Washington DC neighborhood makes the news employing high technology. The
use of Windows Terminal Server thin-clients with Data General WTS NT Servers
is particularly noteworthy. This can
reduce the cost of an Internet terminal capable of running MS Office
applications to under $500
From: J B. Fields [mailto:jbfields@...
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 1999 10:06 AM
Subject: Computers, training give new hope to Washington, D.C.,
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Computers, training give new hope to Washington, D.C., neighborhood
By Dan Caterinicchia ( danc@...
Edgewood Terrace <http://www.edgenet.org/
> Residential Network
Community Preservation and <http://www.cpdc.org/
> Development Corporation
> Neighborhood Networks Program
To look at the Edgewood Terrace community in Northeast Washington, D.C.,
with its bright colors, extensive, ongoing construction and high-tech gloss,
you would never know that less than a decade ago the same area was known as
The primary economic activity thriving in the poverty-stricken neighborhood
was an open-air drug market. When supplies ran low, dealers would head
inside to a storage area and replenish their stock to meet demand.
Now, because of a project called Edge-Net, rooms that once held massive
quantities of cocaine and heroin are supplying the neighborhood with other
resources--Internet access, computers and training--that have residents
excited to live there.
EdgeNet, created by the Community Preservation and Development Corp. (CPDC)
with financial help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, has made Edgewood one of the most technologically connected
communities in the region.
The neighborhood hosts five computer labs, or network learning centers, four
of which offer classes for residents to gain computer knowledge, skills
certification and job placement opportunities, and a fifth that serves as a
college and career resource center. In October, Edgewood began to roll out
low-cost desktop computers to more than 300 network-ready apartments.
In a community where residents' incomes range from below the poverty line to
80 percent of the median U.S. income, EdgeNet will help bridge the
technological gap that divides income brackets. It also will provide
information about jobs and have social and communal benefits.
"People will make friends and connections...and these are skills they can
teach," said John Zoltner, manager of community technology at Edgewood.
EdgeNet employs Microsoft Corp. Windows-based thin-client terminals,
provided at a discount rate by Netier Technologies Inc., Carrollton, Texas,
to give Edgewood residents and learning centers network access. Seven
Windows NT-based servers from Westborough, Mass.-based Data General Corp.
serve as the network's backbone.
Thin-client terminals--which are low-end desktops designed to access
applications and data over a network--were not originally part of the
EdgeNet plan. But the terminals, which are still gaining popularity in the
public and private sector, turned out to be the best way for the community
to meet its information technology needs.
"Originally, the goal was to use existing technology better, but we couldn't
maintain all the PCs," said Knox McIlwain, manager of technology development
at CPDC. "We decided on thin clients before the industry really took off,
and we fired three consultants because they said we couldn't do it."
As part of EdgeNet, residents have access to software from SiteScape Inc.
that facilitates online community discussions and postings within Edgewood
Terrace (see " A Community Forum
None of those technological services and applications would have been
possible had it not been for a fed-up residents association seeking help in
1991 from CPDC, a nonprofit organization that helps communities provide
affordable housing to low- and moderate-income individuals and also develops
community service programs.
Community leaders told CPDC that they wanted an establishment that would
provide job training and employment connections while making residents feel
safe, said Albert Browne, vice president of Edgewood Community Development
CPDC originally focused on rebuilding the neighborhood and providing more
affordable, safe housing. The organization went to the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development for financial assistance, and by 1995, an
up-front grant was approved that allowed CPDC to purchase the Edgewood
As part of that assistance, HUD asked CPDC if it was interested in
incorporating technology into the infrastructure at Edgewood. The
organization and residents gave an enthusiastic affirmative response.
Edgewood then became the precursor of HUD's now well-established
Neighborhood Networks program ( www.neighborhoodnetworks.org
> ) and recently was honored with a HUD
Best Practices Award.
The original plan was to raze all the buildings and start from scratch, but
CPDC decided that was unnecessary after surveying structures on the site,
Zoltner said. "Everyone thought it would be better to knock everything down,
but it was people problems, not buildings problems," he said.
