Users' Perspectives on Computers and Internet Services Offered by Public Libraries in Bridging the Digital Divide in Ngaka Modiri Molema District
Amongst the requirements for people to participate actively in the global economy is equitable access to information. This is made available to them through the use of computers and the internet. To this end, governments across the world have identified public libraries as establishments which should provide these services and resources to their users. Many people rely on public libraries to access ICTs as a means of bridging the digital divide. This study investigated the users' perspectives on computers and internet services provided by public libraries in an attempt to bridge the digital divide. The research methodology utilised in this study was descriptive in design and quantitative by nature, and a questionnaire was administered to the users of selected public library services in Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in the North West province of South Africa. The results revealed that most of the library users who participated in this study perceive their public libraries as playing a significant and crucial role in bridging the digital divide, as they grant them access to computers and allow them to browse the internet free of charge. The respondents also indicated that they are able to type up documents of an academic and a personal nature, and to access email communications via these services. Challenges such as internet disconnection and odistrict government in Ngaka Modiri Molema sustain the provision of computers and internet services, and establish information literacy programmes in public libraries. Further research into the role of public libraries in bridging the digital divide in other districts of the North West province, or other provinces where digital divides exist, is recommended.