Miami-Dade County, Fla., has launched a new program to incorporate more technology into local public parks. On August 9, the county unveiled three new technology learning centers, each located in a public park, and free Wi-Fi access in each of the three vicinities.

Over the next few months, the county will unveil an additional eight centers for a total of 11 sites. The project was developed through a public-private partnership involving multiple Miami-Dade County departments, the South Florida Digital Alliance and AT&T, according to a statement from Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez’s office.

Each location – the centers and their respective parks – will provide free Wi-Fi to the public. Wi-Fi access will also be rolled out to an additional three local parks adjacent to public libraries.

“Access to technology is the gateway to information and opportunities, and it is our responsibility to find ways to make sure that our residents have access through this gateway,” Gimenez said in a press release.

Will Tech Centers Replace Libraries?

But will the addition of technology centers and expanded Wi-Fi access in Miami-Dade parks result in library closures?

Recently, Gimenez said county budget cuts could hypothetically result in the closing of 22 libraries, a number previously reported as a “worst-case scenario.” However, after further budget analysis, officials decided only four libraries will close in order to balance the budget, according to local media.

Although the county will see reduced library service, government officials feel the newly unveiled technology centers won’t contribute to the cutbacks.

“[The technology centers] certainly will enhance but in no way replace the need for a library,” said Jack Kardys, Miami-Dade County director of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces.

Similar to libraries, the technology centers will offer access to computers, with each facility housing 10 computers for public use. Kardys said to help connect the public with county government resources, tech center computers link to the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s portal, the South Florida Digital Alliance portal and the Miami-Dade Public Schools portal. Other resources at the centers include technology training for youth and adults.

To expand beyond local parks, the county is currently in the planning phase to deploy free Wi-Fi at local marinas. Kardys said the county’s parks department has jurisdiction over marinas and wants to enhance them with Wi-Fi to make Internet connectivity more accessible to boaters.

“They are on the drawing board and as funding becomes available for that sort of thing, we will move in that direction,” Kardys said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.