A Good Trend

(Updated Below)

This is a great idea:

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will award $900,000 to public library systems in New York City and Chicago, part of a larger pool of innovation grants worth nearly $3.5 million, to allow disadvantaged families and individuals to borrow portable Wi-Fi hotspots and take them home. (my emphasis)

The New York City Public Library’s pilot project will allow families to borrow mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices for up to a year, with the goal of reaching 10,000 households. The program, which will receive $500,000 and will be run in the library’s 92 branches, is targeting users whose current access to the Internet is limited to 40 minutes a day.

The Chicago program, which will receive $400,000, has a much smaller window for borrowing—devices will be available for three-week loans, though the goal is to hone the loaning model and expand it over time. The Chicago program will also make laptops and tablets available, the Knight foundation said.

In both cases, the loaning of equipment will be coupled with training meant to increase borrowers’ overall digital literacy and Internet skill.

While the impetus for this initiative was to support families of K-12 students, note that borrowers may also be individuals. Thus adult learners who lack access to the Internet at home could benefit from this program as well — and it would be relatively easy in both cities to partner up with the adult education community to ensure that the digital literacy training offered is accessible to adults with low literacy.

Public libraries, by design, they are there to support learning and access to information for everyone in the communities they serve. Initiatives that look to public libraries as the focal point for community internet access is a good trend for adult education.

UPDATE 6/30/14: Another story about this initiative here.