MeckTech applications are now closed; there will not be another application window in the future. All approved applicants have been emailed with information about scheduling a computer pickup appointment.
It is estimated that in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community, nearly 20% of all households—or 80,000 households—lack a computer in the home. While many organizations and institutions rapidly transitioned to digital and online platforms to help serve their customers during the pandemic closures, this rapid pivoting in services left a whole segment of the population behind. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, funded by Mecklenburg County as a grantee of the Coronavirus Aid, Relieve and Economic Security (CARES) Act, made 2,055 free computer devices available to eligible households adversely affected by COVID-19 between October 2020 and February 2021. After our initial grant-funded project ended, we were able to obtain and distribute 635 additional computers for distribution via donations and additional funding.
The new phase of MeckTech is funded by the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and will provide 20,000 laptops to adults in Mecklenburg County in an effort to significantly decrease the number of households without a home computer to access online resources, create and edit documents, and use teleconferencing software for work, school, and/or healthcare. Along with existing programs and services offered by the Library to teach digital literacy, offer technical assistance, provide virtual resources, and connect library users with community service providers, MeckTech is another step towards bridging the digital divide.
These computers use a Linux operating system with open–source software compatible with many Windows programs (ex: LibreOffice can read, create, and edit Microsoft Office documents). However, some programs that are proprietary to a Windows environment may not have a Linux equivalent. Internet service is not included, although all laptops will have the ability to connect to WiFi. Per ECF requirements, these devices have on-device internet filtration software to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
The Center for Digital Equity will be on site during computer distributions to provide information on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal program that helps eligible households afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more through discounted internet services. More information can be found at affordableconnectivity.gov
If you are ineligible for the MeckTech program, Mecklenburg County residents can call 311 and press any key to ask to speak to a Digital Navigator, who will help you identify other options for getting affordable technology.