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e-dition - Dec. 1, 2006

Diane McGifford, Minister of Advanced Education & Literacy, CAHRD President Wayne Helgason, Smart Partners President Simone Smith, UWinnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy, RRC President Jeff Zabudsky and City Councillor Harvey Smith at the launch of LearningCITI.

Partnership Bridges Digital Divide

By Brenda Suderman

The information highway is cutting right through downtown Winnipeg and two inner-city neighbourhoods with a new initiative led by The University of Winnipeg and involving three educational institutions, the aboriginal and refugee communities and the private sector.

LearningCITI (www.learningciti.ca) is bridging the digital divide for inner-city residents by providing free wireless Internet access and online learning resources, and recreating how the city communicates and works together, University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy said Nov. 21, 2006.

“This is really just a launching pad,” he told a packed news conference at the Aboriginal Centre. “This is really just the beginning of something that will help Winnipeg become a leader in learning, to help develop a knowledge economy.”

LearningCITI TechnologyState-of-the-Art Technology
The LearningCITI portal includes links to libraries, educational games, and employment, recreation, and community resources. It was developed through a partnership between The University of Winnipeg, Red River College, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD) and Smart Partners of Manitoba.

The project was funded with a $65,000 investment from the Winnipeg Partnership Agreement, which involves three levels of government, as well as funds and in-kind donations from the partners.

The LearningCITI project involves state-of-the art technology, including the installation of a WiMAX base station at The University of Winnipeg and receivers and equipment at the Red River College Princess campus and the Aboriginal Centre. UWinnipeg's Division of Continuing Education also receives the LearningCITI signal. Two more receivers have been installed to provide free wireless access to LearningCITI subscribers at the International Centre and in North Point Douglas. Residents in the Central Park and North Point Douglas neighbourhoods have been equipped with computers through Smart Partners’ Computer Lending Library program, which places refurbished computers in the hands of Winnipeggers with little or no access to computers and communication technology. For these residents, the computers are linked to the LearningCITI portal, offering free wireless internet and educational resources.

“The whole project was about community, having people connect with each other,” explained Mike Langedock, Executive Director of the Technology Solutions Centre at UWinnipeg, who coordinated LearningCITI since its inception in 2004.

Although the project is hard to quantify because it involves invisible technology, the future impact on students will be significant since they will be able to connect anywhere within the LearningCITI broadcast zone, which stretches through much of downtown north of Portage Avenue.

“This is about something you really can’t see because it is wireless but you will see the results as students use the technology,” added Red River president Jeff Zabudsky.

Complements Education
The access to free wireless Internet and the on-line resources will complement the educational efforts of the Centre for Aborginal Human Resource Development, says president Wayne Helgason.“We know we have a great challenge in responding to our adult learners here. We can’t let them down,” he said.

Partnering with the LearningCITI consortium was a natural fit for Smart Partners. To date, about 700 computers have been lent out for up to two years at a time to approved participants through its Computer Lending Library program, Smart Partners chair Simone Smith said. “Today we celebrate real partnership where institutions come together for the good of the city,” she said.

That partnership in providing cutting-edge technology was applauded by the provincial minister of advanced education and literacy. “The linkage to LearningCITI reflects the strong spirit of community base and innovation so characteristic of Manitobans,” said Diane McGifford. .

“This LearningCITI is revolutionary,” enthused city councilor Harvey Smith, a former teacher and librarian. “It brings education to everybody. There’s no reason to not continue their education as long as they’re breathing.”

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