A simple antenna sits on top of Salon 606’s brick chimney in Harrisburg.
To dozens of families in the half-mile radius, that piece of metal can mean access to educational resources, employment searches and other daily benefits the Internet can offer.
On Monday, members of the new collaborative workspace group The Clubhou.se and non-profit SmartKids.sc revealed the installation of a wireless Internet hot spot in Harrisburg.
The hot spot at 606 Crawford Ave. is the first of planned installations in low-income neighborhoods, a project that Clubhou.se
members call Operation Lighthouse.
“It works two ways because it provides the Internet to people who don’t have it, and it makes us aware of the people in the area around us,” said Clubhou.se co-founder Eric Parker.
The idea sprouted in November between a group of tech-savvy professionals attending the CSRA Innovation Festival and Hackathon in Augusta. The group wanted to give residents in low-income areas free access to the Internet and exposure to educational resources. About a month later, several of those tech people launched The Clubhou.se on Broad Street, a workspace where members pay $100 a month to collaborate on projects or just absorb inspiration from working alongside other professionals in a shared space.
Some members construct robots, tear apart computers or build Web sites there. The roughly 24 members also hold workshops and open houses for the public.
They organized the hot spot in Harrisburg by contacting Salon 606 owner Butch Palmer and arranging to keep the modem and antenna at his salon.
The group fronted the initial $500 to purchase hardware and will pay $50 a month to keep the service going. It hopes to hold information sessions periodically to teach residents and children how to program and operate computers, said Clubhou.se
co-founder Ed Elser.
Clubhou.se members acknowledged that many of the lower-income residents don’t own a computer, but they plan to address that issue.
Elser said his group hopes to distribute such devices as the Raspberry Pi, a credit card-size computer that plugs into a television.
At the hot spot unveiling, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said The Clubhou.se is playing a key role in bridging the digital divide at a time when Augusta was recently named second in the nation for job growth in the technology sector.
“It’s great to see good things happening in Harrisburg,” Copenhaver said.