UTEP hosts Operation Connectivity in efforts of bringing more e-learning devices, internet access to students

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EL PASO, Texas (Aug. 20, 2021) — The University of Texas at El Paso hosted Operation Connectivity for an update on the group’s progress to provide Texas’ 5.5 million public school students with an e-learning device backed by a dependable internet connection.

Operation Connectivity, a joint effort between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Legislature, the Dallas Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency, gave the update Friday in UTEP’s El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center.

Gaby Rowe, Lead of Operation Connectivity and Principal Partner of Grow Associates, stressed to the audience that it would take a team effort to drive forward progress around connectivity to ensure that communities such as El Paso are competitive in the future.

“The University has played an incredible role in convening everyone that matters around this issue,” said Rowe. “A tremendous thank you to Dr. Wilson and to the staff for bringing the right people into the room; the people that care and the people who can make a difference.”

During the update, the group discussed progress on Phase 2, mapping and adoption of existing infrastructure for economically disadvantaged students. Organizers said they are ready to enter Phase 3, the “development and adoption of new infrastructure,” and the El Paso region will be one of the participants.

“We are excited for the opportunity before us, as we continue to establish El Paso as the largest bi-national connected community in the world, and as a visionary region leading efforts to close the digital divide,” said Ivette Savina, Assistant Vice President for Outreach and Student Access at UTEP.

Operation leaders picked El Paso in part because of the strong partnerships established through Digital El Paso, a public/private partnership led by the County of El Paso. According to its website, Digital El Paso wants to develop and adopt a clear, regional broadband plan, and to expand the regional definition of infrastructure to include broadband as a fourth utility. Among its members are UTEP, the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, Borderplex Alliance, El Paso County and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The event included welcoming remarks from UTEP President Heather Wilson and presentations about Digital El Paso and the efforts by Operation Connectivity, which launched in May 2020. Operation Connectivity has worked to map broadband capabilities in economically disadvantaged areas based on the latest U.S. Census data in partnership with Connected Nation, a national nonprofit that helps agencies to develop solutions to gaps in digital technology and high-speed internet.

Organizers hoped that the information shared at this meeting at UTEP would encourage stakeholders to advance as a group to cultivate an inclusive broadband connectivity proposal. They plan to start Phase 3 in September 2021.

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