US Mayor Article

3Com Corporation Announces Second Round Urban Challenge to Help Bridge the Digital Divide in City Schools

By Joan Crigger
March 20, 2000


3Com Corporation has announced that it will issue a second round of Urban Challenge Grants to cities to help bridge the digital divide by working with mayors to connect their communities and improve access to educational, health care and other city resources.

At the 68th Winter Meeting of The United States Conference of Mayors the winners of the first round of Urban Challenge Grants were awarded to the mayors of 10 cities for a total of $1 million. The grants of $100,000 each include technology products, network design and consulting services.

3Com will extend the Urban Challenge to 10 additional cities for a total of another $1 million. The application deadline for the new round of grants is April 15, 2000 and the winners will be announced in June 2000 at the 68th Annual Conference of Mayors in Seattle.

The 3Com Urban Challenge innovative approach has resulted in exciting examples of public/private partnerships to address the digital divide in cities. The winners of the first round of grants are: Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Charleston (SC) Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Chaska (MN) Mayor Robert Roepke, Chester (PA) Mayor Dominic Pileggi, Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, Glasgow (KY) Mayor Charles B. Honeycutt, Madison Mayor Susan J.M. Bauman, New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial, Pontiac (MI) Mayor Walter Moore, and Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr.

To give you an idea of what cities are planning to do with their grants, below are brief descriptions of the Denver and New Orleans Awards.

Denver Urban Challenge Award

Under the leadership of Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, the City of Denver has already made great strides toward establishing a Metropolitan Area Network that links all the buildings and agencies of city government. Denver Public Schools has established 130 wide Area networks (WANs) serving administration and 120 schools. The District’s hubs serve 15,000 computers with more than half of these located in school buildings. With 66,000 students, Denver must still double the number of computers and increase the capacity of its networking foundation to reach a desired ratio of one computer for every four students.

In 1996 Mayor Webb pledged to support four goals established by the Denver Board of Education. Those goals are that children:

  • Enter school ready to learn

  • Become able readers

  • Enjoy their schools as neighborhood centers

  • Make a successful move from school to career

In partnership with 3Com and the Denver Public Schools, the City will use their Urban Challenge Grant in the following areas:

  • Extend the current school networks and upgrade their performance to handle the additional load of increased numbers of PCs in use in classrooms. This will allow more opportunity for students to work with computer applications and access information through the Internet. The increased availability of PCs will allow teachers to integrate computers and technology into their lesson plans.

  • Create a model high school using a full-featured, high performance Local Area Network that combines voice, video, and data. This will serve as a laboratory for use of the network and Internet access in the school’s curriculums and then as a model for the city’s other schools.

  • Make school computer labs available for after-hours use by students and members of the community. This will allow all citizens the opportunity to become familiar with computer applications and to the information available through the Internet.

  • Ultimately establish a citywide Metropolitan Area Network that connects all school networks to the city MAN. This allows easy access by all students and citizens to City information and services and allows economical access to high bandwidth connections for Internet access and intranet communications.

New Orleans Urban Challenge Award

The City of New Orleans in partnership with the New Orleans Public Schools and the New Orleans Enterprise Community will use 3Com’s Urban Challenge Grant to implement an innovative program to reach school dropouts and at-risk youth to help them complete their education. Youth Opportunity Initiative of New Orleans Works (YO! NOW) is a comprehensive and seamless system of youth services that link existing services and community resources and support to try to meet the needs of the city’s youth.

YO! NOW will utilize a network of kiosks spread throughout the city where youth can gain information on educational programs and apply for assistance on-line. Services include tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and social supports. Using a “video game” design self-assessment tests allow youth to examine their individual situation, identify critical issues and opportunities within their social and community environments, and to identify personal strengths and weaknesses. Information on educational programs that fit their situation leads to formulating “next steps.” Kiosks will be located in Youth One-Stp Centers as well as New Orleans recreation Department centers and Job Corps locations.

New Orleans is targeting this new program at middle, junior, and senior high schools in the New Orleans Enterprise Community (NOEC), which consists of eight neighborhoods within the city having the highest population of at-risk youth. The YO! NOW initiative exemplifies the commitment of the City of New Orleans to the following key education priorities:

  • Increased academic performance

  • Increased matriculation to higher education

  • Drop-out prevention

  • Expanded capacity of alternative education

  • Opportunities for academic upgrade for out-of-school youth

  • Scholarship and citizenship as a community value

3Com’s Urban Challenge Grant will be used to network the kiosks and to centrally located servers. The Grant will also help complete the networks in the public schools so that educational information can be easily shared across networks. Implementation can begin immediately.