Our 21st century broadband and digital equity problems are more pronounced today than ever before. However, Hawaii has the unprecedented opportunity to address these challenges thanks to our people, talent and a once-in-a-lifetime infusion of funding. This is our chance to come together collectively and make a difference.
I believe that even before the pandemic there was a digital divide. That divide grew for people without equal access to the internet, allowing people to remote work, apply for benefits, visit the doctor with a telehealth appointment, continue education, or simply stay connected to ohana and friends.
In order to achieve digital equity across the state, there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done — and some of it is already underway. There are local digital literacy and telehealth champions who have teamed up with the Hawaii state public libraries, Northstar Digital Literacy, Hawaii Literacy and the University of Hawaii Community Colleges to create Digital Ready Hawaii.
Examples of broadband equity include projects like Wifi on Wheels and Wifi on Walls. The local nonprofit organization Hawaii- KidsCAN, with initial support from partners including Kamehameha Schools, Partners in Development Foundation, Teach for America Hawaii, Kamaile Academy, AT&T, and Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council piloted this program to equip vans with wifi access points tethered to cellular service. This allows students to get access to distance learning at least when the van is town. Wifi on Walls is a more permanent solution much like wifi access at neighborhood community centers, churches and housing complexes.
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