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University of Minnesota named Tekne award finalist

October 12, 2015
people with a laptop and desktop computer at the Business & Community Economic Development Technology Empowerment Center

This partnership is important for the community and an excellent extension of the University's mission of teaching and outreach.

The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) recently announced the University of Minnesota as a finalist for the coveted 2015 Tekne Award. This award is given to Minnesota's best and brightest technology users and developers in innovation, development, education, commercialization and management.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) was selected in the Collaboration for Community Impact category in recognition of the work being done in partnership with the Office of Business & Community Economic Development (BCED) and the Technology Empowerment Center (TEC) to close the digital divide and address the unmet technology needs of residents in North Minneapolis. Other finalists in this category include the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and Minnesota Compass.

"It is an honor to be selected with such respected state projects," said Bernard Gulachek, interim vice president, OIT. "This partnership is important for the community and an excellent extension of the University's mission of teaching and outreach."

TEC Program narrows digital divide

The impact of the digital divide on diverse and underserved communities has been the subject of extensive research. Economic equality, social mobility and participation in civic life are among the factors affected by disparities in access to the internet and other digital technologies.

"Technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity," said Darryl Peal, Executive Director for Business and Community Economic Development. "Without technology, you can't apply for a job, you can't apply for social services and you can't access information from your child's school that is only available electronically. All of these tasks require a computer."

Through the BCED/OIT collaboration, the TEC program places computers with low-income families, provides technical support, teaches computer skills and offers training in computer repair. OIT helped to empower the TEC program by providing quality desktop and laptop computers that are being retired by the University as well as contributing money to purchase new computers.

Specifically, the goals of the TEC program are to:

  • establish the CompTIA A+ Certification Program as a benchmark for individuals seeking to enter the workforce and who have an interest in the IT field. The program will develop an individual's ability to perform essential IT tasks such as installation, configuration, diagnostics, preventative maintenance, basic networking and security
  • be subject matter experts in decreasing the digital divide and increase the University's computer distribution to areas of Midway, Frogtown, and Rondo community neighborhoods
  • increase computer literacy training courses to include intermediate and advanced Microsoft Office and computer classes

Once new programs and classes are launched, OIT will provide training for the CompTIA A+ Certification Program scheduled to launch in a few months and add advanced classes to a new curriculum that is being added in a few weeks.

Award winners will be announced during a gala event on Thursday, November 18, that will be attended by representatives of OIT and BCED.