SURF LAKELAND –
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
The ability to access computers and the internet has become increasingly important, especially when dealing with remote learning and other impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea of the "digital divide" refers to the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and handicapped portion of the population that do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access.
Although the number of Americans with access to computers and the internet continues to grow on a yearly basis, the digital divide also continues to grow at an alarming rate. On the one hand, sections of society already connected are adopting newer technologies at a faster rate than some of the lower socioeconomic areas that don’t have the same connectivity. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the gap is widening along already strained economic and racial lines.
In an effort to address this issue, the City of Lakeland has created a grant program and is working with various agencies to help bridge that gap. The most recent endeavor included the installation of WiFi at the Boys & Girls Club. Oscar Torres, Director of Information Technology said, “The project included the installation of three wireless access points, a network switch and a fiber optic port so students at the Boys & Girls Club would have blazingly fast internet.” He added, “The coverage is over 10,000 sq. ft. and includes the open area used as a collaboration site and a computer lab/business center. The entire area within the building is also covered by the Surf Lakeland WiFi.”
Keri White, Unit Director for the John L. Sanders Boys & Girls Club, stated in a letter, “Thank you for the WiFi. I can’t count the number of times over the past three years that our internet wasn’t working and this makes it very difficult to complete the simplest daily tasks.” She added, “We created a business center that assists parents in filling out job applications, creating resumes and printing items. The new connectivity not only helps the students who attend the Boys & Girls Club, but also those parents who now have a place to access the internet.”
For more information on the City’s Surf Lakeland grant process created to help bridge the digital divide, please visit LakelandGov.net/DigitalDivide.