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Edge Computing to Bridge the Digital Divide for Campus Neighbor

Georgia Tech researchers are planning to bring edge computing to Atlanta’s Westside. With National Science Foundation funding, the group will deploy edge-based information services to increase internet access for the community.

The $150,000 planning grant will enable researchers to explore the possibilities of the project, develop community relationships, and gather a team of students. They believe their methods in the Westside could serve as a test case for applying the solution to similar urban neighborhoods elsewhere.

“The digital divide in urban communities is getting worse: They don’t have reliable connectivity, or affordability for connections,” School of Computer Science (SCS) Professor Umakishore Ramachandran said. “Georgia Tech should be able to do something to help our neighbors.”

The project started three years ago when researchers approached Westside leaders to figure out their needs for increasing access to information. To develop trust with the community, undergraduate and graduate students have been regularly attending Westside community meetings.

They determined the community would most benefit from local area network (LAN) based connectivity and streaming services that are not reliant on cloud connectivity. For sustainability, they aim to train high school students and other community members to maintain these systems.

Building relationships is just as important as the technology. As a concrete use case, they plan to provide a streaming service using an open-source LAN-based platform akin to Zoom for Tech students to tutor Westside area children.

“Technology is the easy part; the hard part is earning trust of community,” Ramachandran said.

Ramachandran is co-principal investigator along with SCS Assistant Professor faculty Ashutosh Dhekne and Professors Mustaque Ahamad, and Mostafa Ammar; School of Economics Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhongde; and City and Regional Planning Associate Professor Nisha Botchwey.