Florida A&M University (FAMU) acquired a $5.4 million two-year National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant to fund an initiative to bridge the digital divide between the Tallahassee campus and the surrounding underserved community.
“This award to FAMU is designed to reduce the digital divide and increase economic growth in Tallahassee by allowing students and Southside community members to access the Internet using FAMU’s high-speed broadband infrastructure and providing them with tools, technical assistance, knowledge, and information to enhance their skills and incomes,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
The “Building a DigitalPipeline to Prosperity” project will produce a “FAM-G” network, which will drastically change the digital landscape of the 422-acre FAMU campus and the targeted community, said Chief Information Officer Robert Seniors, co-principal Investigator for the grant.
“FAM-G will blanket our main campus and provide high-speed wireless internet access to our students and members of the community. FAM-G will be fast, secure, robust, and readily available to our constituents, and will contribute to breaking down the digital divide that, unfortunately, still exists today,” said Seniors, who is also vice president for Information Technology Services (VP ITS). “FAM-G will be a key component of the digital transformation that is occurring at FAMU, strengthening our current capabilities. While we have good Wi-Fi networks inside of buildings, FAM-G will power our next generation, high-speed Wi-Fi networks that deliver wireless broadband internet access outside, enabling learning and collaboration to occur anywhere and anytime.”
The six-part “Building a DigitalPipeline to Prosperity” project calls for:
- Leveraging NTIA grant funds to purchase and install the hardware and software necessary to ensure secure, comprehensive coverage accessible at all times in every building and critical outdoor spaces on campus.
- Creating a technical assistance program to ensure all campus and community stakeholders receive the support they need to be successful users of high-speed Internet and online content.
- Upgrading and relaunching the Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development on Wahnish Way to increase the digital skills and economic opportunities for students and anchor community members.
- Establishing a Pre-K to doctorate pipeline by creating age- and content-appropriate STEM- and digital-readiness curriculum for students at every grade level.
- Training and graduating more students across disciplines who understand data science and how data applies to their field of study, decision-making, and life.
- Conducting an evaluation of the NTIA grant to determine the effectiveness, efficiency, and short-term impact of the proposed grant activities.
FAMU applied for the grant as the lead in a consortium that includes two Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and two Unfunded Collaborators. Data Set Ready (DSR) and Quality Measures (QM) are the MBEs that will provide broadband infrastructure installation and evaluation support respectively.
The Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit that empowers HBCU students for success, and the Educational Research Center for Child Development, a FAMU-affiliated nonprofit that offers preschool and after school services to children ages 3-12, will serve as unfunded collaborators.
Lewis Johnson, Ph.D., FAMU associate provost for Student Success and Strategic Initiatives and physics professor, is a co-principal investigator for the grant. He will focus on the academic aspects of the initiative.
“FAMU has long been a change agent for the Tallahassee community. This grant empowers and enables us to build a transformative platform to catapult the Southside to take its rightful place in the digital age,” Johnson said. “This effort furthers the engagement of FAMU with the surrounding community in STEM education to help develop the next generation of professionals.”