Can Libraries Shrink the Digital Divide?

hand touching a keyboard
Source: Anonymous Account, Flickr

The digital divide is described by Whatis.com as "the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don't or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet."

Equal access for all seems to still be light years away in some places, but even in Chicago there are neighborhoods where technology like the Internet or a computer are hard to come by.

According to the 2013 Pew Internet Project, 15 percent of American adults do not use the Internet at all and another 9 percent of adults use the Internet, but not at home. Lack of digital access may not just be due to economic and social issues. According to the same study, 34 percent of non-internet users think the Internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it or have no need for it.

While many different factors may prevent access to the digital world, public libraries are coming up with ways to fill in the gap between the digitally lost and the digitally aware. From the Internet to computer tutors, the Chicago Public Library is connecting patrons to technology one click at a time.

With our new Internet to Go program, you can borrow a Wi-Fi Hotspot Device for up to three weeks at a time. These portable hotspots connect smartphones, tablets or laptops to the Internet, providing online access at home, at work, on the bus or even in the park!

Want to learn to code? You can get hands-on experience with computer programming when you borrow The Finch (single). Use a Finch robot to practice coding in a dozen different programming languages and environments such as C++, Scratch and Python.

Need help with your computer or tablet, but actually want to interact with a human being? Make an appointment with one of our CyberNavigators. These computer tutors are available at more than 40 CPL locations to help with your digital needs, from creating a resume and job searching online to downloading and printing.

Want to explore even more? Visit our YOUmedia spaces for teens at more than 10 locations or the Maker Lab for ages 14 and up at Harold Washington Library Center.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library