MeckTech – Leveraging CARES for Digital Equity
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, N.C.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, in partnership with Mecklenburg County leverages a total of $500,000 of CARES funding to provide 1,400 households of eligible residents with a free, dedicated device to navigate these challenging times. Each computer would come loaded with an open source operating system, connectivity and office software.
According to the data roughly 20% of all households in Mecklenburg County lack a dedicated computer in the home. This comes out to about 80,000 households. The effects of the pandemic have shifted nearly all traditional venues of employment, education, health and library services over into the digital realm, which requires a dedicated computer to access. The MeckTech program showcases a model that can meet this challenge in terms of sustainability, economic opportunity, green/cyclical economies and digital equity.
This project represents several innovations for public libraries. The first is working with partners who can provide an open-source solution that is designed for digital novices. Endless OS is an open source OS that is designed to be accessible to everyone. The second innovation is working with a refurbisher directly to source hardware that can complement Endless OS, and bundle all the needed accessories for success in 2020. The third is using the library as a trusted anchor institution as the primary distributer.
We anticipate providing up to 1,400 households with a dedicated device between October 8 and December 30 of this year. We have sourced the devices and are quickly signing up eligible community members to the program (over 1,000 applicants at the time of this writing) and are scheduling deployment days within the community.