Local nonprofit Groundwork NRG is preparing to launch an internet hotspot and computer lending technology library. The library will provide a free source of connectivity for Wyandotte County residents who might not otherwise have internet access.
The technology libraries will launch at the end of the year at two locations in northeast Kansas City, Kansas: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 18th Street and Washington Blvd and the Village Initiative, Inc., 27th Street and Quindaro Blvd.
“I think it’s really great to expand beyond the traditional role of a library of providing books or being a computer center and try to engage in this big experiment of actually loaning out technology directly, so people can bring it into their home,” said Jack Vandeleuv, digital equity coordinator at Groundwork NRG.
The technology library will be the first of its kind in northeast Wyandotte County where, according to the Kansas Health Institute, about 17% of the population do not have high-speed internet access, nor device availability like computers. Overall, three in 10 Kansans lack adequate internet access.
“A lot of civic engagement forums, from local government and nonprofits, it has all moved online during the pandemic,” Vandeleuv said. “Internet access is critical for educational opportunities, being civically engaged, finding access to the best jobs and having the skills to perform on those jobs.”
Funded by a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to build programming surrounding digital equity and inclusion, initially, the Groundwork NRG technology library will have 40 hotspots and 20 computers available for lending and will expand by spring 2022.
Vandeleuv said Groundwork NRG is looking for public input in establishing the terms and conditions for use of the technology library devices. To share your thoughts, email email@example.com or call (913) 608-9338.
In addition to the technology library, Groundwork NRG is working on ensuring digital inclusion becomes a reality for Wyandotte County residents.
The nonprofit will be working with residents to form a Digital Equity Taskforce. The mission of the taskforce will be developed collaboratively with participants, but its primary goals will include: generating community-driven research questions and insights about the state of digital inclusion in Wyandotte County and taking action to conduct outreach to support strong digital skills for residents.
The Digital Equity Taskforce will hold their first meeting in early November. To get involved with the technology library or the Digital Equity Taskforce, or if you have ideas about how to implement the programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.