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iSchool to Lead Partnership Expanding Internet Connectivity in Liberia

The School of Information Studies (iSchool), Imcon International and the Republic of Liberia will collaborate on the 40 in 2021 Project, a far-reaching initiative that will digitally transform the country of Liberia by increasing the nation’s current Internet penetration of about 7 percent to 40 percent by 2021. The announcement was made Thursday by Elizabeth D. Liddy, dean of the iSchool, and Rob Loud, CEO of Imcon International Inc.

Imcon is the developer of the Internet Backpack, a remote connectivity solution that allows users to communicate from almost any location on the planet. The device can be used to create internal wireless networks with large coverage areas utilizing various radio frequencies.

Associate Professor Lee McKnight will serve as the faculty lead on the project. His research focuses on wireless grids, the global information economy, and national and international technology policy.

A delegation from Imcon traveled to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, last week to meet with high-ranking government officials, including Nathaniel McGill, the minister of state for presidential affairs; Professor Ansu D. Sonii, the minister of education; and Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, the minister of health.

McGill expressed his support for the 40 in 2021 Project, acknowledging “the potential significant value to the country, especially the benefits to be gained by Liberia’s ailing education and health sectors.” Jallah and Sonii also demonstrated their support for the project by executing a Memorandum of Understanding, for their respective agencies, to formally launch the partnership.

The iSchool will lead research, education, cyber-physical network design and implementation for the Liberia project. Associate Professor Lee McKnight will serve as the faculty project manager.

As part of an estimated $150 million project, Imcon International will provide 6,000 Internet Backpacks, as well as edgeware, through its partner, VMware, to the Republic of Liberia for education, healthcare, rural community and government use, connecting the Internet to all schools and hospitals throughout the country.

“We are pleased to take part in this project with Imcon and lend our technical and research expertise to this important endeavor to increase Internet connectivity across Liberia and other locations around the globe,” says Dean Liddy. “The iSchool is deeply committed to leveraging our academic and scholarly resources to improve the world around us.”

The initiative includes a project-based learning curriculum through Imcon’s education partner, One Planet Education Network. In addition, through its partnerships with Hu-manity.co and OrbHealth, Imcon will also implement a nationwide broadband network dedicated to Liberia’s education and healthcare systems and deploy and maintain the country’s first electronic medical record system.

“The Internet Backpack is a revolutionary technology and a groundbreaking solution with multiple applications for use across the planet,” says Loud. “This alliance will dramatically jumpstart our ability to extend our proprietary technology and effectuate positive change for underserved people as well as for those in remote areas without access to standard connectivity. The Liberia project is the first of many projects we envision rolling out on a global scale over the coming months and years.”

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