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    August 2009

    Economic Transformation

    WSSU is Helping Close the Digital Divide in the Triad

    In today’s knowledge-based economy, access to technology infrastructure is as critical to economic success as access to physical infrastructure (roads and sewer, for example) was in yesterday’s economy. In the mid–1990’s, the transition of the Triad from a region with a strong manufacturing tradition to one in which services and technology predominate placed strong demands on education, training and workforce development in Winston-Salem. In 1995, an informal discussion began between government, civic and educational institutions to create a vision of Winston-Salem as a technology-rich community.

    WinstonNet, Inc. is a non-profit community technology initiative established with the goal of "bridging the digital divide". Original members of WinstonNet included: Forsyth County Government, Forsyth Technical Community College, Idealliace, Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem City Government and Winston-Salem State University. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Salem Academy and College joined the group shortly after it was founded. WSSU and the UNCSA are active partners in helping advance comprehensive computer access and technology-based education which furthers the UNC Tomorrow goal of helping lead economic transformation in our state’s regions to enhance their economic competitiveness.

    The first official WinstonNet meeting was held on April 9th, 1997.   Leveraging its expertise in networking excellence, WinstonNet developed a two-pronged strategy for helping Winston-Salem make the transition to the economy of the future. The first initiative addresses the digital divide in our community by providing community computer access in recreation centers and churches. The second initiative begins preparing the workforce for the next generation of network-based super-computing technologies.

     Two major WinstonNet accomplishments are:

    • In 2002, WinstonNet became North Carolina's first Regional High Speed Networking Hub.  The regional hub was enabled by leveraging the aggregated Internet demand of WinstonNet members.  The hub provides bandwidth in excess of 50Gig to the Internet through North Carolina's Research and Education Network (NCREN).  In being the first community connected to NCREN in this manner, WinstonNet served as a model for the development of regional networking initiatives in North Carolina. Through its association with the educational institutions, WinstonNet members also received access to the Internet2 network.
    •  In 2003, WinstonNet dedicated its Computer Lab project. Over the next twelve months, the community lab project was extended to include 30 sites with free computer access for children and adults.  In 2004, WinstonNet received grants from Microsoft Corporation and Cisco, Inc. ($508,000) to make the software and hardware available to complete the labs.  Today there are 44 computer labs operating in city recreation centers, churches, magnet schools, libraries, and community YMCA/YWCAs serving a large percentage of the digitally disadvantaged community with free high-speed access to the Internet and to Microsoft applications.  We have 3,500+ email accounts, with over 75,000 end-user sessions recorded in 2006.

    Currently, WinstonNet, with the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) and a number of community leaders, is designing a program that would place computers in K-12 student’s home. A proposal is being developed to demonstrate the impact of home computing on the student’s school performance and attendance, improve parent/teacher communication, and enhancing the student and families technical skills needed for 21st century economy. The project focuses on students receiving assistance on the federal free/reduced lunch program.  The proposal addresses critical areas of funding, curriculum integration, teachers’ professional development, technical staffing in the schools, affordable computers and broadband connections.  WinstonNet plans to seek federal and private funding sources to implement the project in the 2010/2011 academic year.


    For futher information, please visit WSSU's website.