Many of us take for granted the iPads, Kindles, smart phones, and computers at our fingertips, myself included. Despite all the technological devices in our lives today, there is still a digital divide in this country. While this is not news to some, many people in lower income areas do not have internet or computer access at home.1 This means that they are missing out on applying for jobs and are unable to advance their technology skills. In Chicago, less than 50 percent of the population in lower income neighborhoods have internet at home. In an effort to address this problem, the Chicago Public Library will initiate a wi-fi hotspot lending pilot program at various library branches. Called “Hotspot at Home,” the library will lend free hotspots and laptops to their patrons, and supplement the program with additional training in digital literacy.2 In the rush to keep current with job skills and technological trends, this pilot project will go far in helping Chicago’s underserved communities catch up and expand their skills. Providing access has always been an important tenet of librarianship. Whether it is access to books or computers, libraries play a major role in supporting their communities with such initiatives.
According to Catherine Brown’s article, the City of Chicago has set a precedent for this program in its Tech Plan. The goals of the plan are to, “accelerate job creation, improve quality of life for all Chicagoans, generate cost savings in government operations, provide increased digital access and skills, expand Chicago’s STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] workforce, and continue to encourage civic engagement.”3 The Chicago Public Library will play a major part in this citywide effort. How will the success of Hotspot at Home be measured? Success will be determined by a participant’s “increasing comfort with digital technology” and the “willingness and ability” to use it in the future.4 This idea is a great way to tackle the technological inequity that exists. Let’s hope that this pilot project is a success, and enables Chicago’s citizens to stay competitive and achieve more reliable access to the internet.
- Catherine Brown, “Chicago Public Library Increases Internet Access Through its Innovative “Hotspot at Home” Program; lending service will include laptops and digital skills training,” March 16, 2014, Knight News Challenge.
- Chicago Tech Plan Overview, Chicago Tech Plan .
- Brown, “Chicago Public Library Increases Internet Access.”