The Role of the Legal Deposit Library in Bridging the Digital Divide: A Case Study of the Msunduzi Library in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Mpubane E. Matlala


In the 21st Century, the pace of globalization and the growth of Information Communication Technology (ICT) facilities, such as computers and the Internet are fuelling human advancement. The development of ICT applications plays a vital role in providing information access. Access to the Internet is not enough, but ICT applications and the intellectual knowledge, expertise and skills to use them to find relevant information and solve problems is what is essential. It is critical that people who have access are in a better position as compared to those who lack access. This gap is known as the “digital divide”. In this digital era of information, people who do not have access to the Internet are at a disadvantage. This paper examines the role of a Legal Deposit Library in managing the Digital Divide in the Pietermaritzburg area. This is informed by the idea that libraries play a significant role in helping to bridge the digital divide by providing free access to the Internet and other ICT tools to users. It is well known that the library is the only place where people can access free information through ICTs without any costs. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used in the collection of data. Data is therefore, obtained through self-administered questionnaires, interviews, and observation. This triangulation of methods of data collection is designed to increase the validity and reliability of the results. The findings indicated that the Msunduzi library plays a key role in the delivery of digital inclusion activities, community engagement and social inclusion. The results indicated that while the Msunduzi library has made a considerable effort to ensure provincial-wide access to ICT, which currently constitutes an effective instrument for meeting information needs, a considerable number of challenges still exist. The factors impeding easy access are unearthed in this article and therefore, the paper recommends that the public library should engage on more outreach programs in order to include more people of the communities as it is clear that, ICT tools are the requirements for accessing information and participating in the global knowledge system because the ability to access ICT tools has become important to individuals to connect economically, politically, and socially with others in the world. 

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