Wifi on Wheels: Mobile wifi vehicle aims to close the digital divide for West Oahu students

Coronavirus

WAIANAE, Hawaii (KHON2) – The Coronavirus pandemic, empty school buses and distance learning were all key components in the making of Wifi on Wheels.

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Nearly four months after Hawaii Kids Can thought of mobile Wifi vehicles, the non-profit organization is rolling out their first pilot project in West Oahu.

“WiFi on Wheels to me is really emblematic of that collaborative spirit,” said David Miyashiro of Hawaii Kids Can. “It came together on social media with educators talking about how the number one need they saw for kids back in quarter four, was internet connectivity.”

The community quickly jumped on the bandwagon with Kamehameha Schools providing the initial funding.

“There’s tremendous need, because one in five of our kids, at the time, didn’t have access to internet,” said Kalei Kailihiwa, Regional Director of Kamehameha Schools. “One in three were absolutely not comfortable with accessing online learning, period.”

WiFi on Wheels is now helping Kamaile Academy connect the digital divide between students and distance learning.

“If you think of the van as like the canoe and it’s carrying this MiFi device on steroids out to the community to access the kids,” said Paul Kepka, Principal of Kamaile Academy.

The WiFi on Wheels van is parked Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. Veterans Center in Waianae.

“We really want to support people to stay at home or stay in place so that they’re not congregating. So this allowed an opportunity for kids to still access the internet, but be safe which is our number one priority,” Kepka said.

The WiFi signal from the van reaches as far as 200 feet, connecting about 60 families on the Leeward coast.

Kamaile Academy has two more vans coming in to double the WiFi service for students soon.

The Wifi on Wheels project is also aiming to help communities on Maui, Molokai and Kauai.

“This is just one step out of many to bridge the digital divide. Again, it’s one step forward and it wouldn’t have been possible without all the work from so many different people,” said Miyashiro.

For more information on the Wifi on Wheels program, click here.

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