Communities

Kentucky Virtual U. Goes Online

The Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual University, a consortium of the state's public and private colleges and universities, has created a one-stop World Wide Web site that provides access to all the enrollment and student services needed to get a college degree online. The virtual university (www.kcvu.org) expected about 50 students to enroll when it opened last month; instead, it attracted more than 200.

KCVU which has 22 participating schools, will offer certified degrees in nine areas, including network engineering and library science, communication disorders and rehabilitation counseling. All 59 of Kentucky's postsecondary institutions should be part of the program within the first year.

"We're trying to build a powerful knowledge work force for attracting and retaining business in Kentucky," said Mary Beth Sussman, chief executive officer of KCVU. "To begin with, this program will meet the state's work force development needs."

KCVU students can do tasks online that traditionally enrolled students do on campus, from course selection and enrollment to paying tuition bills. Students also can register at four or five schools simultaneously and take courses from several different institutions in the same semester.

Eduprise.com, Research Triangle Park, N.C., is supplying the software tools and hosting environment for KCVU. It is the company's first statewide contract, which is valued at more than $500,000. Eduprise also will provide technology experts for faculty training at each institution to develop and maintain courses. "We're working with all Kentucky campuses to pull together a meaningful program that will be available online," said William Graves, Eduprise's founder and chairman of the board.

"The key concept is that this program is 'student-centric,' not 'institution-centric,' " Graves said. "KCVU is designed to make it easy for students to find opportunity and then to take advantage of that opportunity and succeed."

***

Oakland Housing Wired, Residents Get Training

Residents of Oakland, Calif.'s Acorn Smart Housing Center began moving into newly wired apartments last month. The center, a partnership between the city of Oakland and IBM Corp., was set up to provide computer training and job placement for low-income residents.

In the first phase of the $3.1 million pilot project, Internet connections and IBM Network Station thin-client computers were installed in residents' apartments. The second phase involves opening a computer center, where residents will receive basic PC training. "The training starting now will provide people with basic computer and job skills," said Laura Simpson, housing development coordinator for Oakland. "Then, we'll look into employing them with local companies and getting the residents off of welfare."

The training course work, developed by IBM, will include job-related technology classes, literacy training and GED preparation. IBM will work with the Oakland school district to integrate the Acorn curricula into school programs.

"It's a combination of equipment and a consultative approach to learning that will replicate what we do in the marketplace for the state and local government in student and low-income housing," said John Pratt, director of enterprise learning services for IBM global services.

The third phase of the project, dubbed Welfare to Work, will tap local businesses for ways to prepare residents for mainstream jobs. Job placement will occur directly through local businesses, temporary employment agencies or Welfare to Work agencies and will be customized to fit the performance of each student-resident.

"This will help people who are not earning enough or using all of their skills...and increase their potential," Simpson said.

Pratt said IBM will expose trainees at the Acorn Center to technology innovations the company develops with its commercial clients. "We're trying to work with external clients through the Web and the Internet, and we'll be doing it at the same time with these folks. We'll be doing it in parallel," Pratt said.

***

Navajo Schools Get a Boost From Microsoft

A dozen Navajo school districts in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah received a $1.2 million grant from Microsoft Corp. to fund technology training for teachers. The Navajo Education Technology Consortium, which serves about 45,000 students and nearly 3,000 teachers, received the funds, which will supplement the $7.6 million it received from the U.S. Education Department's Technology Innovation Challenge Grant earlier this year. The Microsoft money is intended to help teachers learn better ways of using technology in the classroom.

***

Washington 'Light Lanes' Weds Info and Asphalt Highways

Washington state aims to use part of its interstate highway system as a conduit for Washington Light Lanes, a fiber-optic network that will carry advanced intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications between cities throughout the state.

In a deal with Universal Communication Networks (UCN), a Denver-based telecommunications wholesaler, the Washington State Department of Transportation will install a $100 million fiber-optic backbone to connect the state across the I-5, I-90 and I-82 highways.

