Ottawa Public Library issues Wi-Fi loans to people who can't afford it
Pilot project starts in June, and the library plans to follow up with residents about what it meant to them
The Ottawa Public Library is hoping to ease the digital divide for people who can't afford to get online by loaning something new: Wi-Fi hotspots.
In a pilot project starting in June, the library plans to lend 75 hotspots to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get online.
Craig Ginther, the library's manager of technology services, told CBC's All In A Day they want to give more people access because the internet has become an essential part of life.
"If you want to participate fully in civic society you really do need internet access, so the goal of the project is to move toward closing that gap," he said.
The library will make the loans available out of its Alta Vista, Rideau, Rosemount and St. Laurent branches, as well as its bookmobile stops in Caldwell and Lincoln Heights.
"We only have 75 kits ... so we are not able to provide them to every neighbourhood, but we targeted certain neighbourhoods in the city that have that lower internet penetration," Ginther said.
Residents can go into those branches and request hotspots, but the library plans to get most people signed up through Ottawa Community Housing and the city's recreation department, which will be making recommendations.
People borrowing the kits will get a hotspot with a data plan and a Google Chromebook, but other devices can also connect to the Wi-Fi. Residents can sign out the device for three months.
Once the pilot project ends, the library plans to talk with participants about what having the service meant to them.
"We would really like to understand the difference [that] having the internet at home for a significant amount of time will have in people's lives," Ginther said.