Home » ‘Covington Connect’ Wi-Fi project wins international award

‘Covington Connect’ Wi-Fi project wins international award

COVINGTON, Ky. — A City-led initiative to smash the digital divide in Covington by expanding access to free, public Wi-Fi has been named one of the 50 most transformative “smart” projects in the world.

To date, almost half of Covington residents have signed up for public Wi-Fi through what’s called “Covington Connect,” and it already has hosted more than 780,000 online sessions with an average duration of over an hour.

This week, the collaborative project unveiled during the start of the pandemic was recognized by Smart Cities Connect at the 5th Annual Smart 50 Award Gala in Columbus, Ohio.

The award puts Covington Connect in the company of such projects as a new demand-responsive ride-sharing service in Australia, a data study that combined COVID-19 cases and human movement patterns in a province of Thailand, and a gunshot detection technology project in Florida.

Essam Elgusain, Covington’s IT Manager and System Analyst who continues to play a huge role in the initiative, attended the gala and accepted the award.

“Supporting a new innovative public service that has the capability to transform lives has been a humbling experience,” Elgusain said. “I don’t think we fully realize all the benefits we’ll be seeing in the future because of this.”

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer praised the work of the many partners in the collaborative effort, which included altafiber (formerly Cincinnati Bell), the Housing Authority of Covington, Covington Independent Public Schools, and local computer firms Blair Technology Group and ReGadget, and Houston-based non-profit Comp-U-Dopt.

The impetus for Covington Connect was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, when schools sent students home and employed distance learning, many workers went remote, and medical appointments transitioned to telehealth.

At the time, surveys showed that 40 percent of Covington schoolchildren lacked regular Internet access, limiting their ability to participate in a meaningful way in their education.

To help fix that inequity, the City and its partners came together in the courtyard at Hotel Covington for a news conference, seen HERE, to announce the initiative.

Covington Connect’s primary goal was to deploy a high-speed intelligent Wi-Fi network throughout Covington’s neighborhoods, public housing, and business districts by running new fiber and/or setting up 124 “hotspots,” or wireless access points. It also included the distribution of 1,000 free computers to families of schoolchildren.

While allowing children to access school lessons from home was a primary goal, the free public Wi-Fi also enabled families to do everything from apply for jobs to see a doctor online to reserve a library book to attend a training seminar.

More information about Covington Connect can be seen HERE.

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