High-speed internet has become an essential tool for education, commerce, and community connectivity, but for thousands of Guilford County families and school children, access remains elusive.
That’s the focus of a new partnership that received a $1.5 million investment made possible thanks to the work of North Carolina Congresswoman Kathy Manning.
On Tuesday, April 19, Congresswoman Manning visited UNC Greensboro to announce new federal funding for the Technology and Data Institute (TDI), an educational technology initiative for our community.
“TDI is committed to transforming the Piedmont Triad into a smart and connected region where communities and innovation will flourish through shared technology and data,” said Steve Lingerfelt, Chief Information Officer for the City of High Point and TDI Board Chair.
“TDI is a regional public service institute leading a collaborative effort to ensure that everyone – scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, communities, and K-12 students in underserved areas – have the digital infrastructure needed to thrive,” shared Lingerfelt. “Without it, businesses can’t grow, students can’t prepare for successful careers, and communities can’t solve urgent problems.”
“At its core, TDI is based on the fundamental principle that working together and sharing assets and expertise enables our region to create business partnerships, at scale, and ultimately new opportunities for our region and our citizens that we could not individually achieve,” said Donna Heath, Chief Information Officer for UNCG.
“It takes a big team to put all of this together,” said Congresswoman Manning, who serves the 6th District that includes Greensboro. “It really is forward thinking.”
Because no single organization can solve these problems alone, TDI will leverage a private-public partnership to develop and build a permanent, large-scale sustainable education network that will make broadband accessible to all pre-K through 12th grade students in Guilford County at no cost to them. TDI’s current partners include UNC Greensboro, the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, the cities of Greensboro and High Point, Guilford County, Guilford County Schools, and N.C. A&T State University.
“At UNCG we often talk about our ‘shared fate’ with the local community, greater Triad area, and the state,” said UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam. “We strive to build substantive partnerships and leverage our shared assets to respond to challenges facing our communities. One such challenge is reliable and equitable access to technology. With the funding secured by Representative Manning, this initiative will serve as an example – perhaps even a model – of how collaborative efforts can leverage our shared fate as we build a shared future.”
“These are our tax dollars, I want to see this project in action,” said Manning of the funding, which passed into law as a part of the omnibus government funding bill in March.
On Representative Manning’s work to secure funding for TDI, Gilliam shared that “Guilford County is fortunate to have you in Washington as an advocate for education at all levels. You represent us well and we are grateful for your support.”
Phase one of the project will likely launch in the fall, providing internet access to thousands of Guilford County students and families. With this funding and the strength of TDI’s partnerships, this initiative has the potential to serve as a national model for cities to educate and empower the future workforce that will fuel local economies.
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications