Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s wonderful to be here today for the launch of the MTN Foundation’s 21 Days of Y’ello Care, an event for which the U.S. Embassy has been a proud and staunch partner. The Kingdom of Swaziland is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to information access. The MTN Foundation and its partners, including the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland, are sending a strong message about people’s right to access information. Communities that have access to timely and relevant information are better positioned to eradicate poverty inequality, provide quality education, support cutting-edge health initiatives, and find innovative solutions to their challenges. The UN recognizes that the foundation for strong societies begins with an informed and educated public – and for this reason, access to information has been recognized in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Rural communities often bear the brunt of scarce information resources and face steep odds to acquire and sustain internet connectivity. As part of this year’s 21 Days of Y’ello Care campaign, the U.S. Embassy, through the Public Affairs Section, is providing two eGranary Digital Libraries to two rural schools. These offline databases offer an “internet in a box” solution for under-resourced schools and communities. They provide instant access to over 32 million digital resources, including educational materials, videos, books, journals, and websites. The database is compiled through copying web sites, with permission, and placing them on internal networks at partner institutions in developing countries. A single eGranary database, connected to a wired or wireless local area network, can serve thousands of users. Our Embassy team will be installing these two digital libraries at the School for the Deaf Primary in Siteki and KaLamdladla High School.
However, simply giving databases is not enough. We will also train recipients on using them to ensure that students and teachers can access the right tools and information. I want to commend the MTN Foundation for its annual campaign that raises awareness about technological and infrastructure challenges among diverse communities. The U.S. government has an unwavering commitment to work alongside communities as they address their own challenges. Digital libraries can help level the playing field in today’s information and knowledge-based society. It can equip students with life-long learning skills and develop their imagination and creativity, enabling them to live as responsible and informed citizens. We hope these offline databases are only the start to helping rural schools achieve their educational goals.
For these 21 days – and beyond – let us continue working together on these important educational initiatives and explore creative ways to ensure equal access to information for all communities.