Celebrating the first International Day for Universal Access to Information
In an event that attracted multitudes of readers and just keen people, Natcom provided free internet and reading material at a stall mounted at the city centre of Maseru. With many not able to get enough of the reading material, the Natcom’s documentation centre became a typical hub of information for all on that day. A broad spectrum of reading materials provided to the ordinary Basotho people included but not limited to: government policies, constitution of Lesotho and UNESCO publications.
The gathering was also used as a platform to inform all about the importance of celebrating IDUAI, and emphasising out that universal access to information is bound up with the right to seek and receive information, which is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression.
Some of the reciepients of the information expressed their concern about the importance of accessing government held information especiaaly that is related to national polices, which they felt was never made accessible to the public. They therefore felt that it is high time that the government make policies that favour open access to information.
Another big obstacle identified by the locals during casual interviews with the Communiction and Information Programme Coordinator was the high cost for Internet services in Lesotho, which according to research were said to be higher than in any other country in Sub Saharan Africa. This they said made it dififcult for them to get well recearched and upto date publications online.
Lesotho Natcom has for the past years been playing a cardinal role in bringing information to the masses aspecially rural communities. The introduction of Mobile digital library that Natcom provides to rural areas bears testimony to this. The mobile library provides print and online information to remote areas of Lesotho as places that lack library services.
The big rush: free reading materials were offered to the visitors
Access to Information Day celebrated all over the world
This year, more than 20 countries are commemorating this international day by organizing public activities and conferences to discuss and raise awareness about freedom of information, promotion of open access and the importance of adopting right to information laws and more. Those celebrations take place for the very first time. Only in 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution declaring 28 September of every year as a special day dedicated to the access to information.
This day has particular relevance with the new 2030 Development Agenda and in particular with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.