New Tech Access Hotline Connects Public to Local Resources

Where can someone purchase a home computer for as low as $60, get tips on using a smartphone, learn to use internet search engines, or find help filling out online applications for jobs, healthcare, and social services?

The answer starts with simply making a phone call.

In conjunction with National Digital Inclusion Week, May 7-11, 2018, the Kansas City Public Library is leading the launch of a new Tech Access hotline in partnership with the Digital Inclusion Coalition.

Residents can call the hotline number, 816-701-3606, Monday through Friday May 7-11 from 10 a.m. to noon. Digital Inclusion Coalition volunteers can provide guidance on technical resources across the Kansas City area, helping callers, for example, to find low-cost home internet service, low-cost or free refurbished devices, instructional classes, or one-on-one training.

After this week, people can call the number, leave a message, and a volunteer will call them back.

The hotline is not designed for tech support. Rather, it’s to help Kansas Citians who may not be online or who are connected and are looking to advance their computer skills.

Wendy Pearson, the Library’s coordinator for education and career advancement, says the goal is to connect people to resources. “Whatever a caller needs, the hotline will direct that person to the resources available in their neighborhoods and communities,” she says.

Several of those resources are organizations and agencies that are part of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition. The Library is a leading member of the coalition. Other high-profile members include the City of Kansas City, Missouri; the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County; Connecting for Good; Literacy KC; and Kansas City Public Schools.

Pearson says the hotline represents the first time that coalition members are working together with a common goal of directing callers to organizations in the coalition.

“Several agencies, including the Library, offer training and appointments for one-on-one coaching and digital literacy,” she says. “But this is the first time that we’re going to be directly referring people to each other’s organizations to make sure callers get the resources they need.”

Says Carrie Coogan, the Library’s deputy director for public affairs and community engagement, “The big challenge of the digital divide is that people are not online, so how are they going to go to websites to find out how to get help. That’s why this hotline exists. It’s a phone number to call to find out where to get equipment, coaching, classes, and other resources, all close to where they live.”

After-hours callers to the hotline can leave a message. Calls will be returned within two business days.