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Economic Opportunity

EO1.2

Connect More Publicly-Accessible Computers & Internet Access to the Public

Increasing the availability of computers with internet capabilities would expand internet access to everyone in the community and help to bridge the digital divide.

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Tool Information


Goals

  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Education
  3. Youth

Description

The public needs access to information on the internet regardless of income, age or education.  Libraries provide computer labs to the public and so could other public institutions and communities of faith.  Opening school computer labs to the public and expanding the hours of the computer lab could expand the usefulness of this resource and provide access to more people.  Connecting public computers into a searchable directory could allow those with limited access to find location with free computer and internet use available.  Programs for recycling donated computers and refurbishing them for public access is an important skill and local employment opportunity within communities that also supplies public institutions with low cost equipment.  Providing more computer literacy training programs in public places paired with programs for purchasing computers that have been recycled at low cost is a strategy for leveling the playing field.  


Background

The Digital Divide is real. Low-Income are rural households are far less likely to have computers, internet service or computer literacy than high-income and urban households.  The consequences of living without access to the internet and the skills required to use it are alarming. Consider the following:

  • Many employers require online job applications
  • Social Security information is moving to online-only access
  • Accessing the Health Insurance Marketplace requires a device and an Internet connection
  • Schools increasingly rely on electronic tools to educate our children
  • The Internet keeps people connected to their friends and family
  • A connection to the Internet leads to greater success finding employment
  • Many bills can only be paid on-line
  • Signing up for government services
  • Civic Engagement and voter information often require internet access
  • Preparing for and taking a GED requires computer skills

 

The primary reasons that the US Department of Commerce cited for why some Americans do not go online at home:

  • Lack of perceived need
  • Lack of computer literacy
  • Too expensive
  • No adequate computers
  • Lack of availability or service 

Additional Information

Implementation Strategy


Champions and Partners

  • Municipal Government
  • School Districts
  • Community Colleges and Educational Institutions
  • Government services
  • Public Libraries
  • Connecting for Good
  • Faith Based Institutions
  • Educational Institutions to provide literacy and maintenance training programs
  • Digital Inclusion Alliance in Kansas City

Timeframe

Short (1-3 years)

Cost

$$

Cost Details

  • Staff to maintain a directory of pubic computers, Wi-Fi and refurbished computer services
  • Staff to supervise public computer labs
  • Maintenance and equipment costs
  • Utility cost in extending hours of operation
  • Facilities to receive and refurbish donated equipment

 

 

 

 

Funding Sources

  • NPO collecting donations and forming a coalition of funders
  • Volunteer time and donations of equipment
  • Digital Inclusion Alliance in Kansas City

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

  • Identify a champion non-profit group to connect resources that are available in an on-line platform that is also accessible easily to mobile devices
  • Map publically available computers and internet
  • Reach out to institutions in locations where there are gaps
  • Allow the program to expand organically as a network
  • Develop regional skills in refurbishing equipment and teaching computer literacy
  • Develop a program to refurbish computers and accept donations
  • Supply public institutions willing to host free public computer labs
  • Provide ongoing maintenance and support
  • Hold users accountable for taking care of public equipment

Case Study


Digital Inclusion KC

Relevance

This program is a near by regional example of a network addressing the digital divide in an urban community. It provides a good model for developing a similar rural network.  Perhaps this group will partner or share strategies to help a Flint Hills network get started.