Bridging the digital divide

Library lends Wi-Fi to community

Zachary Bahar, News Writer

The internet is a necessity in modern life, but many Evanstonians lack access to this crucial resource. Thus, the Evanston Public Library (EPL) has begun to lend out wifi to Evanston citizens.

The program, Wifi Hotspots for Internet Access on the Go, was launched in May of 2016 with 25 devices. It has since expanded to 100 devices, 15 of which are available exclusively to ETHS students.

“The library decided to create this program to help bridge the digital divide,” said Evanston Public Library (EPL) technical services manager Timothy Longo. “We live in a society where access to the internet is important for a number of different reasons and where not everyone has access to the internet.”

As teenagers we work, find jobs, study, communicate, learn and live digitally. Living in a world without wifi drastically affects all of this.

In our generation everything is digital with technology,” said freshman Avery Davis. “[Lack of wifi access] would change everything I do and how I do it. It would change how we listen to music, how we connect with friends, how we study. You know like when you’re studying and something comes up that you need to know, you can just look it up and bang, you know it.”

While ETHS has made an effort to provide each student with a Chromebook, the device is practically useless without access to wifi.

“Lots of our students don’t have internet access at home,” said David Chan, ETHS Director of Instructional Technology. “We’ve always wanted to find more avenues to connect students and their families to the internet; this program helps us get there.”

According to a 2015 Study by the Pew Research Center, 33% percent of Americans lack home access to the internet in a time where it is increasingly necessary. Many who didn’t have access attributed it to the fees required to gain access.

This equates to around 10% of Evanston residents without internet. As more classes become paperless, it is becoming increasingly evident that to get anything done requires an internet connection.

“We have students who are using it for their entire families, for parents and siblings who have devices and need internet access,” Chan said.

While using internet in restaurants and coffee shops is a possible solution to this problem, it is drastically different from having a home internet connection.

Due to this, Chan said, “When the library announced this program we expressed interest right away. There is still a sizable population here at ETHS where students can’t access the internet. For anyone who doesn’t have home internet we want to connect them to a hotspot.”

Some cities have solved this crisis by creating a city-wide network; although Evanston does not yet have city-wide wifi, Longo feels that we are moving that way, but believes that in order for Evanston to adopt such a policy people, corporations and the government will need to buy into it and the high costs involved with such a project. The work needed will be immense.

“We will do the best we can do to bridge this gap, to fill the holes for those who need them,” Chan said.

For more information on this program and how it can help you and your family please see the Chromezone or call (847) 448-8630.