By AMBER GINTER
Southern Ohio Today
Rural regions in the United States, including the Appalachian region, have long struggled with a technological divide that exists with more populated areas.
From access to slower connections to cost, that divide has been a hindrance to businesses and families alike, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic where more virtual learning has been a necessity.
According to Jennifer Wright, Extension Services Coordinator at the Garnet A. Wilson Public Library of Pike County, however, there are some opportunities now available.
“The library is now not only a place where individuals can go to connect to the internet via public computers, or in-house WiFi, but (people can) also take the internet home with them,” Wright said.
Through The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), The Garnet A. Wilson Public Library has received a grant that enables community members to access WiFi at home.
FAO’s mission is to create opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy within a 32-county service district.
“Because of this grant and FAO’s partnership with Facebook and T-Mobile, we can help address the region’s digital divide even here in Pike County,” Wright said.
Paired with the “I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund” at the FAO, this grant mobilizes improved internet access for students and families.
Wright said the library will circulate 20 T-Mobile WiFi hotspot devices as a result of the funding.
Offering the hotspot devices through the library is now another way the Pike Library can help community members get the information they need in their own home’s comfort and safety.
“Convenience and ability to be connected to the internet is more important than ever, especially with what the entire world is facing right now,” Wright said.
Wright said anyone can benefit from the service, especially those who do not have internet access at home.
“The devices can be used in any T-Mobile service area. Appalachia’s digital divide is a true barrier to education, so students can access homework or do research for school,” Wright said. “Anyone can utilize the connection for telehealth visits, to seek job opportunities, for recreation and fun, and anything else that will help individuals thrive.”
Thanks to the FAO, Wright said the Pike County Library is on its way to improving its community, one device at a time.
The program will also support library systems in Adams, Athens, Harrison, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, and Vinton counties, offering 240 hotspots.
“The library tries to be everything it can be for the community, from providing access to books and movies to virtual programming to sending faxes to offering copy and notary services,” she said. “A hotspot device lending program is an excellent addition to an already very long list of services provided by the library.”
For more information visit www.pikecountylibrary.org or visit Pike County Library on Facebook.