Library gets dozen free laptops

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Ernest Reid, an assistant librarian at NWT Centennial Library, holds two of the dozen free laptop computers recently obtained from an organization in Yellowknife.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Ernest Reid, an assistant librarian at NWT Centennial Library, holds two of the dozen free laptop computers recently obtained from an organization in Yellowknife.

The Hay River public library’s ability to teach people about computers recently got a big helping hand.

At the end of January, NWT Centennial Library received a shipment of a dozen free laptop computers from a not-for-profit organization in Yellowknife called the Smart Communities Society.

“We’re going to be using them mostly for technology classes,” said Ernest Reid, an assistant librarian.

“Part of what I really want to use this library for is to empower people,” he said. “I want to really help them not just use the Internet, but contribute to the Internet, really understand the Internet. Don’t be a consumer of the Internet, but be an engaged Internet user, an Internet citizen.”

The classes will be for such things as after-school coding programs.

“We’re doing these coding classes and then we’re also going to be branching out and really doing more events with computers, teaching more classes that involve digital technology,” said Reid.

The first class with the new computers was on Feb. 7 with an introduction to HTML (hypertext markup language) and CSS (cascading style sheets) for Grades 5 to 7. Six students showed up for the class.

After-school classes will continue to be offered.

“But I want to start introducing more adult-oriented classes,” said Reid.

The assistant librarian noted it is predicted that there will be high-demand for high-tech jobs in 2020.

“So there are going to be 200,000 information technology jobs that require real technology skills, like coding, that need to be filled,” he said, noting there seems to be a

big “participation gap” in the technology sector and the digital skills sector among people in the North and indigenous communities.

“So offering these classes is a way to bridge these gaps and get Northerners more involved with the digital economy,” he added.

Amrik Kanwal, the project manager with the Smart Communities Society, said one of its mandates from the federal government is to supply refurbished computers to schools, libraries, non-profit organizations and First Nations.

“We deliver 500 to 700 computers a year to communities,” he said.

The society receives old computers from the GNWT and federal government, and loads new operating systems into them, such as Windows 10.

“Those computers are not very old,” he said. “They still can be used because government changes computers every two or three years.”

Refurbishment of each computer costs about $150.