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Rwanda launches public digital library connecting users to over 800 digital books

Rwanda has scored another first by launching a digital library that avails over 800 digital books making it possible for users to access digital material without having to physically visit the facility.

Dubbed Soma, Swahili for read, and accessed on www.kplonline.org the public library carries content ranging from audio books best seller novels, motivational literature, economics, academic textbooks and biographies among others.

According to the library officials, members can now access materials from anywhere in the world while non-members can browse the library’s catalogue before signing up online to have full access to the books and materials available.

Vital Kalinganire, Technical Director of Innovation Village, which designed the library, said that there will be regular assessments to establish content on demand.

"Members can borrow up to 3 books at a time for a 14-day period and the digital library comes with an e-feedback form that allows users to suggest new content and provide feedback for future improvements on the platform, its collection and we will be monitoring its progress in the next three months," Kalinganire said.

To reach out to a larger audience, the library is partnering with higher learning institutions to give students access to the digital library to increase the materials available for learning and research purposes.

So far, the library is partnering with University of Kigali, which has about 2,000 students who have direct access to all of its digital content during the pilot phase.

Officials say that they plan to extend similar partnerships to other Rwandan institutions on the completion of a three-month pilot phase, which is currently underway.

The library currently has over 2800 members, including adults, students and children, and receives 10, 000 to 15,000 visitors monthly.

In a recent interview concerning the developments at the library, Dr Celestin Ntivuguruzwa, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education, said there are efforts to turn the facility into a learning and culture hub that is not only accessible but creative and tech savvy to promote literacy and innovation.

The recent development is expected to increase the number of people using the facility, both physically and online. The development is largely expected to benefit students and learners in higher learning institutions who say that they are in constant search for new learning materials in the course of their studies.

Nicole Umutoni, a business administration student, said that the development will enable learners access latest materials in their respective skills beyond what is availed by varsities.

She added that the convenience of being able to access content without having to physically visit the Kacyiru-based library is likely to increase use of the platform.


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