Miami-Dade County will open technology centers at 11 parks that will offer free computer and Internet access, in a move Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said could help ease some of the pain caused by looming library closures.
Though not intended to replace public libraries that could be shuttered as part of proposed budget cuts, the Technology Learning Centers will provide computers and technology training sessions for children and adults in under-served neighborhoods.
Three of the tech centers — at Goulds Park, Olinda Park in Liberty City and Westwind Lakes Park in West Kendall — opened Friday. The remaining ones will be inaugurated over the next few months, according to the county.
Wi-Fi hot spots for residents to use their own laptops and other devices will also go up at three additional parks adjacent to libraries: Olympic Park next to the Kendale Lakes library, Cherry Grove Park next to the Kendall library and Francisco Human Rights Park next to the West Dade Regional library.
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“Wi-Fi access in our parks will provide additional public places to work on projects, apply for jobs, conduct research, catch up on the news or even play a favorite game,” Gimenez said at a Westwind Lakes ceremony Friday morning, according to his prepared remarks.
Thirteen libraries remain targets for closure, down from 22 initially on the list. All offer free computer and Internet access.
Residents who oppose the closings have organized rallies and social media campaigns and railed against Gimenez in two town-hall style meetings on the 2013-14 budget that have been held so far. They have criticized the mayor for, among other things, focusing on the technology provided by the libraries and not on their books, literacy programs or librarians.
The tech centers will be sponsored by AT&T, which is providing one year of free broadband Internet access; the South Florida Digital Alliance, which aims to bring technology to all communities, and the county’s library, parks and information technology departments.
Ten computer stations were up and running at the three newly opened tech centers, a county spokeswoman said. The district commissioner for the showcased Westwind Lakes center, Juan C. Zapata, was out of town, but in a statement highlighted the importance of improved Internet access for densely populated West Kendall — and for Miami-Dade as a whole, which is trying to position itself as a place to attract and retain technology entrepreneurs.
“Affordable high-speed broadband Internet access is important to the overall goal of generating economic development in West Kendall,” he said. “The goal is for Miami-Dade County to be recognized as the technology gateway of the Americas.”
The other 11 tech centers are planned for Arcola Lakes Park in unincorporated North Miami-Dade, Country Village Park north of Miami Lakes, Deerwood Bonita Lakes Park in West Kendall, Gwen Cherry Park in Liberty City, Highland Oaks Park outside Aventura, Ruben Dario Park near Sweetwater, South Dade Park near Homestead and West Perrine Park.