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A new Request for Proposal (RFP) is seeking partners to help bring high-speed, high-quality, pervasive internet access for all students – pre-kindergarten through post-doctoral studies – in the 12-county Piedmont region of North Carolina, thanks to a partnership between educational and government organizations. The Technology and Data Institute (TDI), a public service consortium of public entities including Guilford County Schools (GCS), the City of Greensboro, Guilford County, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) and UNC Greensboro (UNCG), was created for the explicit purpose of providing technology and data readiness and capacity to the region. The RFP, offered by the TDI, for the “Pervasive Digital Access network Project” can be viewed here: https://www.ips.state.nc.us/IPS/AGENCY/PDF/13780900.pdf.

“At its core, the 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 amazing new opportunities for our region and our citizens that we could not individually achieve,” said Donna Heath, Chief Information Officer for UNCG. Jane Nickles, Chief Information Officer for the City of Greensboro, agreed, “Together we can combine resources to improve our shared quality of life through high-quality tech and data infrastructure and services.”

The Pervasive Digital Access Network Project described in the RFP is explicitly focused on creating a sustainable model for the design, build, and operation of the technology infrastructure and services required to deliver high-quality and easy-to-use internet access for all pre-kindergarten through post-doctoral students in the 12-county Piedmont region of North Carolina. The long-term goals of this project are expected to be achieved in multiple phases over multiple years. This first phase is focused exclusively on the design, build, and implementation of an extensible education network prototype that addresses areas of highest student connectivity need in Guilford County. Highest need areas are identified as those in which either very poor or in fact no internet access exists today, or where commodity internet services exist but are not affordable for students’ families in the areas they serve.

Hemant Desai, Chief Information Officer for Guilford County said, “The underpinning for successful digital learning experiences is reliable, high-speed connectivity, which is widely recognized as a critical component of today’s instructional infrastructure – especially given the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the immense new needs for and reliance on distance-learning at all levels.” There are approximately 130,000 students in Guilford County who will directly benefit from the deliverables of this project. The Guilford County School district is the third largest public school system in North Carolina and ranks in the top 55 of the largest districts in the United States. The district supports 10,033 instructional and administrative personnel across 340 schools and administrative buildings, and serves 73,007 students who are enrolled in 125 schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The district supports 26,000 desktop computers, 19,500 tablets, and 11,600 laptops. North Carolina A&T University, UNC Greensboro, and Guilford Technical Community College combined additionally enroll nearly 50,000 students.

“Lack of internet access is a significant problem across our region that disproportionately impacts black students, students living in poverty, and rural students,” said Dr. Candace Salmon-Hosey, Chief Technology Officer for Guilford County Schools. “Students without home internet access have lower assessment scores in reading, mathematics, and science across a range of national and international assessments. And, even after implementing the various subsidized and unsubsidized connectivity programs available to K-12 schools, many students are still without a connection. We must close these gaps so we can give every student a real opportunity to succeed.”

TDI is a powerful partnership that is seeking innovative vendor partners who will bring creative and fresh ideas for development of a comprehensive solution that will result in a sustainable education network that is accessible to all of the students in our region at no cost to the students or their families.

RFP responses are due by September 9, 2020 and should be sent to UNCG Procurement as directed in the document.

 
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