Libraries versus Larimer challenges what’s essential in Chester during coronavirus

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Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer digs into the internet discrepanciesthroughout Philly reminding us how few poor households are connected and what that means for home learning.

About 14,700 kids in Philadelphia didn’t own a computer in 2018, according to the latest census estimates. And thousands more lack the internet connection they need to learn from home, as more than 21,500 kids did not have an internet subscription. The survey of 130,000 people found that fewer than a third of the students at public and charter schools in pockets of North and Southwest Philadelphia used a computer at home to access the internet.

They mention how those numbers don’t take into account the many people who count on their smartphone with data access to serve as their sole portal to the internet.

…almost 80% of Philadelphia households had broadband, including smartphone-only plans, fourth-lowest among the 25 largest U.S. cities…Still, census data show that large swaths of the city are without a fixed wireline connection, putting them at a disadvantage as education, health care, and commerce increasingly move online. Many households access the internet solely from smartphones, which are hardly a substitute for faster, fixed wireline connections to computers, experts have said…coronavirus has made online health care and remote access to work and school more important.

Smartphone access to the internet is great for social media and entertainment, but you’re going to have a hard time doing research, filling out forms, and writing a paper without a computer and the internet.

Americans who rely on smartphones were more likely to run up against data caps, and say they had a hard time paying service bills, said Monica Anderson, a researcher at the Pew Research Center. These smartphone-only users were also more likely to apply for jobs on their phones, rather than computers with larger screens and more capabilities, she added.

I imagine Chester’s numbers are similar to Philly’s inner city neighborhoods when it comes to computer and internet access. That’s why Crozer Library is so valuable.