Public libraries have been addressing the "digital divide" for many years, providing public access to PCs and the internet and in recent years wi-fi for clients who choose to bring their own devices. In Australia, communities have largely embraced a digital lifestyle however, "there’s still an estimated 1.1 million of us who have never accessed the internet (at June 2014)... Age and income are the main factors associated with being offline—70 per cent are people aged 65 and over, and 83 per cent earn an annual income of less than $30,000." Source: Australians embrace a digital life | ACMA [Web log post]. (2015, March 27).
A recent trend in a number of libraries in the USA to lend wi-fi hotspots is a logical next step in addressing the needs of households that do not have internet access at home. The New York Public Library has a program lending wif-fi hotspots and "the hotspot lending program means that, for a lucky few, going online no longer requires signing up to use a library computer a day in advance, lurking on the steps of public libraries after hours, or spending money at a coffee shop or fast food joint just to get a Wi-Fi password." (McKenzie, 2015).
The State Library of Queensland has recently published a research report into the models in operation for loaning wi-fi hotspots in public libraries. The report Bridging the digital divide: Loanable WiFi Hotspots. (2015) includes existing models of delivery in public libraries in the USA as well as issues to consider when exploring the possibility of implementing a similar service in your library.
- Bridging the digital divide: Loanable WiFi Hotspots. (2015). Retrieved from State Library of Queensland website: http://plconnect.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/299960/WiFiHotspotLending_FinalReport_SLQ_AccessibleVersion.pdf
- Bridging the Tech Gap. (2015). American Libraries Magazine, 46(9/10). Retrieved from https://www.mobilebeacon.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/AmericanLibraries_SeptemberOctoberIssue.pdf
- McKenzie, J. (2015, August 27). Lending Wi-Fi Program Chips Away at Digital Divide, For Now [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://civichall.org/civicist/lending-wi-fi-program-chips-away-at-digital-divide-but-for-how-long/