7.9 million on computers (it may not be possible to remove it under the terms of the agreement).

    Lithuania at the first stage will receive a relatively modest grant in the amount of $ 220.396 for training librarians.

    Today only 37% of Lithuanian houses have computers, only a third of households are connected to the Internet. The state has made sure that all citizens can access the Internet from the library, but at least half of the librarians do not have the appropriate qualifications. So right now, the Gates Foundation cannot put computers there. Throughout 2007, staff training will take place, and then the second part of the grant for the supply of equipment for thousands of libraries will be allocated.

    In addition to Lithuania and Latvia, the Gates Foundation will also finance the African state of Botswana. Over the next seven years, another 12 to 15 countries will receive assistance from Gates.

    As you know, Bill Gates is one of the most generous philanthropists of our time, and the budget of his charity fund is estimated at $ 32 billion. For the sake of his fund, he is going to completely leave Microsoft in the near future. Now he occupies an honorary position there, but has already moved away from management.

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