The partnership will provide motorists and state transit agencies quicker emergency services notification, nonstop freight movement along the routes and real-time pictures of highway conditions. "We have a great ITS system in place in Seattle," said Clarissa Lundeen, a WSDOT spokeswoman. "All of our Internet stuff is done over phone lines and during heavy usage can get jammed up. The fiber optics allow for quicker and clearer information."

Lundeen said 90 percent of ITS users in Seattle access the system from home or at work. The new project will allow for new users in areas such as Spokane, Yakima and Vancouver, Wash. UCN also will install electronic equipment to connect five of the state's DOT regional offices to the Olympia, Wash., service center on a system that carries signals from TV cameras and highway monitoring devices. The advanced system will have about 16 times more capacity than the one it is replacing.

Lundeen said the project will enable law enforcement and public safety officials to get precise descriptions and locations of traffic incidents and emergencies. Also, trucking companies can use the technology to plan their routes and access maps to see if an accident is delaying a shipment and adjust plans accordingly.

UCN would contract with other companies to build the system. Groundbreaking has yet to take place, Lundeen said, but Washington Light Lanes should be completed in 2001.

***

Commuters Find Car Pool Partners Online

Redmond, Wash., commuters now can tap RideQuest.com, the nation's first self-service, online ride-sharing system, to match themselves instantly with other motorists traveling to and from businesses in the same areas.

RideQuest.com was developed by the Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association (GRTMA) to reduce traffic congestion and the number of single-occupant vehicle trips in the region.

"This tool enables people at their point of relative frustration-while they are sitting in traffic one day-to go home and jump online and find someone they can e-mail to start car pooling," said Donna Ambrose, GRTMA's executive director.

Using the free RideQuest.com system (www.ridequest.com), commuters can register and log on with a password, enter their work schedules, home location and business location and within minutes receive a list of travelers with matching criteria.

Users also can update or delete their records at any time, sign up for a van pool group that transports eight to 15 people at once in vehicles supplied by King County, or look at Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. maps detailing the general area where matching commuters live.

Ridequest.com was co-developed by Puget Sound Systems Group Inc., a software development company based in Lacey, Wash. The system incorporates Hypertext Markup Language, JavaScript and a Microsoft Corp. SQL database, and it runs on a Compaq Computer Corp. dual-processor machine. The $200,000 site was developed through Smart Trek, an Intelligent Transportation Systems project funded by the U.S. Transportation Department and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The system, which has been operational since April, already boasts more than 500 users. "We expect several thousand users by year's end," Ambrose said.

***

Philadelphia to Install New Citywide Radio System

Philadelphia soon will have a citywide radio system to link police and fire departments and other agencies via an 800 MHz network. The Motorola Inc. Astro system will include two 15-channel systems positioned side by side and connected via a switch that will pass communications from one site to another as users travel throughout the city.

The "simulcast" technology allows for communications from every site of the system at the same time and ensures 95 percent coverage from portable radios carried by police officers on a beat or within city buildings. The system includes 10 sites and can operate in digital or analog mode.

"Before, the police and fire department officials could be on the same scene and not be able to communicate unless they could see each other," said Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for Mayor Edward Rendell.

"Now, they can speak on the same channel at the same time. The positive impact on public safety is enormous." Motorola will supply the city with nearly 5,000 portable radios and 1,800 mobile radios.

***

L.A. Web Site Info Lost in Translation

Los Angeles Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski filed a motion directing the city's Information Technology Agency to find ways to make Los Angeles' World Wide Web site (www.ci.la.ca.us) more accessible to the non-English-speaking population.

The motion instructs the ITA to work with key city agencies, including the police, fire, housing, aging and community-development departments, to identify information that should be translated into languages that would best serve various constituencies over the Internet. Miscikowski, who represents Los Angeles' 11th district, also is scheduled to file a separate motion directing the ITA to study the feasibility of broadcasting city council meetings via video teleconferencing or real-time media streaming as a way of boosting citizen participation.

