Cities win digital divide grants

Urban Challenge

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Five cities have each won $100,000 worth of networking equipment and consulting services from 3Com Corp. to help improve their school systems or government services, the company announced Jan. 23.

Since its inception in 1999, the company's Urban Challenge Awards program has doled out about 40 grants worth $4 million.

Larry Geller, manager of 3Com's Digital Opportunity Programs, said the goal of the program is to help bridge the digital divide. He said the company looks for compelling needs in cities and school districts, but it also looks to fund innovative ideas.

While grants may be relatively low in relation to what some jurisdictions want to do, Geller said the awards are a way to "kick-start" a project, and 3Com often has other corporate partners helping grantees.

This year's winners, announced at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C., include:

* Baltimore and the Baltimore City Public Schools, which will use switches and wireless networks in seven new community technology training centers and upgrade an existing center to improve computer literacy for students and residents.

* Lincoln, Neb., led by Mayor Don Wesely, which will develop a citywide constituent services tracking system to resolve citizen service requests faster, create quarterly departmental performance reports, and locate areas where it can improve service and reduce costs.

* The city of Norfolk, Va., and the Norfolk Public Schools, which will upgrade three middle schools' telephone systems to voice over IP to accelerate school communications with emergency response teams.

* The California cities of Cupertino and Santa Clara, in partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, which will build a network infrastructure to support its new Web-based student-tracking database and software. That includes identifying students who need additional support, tracking performance and spotting deficiencies in curricula by analyzing standardized test results.

* West Palm Beach, Fla., and the Children's Home Society (CHS) — which provides community-based child care and welfare services to more than 25,000 families annually — which will develop a state-of-the-art voice and data network, including campuswide wireless links, for CHS' South Coastal Division campus.

Geller said 3Com is accepting applications for a second round of grants, deadline April 21, to be announced at the U.S. Conference of Mayors June meeting in Denver. Applications are available for download at


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