HUD provided additional funding to build the labs and cubicles at Edgewood,
and the community hooked Microsoft early on to donate equipment and
applications. "Having HUD and Microsoft as full partners really got the ball
rolling," Zoltner said. "So when we decided we wanted to put computers in
the apartments," it wasn't long before they had a private partner.
Nine community members attended the first computer class held at Edgewood in
"When the first class of nine people graduated, it was a like a light bulb
in the community, after darkness for so many years," Browne said. "It had a
ripple effect throughout the community."
Zoltner said the residents have begun to demand even more from technology,
and they recognize the benefits computer training and knowledge offer for
education, jobs and economic development.
CPDC and other partners offer a comprehensive slate of courses to Edgewood
residents and others interested in increasing their computer knowledge and
skills, and gaining job training. The 12-week Computer Office Skills
Employment Program targets people looking for computer and office skills to
become marketable in the work force. A class of 12 students graduated this
CPDC partnered with Bell Atlantic for a Telecommunications Customer Service
Training program, open to people who are 18 to 24 and have not earned a high
school degree or GED. The classes teach Microsoft Office computer
applications, customer service skills, English skills and career exploration
during the 16-week program. Ten students completed the program this summer.
The Youth Entrepreneurial Skills class, taught by students from nearby
Georgetown University, helps teach Edgewood youths how to succeed in
business by showing them how to write business plans, negotiate sales, and
use accounting and finance techniques.
More programs have been demanded and are on the way, Zoltner said. "We're
constantly starting new programs. From career enhancement to computer and
office skills...and they are all free except for 25 hours of service
residents must perform to put back into the community."
The Edgewood Technology Advisory Board (ETAB), which has 30 members, about a
third of whom are active, has served as a liaison between CPDC and the
community. Board members have been involved in beta testing the EdgeNet thin
clients, informing management what the residents need from the technology.
"With emerging technology moving so rapidly, we want to get ahead and not
get left behind," said Bonnita Monroe, a charter member of ETAB. "We share
opinions with one another, and it's like a puzzle that comes together. The
training programs have really sparked an interest [in the community]."
Monroe, an administrative specialist in the federal government and an
Edgewood resident since November 1998, uses computers extensively as part of
her job, but she said the classes at Edgewood have helped her learn
applications that otherwise would have been inaccessible. The computer
training "is outstanding because I don't have the opportunity at work to get
into these classes...and it gives me the opportunity to get involved in the
community," she said.
The process of providing technology to people has brought people in the
During beta testing, for example, the more advanced users were helping guide
people with less experience and know-how, McIlwain said. "People are
visiting different apartments, and they don't even know each other, but they
are teaching each other about the system," he said. "They're not asking each
other for child-rearing advice, but rather, 'How do I use this damn e-mail?'
"I've also noticed children in the community getting excited, and it's
starting to spread like wildfire," Monroe said.
The Word Gets Out
People from outside the Edgewood community have heard about the
technological leaps being taken there and have come to the neighborhood for
training. Residents from Maryland, Virginia and Southeast Washington, D.C.,
have enrolled in 12- to 14-week employment classes, and some residents are
teaching night and weekend courses.
Organizations use Edgewood's network learning centers as satellite offices
to help the community and to be more accessible to those who want
information or aid but can't always get to the specific home sites. Howard
and Georgetown universities, D.C. Family Services and American Recovery
Management Systems are just a few examples of those taking advantage of
cubicles within Edgewood, and more will follow, Zoltner said.
Future projects at Edgewood include a digital sound studio through a
partnership with the Levine School of Music, Browne said.
The studio is scheduled to open in the spring of 2000, and Edgewood's
technology infrastructure will be used to make digital recordings and teach
residents how to integrate computers and music.
Once complete, the studio will take recordings done there and put them on
Edgewood's network as a separate site on EdgeNet, giving everyone access to
the rhythms created, Zoltner said.
"It's a great example of our partnership model. They provide the equipment
and professional educators, and we give them the space and access to the
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