***

Michigan Sex Offender Registry Adds Name Search

A name search function is being added to the Michigan State Police (MSP) sex offender registry, which currently enables users to search for sexual offenders living within a specified ZIP code. The site (www.mipsor.state.mi.us) currently houses information on about 11,000 offenders.

"Most of the feedback has been generally positive from the public, but we've also gotten feedback from offenders saying the way we do business is inappropriate," said Detective Lt. Robert Carr, the registry's project coordinator in the MSP's Investigative Resources Section. "The public wants more information on the offenders and their offenses, but Michigan law limits the information we can make public. We put out what we can."

The registry was developed by Tallahassee, Fla.-based Datamaxx Applied Technologies Inc. The site had to be operational within 90 days, be completely hack-proof and be able to withstand an unknown amount of traffic. The company met all three requirements and then some.

In the first 24 hours after its launch, the site received 250,000 hits and averaged 150,000 a day for the first few weeks, said Jonathan Waters, vice president of research and development at Datamaxx.

The system typically fields about 3,000 hits a day, with many coming from law enforcement officials, who also have the ability to edit files on the database.

"One benefit of the system is that the public...can notify us in some way, either by e-mail or a phone call to let us know [if an] offender has moved," Carr said.

**

Orange County Broadcasting Trial Via Internet

Florida's Orange County Circuit Court bolstered the state's online court presence by broadcasting a trial live via the World Wide Web. The 9th Judicial Circuit Court transmitted a live video feed of the trial of 68-year-old Shirley Egan, who was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of her 42-year-old daughter, Georgette Smith, last March when Smith and her boyfriend discussed putting Egan in a nursing home.

Media organizations have broadcast trials on the Web, but the newly renovated county courthouse, which has its own server and fiber-optic network, is the first circuit court to stream its affairs on the Internet.

The Florida Supreme Court was the first court to nationally Webcast its proceedings, providing gavel-to-gavel coverage since 1996 at 128.186.

158.66/gavel2gavel, according to Jennifer Killingsworth, IT manager for Florida's Executive Office of the Secretary of State. The state's highest court also maintains a Web presence with live audio and video feeds at www.flcourts.org/courts/supct/sctintro.html.

Circuit court administrator Matt Benefiel noted that Florida has liberal legislation regarding cameras in the courtroom. "In the three years I've been here, a judge has never not allowed a camera in the courtroom as long as they meet statutory requirements" he said. "We provide the feed, and it's up to the media to decide which camera will be used for the broadcast.

"The nice thing about this is that the judge [A. Thomas Mihok] already pre-approved the camera in the courtroom," Benefiel added, so the court had advance notice that this trial could be put on the Internet.

The courthouse system operates on a Dell Computer Corp. PowerEdge 220 server, and all 43 courtrooms are able to broadcast trials on the Web.

***

Colo. to Accept Lawsuit Filings Via Web

Colorado will become the first state to offer statewide electronic filing of lawsuits and other legal briefs.

"E-filing will reduce the amount of unproductive time now devoted to printing pleadings, making copies of [pleas], printing labels and envelopes, stuffing envelopes and so forth," said Andrew Toft, a Colorado attorney who served on an evaluation committee that led to a contract with JusticeLink Inc., a Dallas firm that provides electronic file systems.

Last year, there were more than 240,000 lawsuit filings in Colorado civil courts. Now, instead of having to copy, package and manually deliver millions of paper documents between law firms and courts, legal players can simply deliver electronic versions to one another via JusticeLink's World Wide Web site. The documents are stored electronically and are instantly accessible by all case parties, including judges and clerks.

A pilot program is set to begin in three district courts: Arapahoe County District Court, the Denver Probate Court and the Greeley Water Court. The Judicial Department hopes to transition to electronic filing in all state district courts by December 2000.

Featured

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.