Villagers’ petition wins high speed Internet for 4,500 people

Inspired by the success of their local library’s service for farmers, villagers from Glavinci in central Serbia organized a petition to demand high-speed Internet for the whole village.  It worked and now over 4,500 people living in Glavinci and 20 kilometres around the village have access to high speed wireless Internet in their village library and in their homes.

‘What amazed us was that the villagers brought their petition to the village library, and asked the librarians to contact the public library in town’ said Ms Suzana Tanasijević, a librarian at Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina. ‘It means that the villagers now see the public library as an initiator of change in the community.’

Glavinci village library is part of the AgroLib-Ja service for farmers, which was started with support from EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP). Coordinated by Public Library Radislav Nikčević, the AgroLib-Ja service provides free access to the Internet in four village libraries. The service includes an information-sharing website for farmers, and librarians train farmers to use the Internet to find information about farming methods, grants and other opportunities. The farmers used their new computer skills to develop a lively online farm produce market – AgroLib – and are reporting increased sales of fruit, dairy produce, vegetables, honey and handicrafts over the Internet.

AgroLib-Ja became extremely popular. At first, Glavinci library used a mobile 3G Internet connection for AgroLib-Ja, and for a while, this slow connection was the only Internet access in the village. Later, some villagers bought personal computers and installed 3G connections at home. But they wanted a better quality connection.

Glavinci is located in a valley, and a high-speed wireless connection required antennae in an elevated position. The villagers identified a tank at a local factory as the best place for the antennae, but the factory management was reluctant to allow the installation.

So the villagers launched a petition, collected signatures and handed the petition to the librarian in Glavinci. They asked her to take the petition to Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina.

‘The director addressed the Management Board of the factory in writing, explaining how important high-speed Internet was for the development of both the village library and the village,’ said Ms Tanasijević. ‘The director also addressed the local self-government, asking them to use their authority and legitimacy to explain to the Management Board the significance of placing the antenna on the tank,’ she said.

The factory Management Board took these appeals seriously.They allowed installation, and now the wireless signal covers a radius of about 20km around Glavinci, reaching 4,500 people.

According to the local computer and Internet service provider, villagers are rushing to connect. In just one month, about 30 households have applied for connections.

‘We are really impressed by the understanding the villagers now have about the value of new information technology – especially the Internet – for developing the village and for farming. Three years ago, before AgroLib-Ja, no-one from the three villages intended to use computers and the Internet,’ said Ms Tanasijević.

Source :  EIFL-PLIP
Author:  Jean Fairbairn, EIFL-PLIP Communications

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