WiFi for community use

Democratisation of information access

The Internet is perhaps the single most important resource of our time. Every enlightened society should try to ensure free and adequate access to it for everyone. Community groups and therefore the community use buildings they use have an important role to play in that access. Three key difficulties with accessing the Internet are: opportunity, cost of access, and required skills.

Some people have difficulties getting adequate access to the Internet. They might have access restricted either directly, or by privacy concerns arising from of others sharing or owning the Internet connection. Sometimes it is as simple as the installed technology and/or services being poor. In fact there are still many properties in the UK that can only have poor Internet connections, regardless of any other factors.

The cost of technology is still an issue for some sectors of our communities. Even for those people can afford the devices to access the Internet, the on-going Internet connection fees may be too much or difficult to justify for infrequent use.

There are people that find it difficult to use technology. Community support groups can choose to provide training and support for them.

Attracting visitors
The availability of a free Wi-Fi connection to the Internet can be an important attraction for people. A number of surveys have shown that people remember where it is available and go out of their way to visit those locations. This creates an opportunity to engage with a larger section of the community.
The older demographic
Often the prospect of new technology can be daunting to people who grew up without computers or the Internet. The key advantage of wireless networks for older people is that they simplify and automate connectivity to the Internet because modern devices are now easily connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi and remember those connections, re-establishing them automatically on seeing the same Wi-Fi again.
The younger demographic
Younger people often live with parents or guardians or peers. Their access issues are likely to be due to not being in control of the Wi-Fi equipment and Internet connection. So for example they may not be able to access the content they like without others knowing what it is and possibly assenting to it. Also low quality hardware and Internet services that are out of their control may also limit what they are able to do. Providing good quality services and anonymity may be attractive to these people.
Community use building managers and owners
For the managers and owners of community use buildings committed to providing Internet access, the key advantages of Wi-Fi over wired networks include minimal maintenance effort, ability to adapt to varying numbers of users, minimal disruption to the fabric of the building, ability to cover large areas inside and out, and connectivity while moving.
Kinds of community use building
Among others, community use buildings include generic municipal buildings such as town village and city halls; purpose built community centres; buildings owned sponsored or rented by religions, charities, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises, and philanthropic bodies; buildings that host activities outside of their primary function, such as libraries, theatres, swimming pools, galleries, schools, colleges, and universities; and buildings that have been repurposed – typically disused buildings like deconsecrated churches and ex-schools.

Recommendations

Moseley Community Development Trust

"Wireless Head provided a professional service at very competitive price. They looked deep into our problem and found the lowest cost solution. They even lent us the equipment to test it, free of charge. I am happy to recommend them." Matthew Colleran – Centre Manager at Moseley Community Development Trust.