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Saturday, February 13, 2016

E-Communities Program

E-Communities Final Plan

What is the e-Communities Program?
The e-NC Authority's e-Communities Program is a community outreach effort designed to bring high-speed Internet access, technology awareness and training to all areas of the state. Last year, e-NC completed a study, "High-Speed Internet Connectivity in NC's Distressed Urban Areas," which looked at the connectivity and technology challenges in urban-distressed parts of the state.  As a result of that study, Wilmington and Charlotte were selected as two urban communities to participate in a pilot program to undertake an e-community planning effort.

Why an e-Community?
According to the study, it is acknowledged that , “As North Carolina’s regions continue to adjust to the economic challenges and opportunities of a global economy, the full connectivity of the state’s residents and businesses to the information economy will be critical for growth and property.” 

The study goes on to say, “This effort goes far beyond providing the physical availability of infrastructure and includes such issues as overcoming the high financial cost of getting and staying connected, educating residents and small business on the potential benefits of connectivity in terms of improved economic prospects and other qualify of life measures, and changing the perception of high-speed Internet as a luxury item out of reach of most low-income residents and small business."

What is Wilmington doing?
In June of 2006, Councilman Earl Sheridan introduced a resolution supporting public access to the Internet and online city resources.  As stated in the Resolution, the City of Wilmington increasingly uses its online presence to disseminate information to it citizens, businesses and visitors. As a leader in using wireless technology in its central downtown for public access to the Internet and as it develops more applications and types of interactive online services, the City is well-positioned to take a lead in providing greater access to the Internet for all of its citizens, particularly those historically separated from access by the “digital divide.”

What’s next?
The City received a $5,000 grant from the e-NC Authority to assist with developing a plan to close the digital divide. The plan will include an assessment of current resources, opportunities for public engagement and completion of a final plan by February 2007. A steering committee - including a diverse group of community leaders representing government, non-profits, business, education and faith-based organizations - has been established to assist with this initiative.

What is an e-Community Plan?
This initiative, or planning process, is designed to raise awareness of what resources are already available in our community and to assess what services are missing. The steering committee will study four key areas:

  • Public Access. The planning process will identify locations of existing public access sites and develop a plan to build on these sites as necessary. This may include development of public kiosks in community centers or other easily accessible places or a recommendation to increase the number of computers and technology in existing sites. Public Access also takes into consideration hours of operations and cost.
  • Training and Digital Literacy. The planning process will identify computer training resources currently being offered in the community to include what is offered in schools, CFCC and UNCW.
  • Web Applications. The process will continue with an assessment of where we are as a function e-community. This assessment will include the ability of citizens to conduct business online such as e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and e-health.
  • Connectivity. This portion of the plan will look at the existing infrastructure needed to ensure a successful e-community. This will include availability of high-speed broadband networks, access to Internet devices and access to computer equipment. Wireless technology will also be addressed in this section. Cable providers and other telecommunications companies will be asked to provide regarding the services they provide within the community.

The final plan will include recommendations and a plan for implementation. To ensure that we have adequately addressed the needs of our community, the steering committee conducted the following outreach activities:

  • 10,000 surveys were distributed to the following locations and throughout the community.  
    • Brigade Boys and Girls Club
    • Cape Fear Area Resource Centers
    • Catholic Charities
    • Centro Latino
    • City of Wilmington Community Centers
    • Community  Boys and Girls Club
    • Community Health Center
    • Department of Social Services
    • Dreams
    • Family and Neighborhood Institute
    • Girls, Inc.
    • Health Department
    • New Hanover County Library
    • Plantation Builders
    • St. Mary’s Church
    • St. Mark’s Church. 
    • Village at Greenfield Wilmington Housing Authority
    • Voces Latinos

For more information, please call the Community Development Division at 910.341.7836.

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