AKRON, Ohio – A new national center here will help communities ensure that their citizens can take advantage of social, civic and economic opportunities by accessing the digital town square of the 21st century.
The project is funded by a first-year, $4.5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to OneCommunity, an acclaimed expert in helping communities create sustainable universal access. Knight has pledged up to $25 million over the next five years to accelerate digital access projects in the 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.
The nonprofit Knight Center of Digital Excellence will collect and share international best practices online with communities everywhere. It will provide on-the-ground aid to the Knight communities to develop technology strategies and enable citizens to connect with each other and the world. Knight’s initiative includes a $10 million Digital Opportunity fund offering challenge grants to Knight communities.
Akron is the national center’s headquarters and the first community to benefit from a grant: $625,000 for a wireless universal access corridor that will leverage OneCommunity’s regional fiber-optic network. The corridor will cover eight to twelve square miles, including downtown, and cost about $2.2 million to design and deploy.
OneCommunity will implement the corridor in a public-private partnership. Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic has signed a memorandum of understanding with OneCommunity and will recommend that City Council approve a five-year commitment of about $800,000 toward the design, deployment, and operation of the network.
“Universal access will improve the quality of life, create new economic opportunities for Akron’s citizens, enhance health and education, improve public safety, and drive economic development,” said Plusquellic. “With this public-private partnership, the City of Akron will serve as a role model for communities around the country. We are proud to be the home of this national Center of Digital Excellence and to be the first community to benefit from Knight’s commitment to universal access.”
“More and more in a global economy we conduct our civic, business and social activities online,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president of strategic initiatives. “In every city and town it’s important to ensure that no one becomes a second-class citizen because he or she does not have access. Enabling everybody to participate in the digital age has the potential to transform communities.”
The Knight Center will be staffed and operated by OneCommunity, a nonprofit technology organization internationally recognized for its leadership in deploying broadband infrastructure and applications. OneCommunity President & CEO Scot Rourke was recently named Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year for 2008 by the Intelligent Community Forum (www.intelligentcommunity.org), a New York-based think tank dedicated to studying economic growth in the global broadband economy.
“Our goal is to help ensure that communities develop effective broadband and applications strategies that bring value to a community, are widely adopted by all constituencies and are well positioned for sustainability,” says Rourke. “OneCommunity uses a unique, collaborative approach that convenes key stakeholders from both the public and private sectors – including schools, libraries, hospitals, universities, governments, and local technology companies.”
About Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of Akron and 25 other U.S. communities. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. To learn more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Aberdeen, S.D.; Akron, Ohio;, Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit, Mich.; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind; Grand Forks, N.D, Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Beach County, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Jose, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; State College, Pa.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.
OneCommunity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering economic and civic progress through the innovative and collaborative application of information technologies. OneCommunity connects nearly 1,000 public and nonprofit institutions via its fiber-optic broadband network – one of the largest and fastest in the world – and supports 21st-century programs in health care, education, government and economic development. To learn more, please visit www.onecommunity.org.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.