Public Computing Centers
In 2010, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program awarded the DC Public Library $1.5 million to improve Public Computer Centers in the District. The library is contributing $667,000, a 30% match of that award.
With high unemployment and population density, and low per capita income, broadband adoption and digital literacy rates, this project addresses the high level of identified need in the national effort to bridge the digital divide. DC’s substantial low-income population relies heavily upon government-provided, public facilities for basic computer usage and Internet access, but the existing resources are insufficient to meet the demand.
At the Capitol View Neighborhood Library, for example, customers put the public computers to heavy use. They line up outside the branch before it opens, waiting to sign up for the opportunity to use a computer. During the course of the day, and especially after 3 p.m., customers often wait as long as three hours for computer time. Long delays are common: at most library facilities, the public computers are in such demand that average wait time for computer use is 45-90 minutes on a weekday, and 1-2 hours on Saturdays. At the central library location, the wait is 1-2 hours on weekdays and 2-3 hours on Saturdays. At library branches in Ward 7 (where Capitol View is located), public computers are in even greater demand: wait times are 1-3 hours on weekdays, and 2-4 hours on Saturdays.
The root of the enormous need for public computers in DC is easy to understand. At 15.8 percent in December 2009, DC has one of the worst state unemployment rates in the country; in its underserved area (Wards 5, 7 and 8), 21.5 percent of residents are unemployed. In Ward 5, per capita income was $21,551, or 68.1 percent of the national average (based on 2003 data, the most recent available). In Ward 7, per capita income was $19,035, or 60.2 percent of the national average. In Ward 8, per capita income was $14,137; only 44.72 percent of the national average. At such low income levels, the decision to purchase a computer and broadband Internet access is understandably one that many District residents cannot afford to make. As a result, they must rely on publicly available computers.
This project will reduce users’ wait time and benefit individuals who don’t have access to a computer and/or Internet at home. Users will also benefit from trainings offered at the computer centers.
New computer centers will be created at three schools in one of the most impoverished areas in DC. The library has already created a new center at the Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC), which previously had no lab. Two recreation centers and every DC Public Library will receive new computers. The grant and match also provide for upgraded broadband at all libraries, meaning faster access and speedier downloads for library users.
Please click on the map below to view progress on this project.
View DCPL BroadbandUSA in a full screen map