Chatham-Kent Public Library (CKPL), Chatham-Kent Employment and Social Services (CKESS) and Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team (CKOHT) have recently partnered to reduce the digital divide for residents in Chatham-Kent through the ‘Connect CK’ initiative. The digital divide refers to the gap between people who have access to modern information and communications technology and those who do not. Rural communities within Chatham-Kent continue to suffer from limited access to high-speed internet.
‘Connect CK’ allows residents without internet or devices, or who are vulnerable in other ways, to access the internet from home by borrowing a wifi hotspot or wifi-enabled laptop, booking a dedicated space in a municipal building, or receiving a free refurbished laptop. This initiative will allow residents to attend virtual appointments for medical care as well as virtual meetings for social services, court services, employment resources, community navigation, library services and more.
In a recent 2022 ‘Let’s Talk Health, CK’ survey conducted by CKOHT, 75% of respondents reported in the last year they had health care appointments that were conducted over phone or video conference, but only 35% of respondents reported that they had everything they needed for a video health care appointment. The ‘Connect CK’ program will formally connect the health system to the library system in Chatham-Kent, through offered devices and bookable private spaces, helping to bridge the divide between demand and access to virtual health care.
This initiative will offer private spaces to residents of CK at three physical locations (Chatham Branch, 120 Queen St., Wallaceburg Branch, 209 James St., and at 435 Grand Ave W., Community Human Services Building).
All 11 CKPL branches will also lend wifi hotspots and wifi-enabled laptops to residents with library cards to take home with them to support accessing the virtual world. This helps to eliminate the need to travel long distances to access internet or services and further reduces health inequities for residents of CK.
CKESS Community Navigators in partnership with Habitat for Humanity can also help qualifying individuals and organizations receive a free refurbished laptop.
Tania Sharpe, CEO and Chief Librarian at CKPL states, “CKPL staff have long recognized that the digital divide exists in Chatham-Kent. We are so pleased to be able to partner with the CKOHT and CKESS to address this service gap in Chatham-Kent”.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic we have witnessed a growing demand from clients requesting help with accessing important virtual appointments for services they are involved with. We are proud to be involved with the Connect CK initiative which will provide additional opportunity to meet this demand,” said Matt Keech, Program Manager with CKESS.
The CKOHT is a collaboration of partners committed to co-designing a local health care system with improved access to care that is easier to navigate for everyone. To learn more about the Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team, visit www.ckoht.ca.
To learn more about programs and initiatives at Chatham-Kent Public Library, visit www.ckpl.ca.
The Community Navigator program with CKESS is available to assist the residents of Chatham-Kent with navigating government, social and health services. For more information visit www.chatham-kent.ca/communitynavigators.
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