Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 30, 2006
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Temple helps Philly become one of first wireless U.S. cities

The Fox School’s Julie Fesenmaier (left), associate research director of the Cochran Research Center, management information systems doctoral student Abhijit Jain (center) and M.I.S. department chair Munir Mandviwalla (right) helped connect Temple to Wireless Philadelphia, the city’s plan for ubiquitous wireless Internet access. In a team that also included Irwin L. Gross eBusiness Institute senior fellow Paul Weinberg, they helped conceive and articulate the business plan that will likely also serve as a model for other cities’ wireless plans.

Philadelphia is going wireless, and Temple helped get this pioneering project off the ground. A team of faculty and students at The Fox School of Business and Management helped conceive and articulate the business plan that will likely also serve as a model for other cities’ wireless plans.

“Our role was to assist with some of the upfront thinking: what it should be, how it should be used, where it fits and doesn’t fit, what are the business models, and so on,” said Munir Mandviwalla, founding chair of the management information systems department and executive director of the Irwin L. Gross eBusiness Institute at The Fox School.

“It was a nice opportunity to work on something that is innovative, and yet also is a way to contribute to the community,” Mandviwalla said.

Temple’s business plan team included Mandviwalla; Julie Fesenmaier, the associate research director of The Fox School’s Cochran Research Center; Paul Weinberg, a senior fellow of Irwin L. Gross eBusiness Institute; M.I.S. doctoral student Abhijit Jain; and Temple alumni Jeff Smith and Greg Meyers, who together worked on the plan for approximately four months.

Fesenmaier conducted a needs assessment and led a stakeholder analysis. To gauge what people wanted, she also held 13 focus groups involving 110 participants, and a town hall meeting where community and business groups discussed their concerns and hopes for the project.

“Overwhelmingly, the stakeholders supported the wireless initiative,” Fesenmaier said. “We are going to be the first city that shows how people benefit from Internet public access.”

Because of its work with the city, The Fox School recently received a grant from the IBM Center for the Business of Government. This grant will enable Fox to continue its research on potential technology-based community issues, helping Philadelphia complete its plan to provide wireless for all its residents.

Jain and Mandviwalla also are co-chairing a mini-track on community-based wireless networks at the forthcoming annual Americas Conference of Information Systems in August.

In late February, the School of Communications and Theater sponsored a panel presentation on plans for a citywide wireless network. Made up of community leaders and wireless technology experts, the panel included Mandviwalla, mixed media technologist and adjunct instructor in SCT Steve Bull and NYCwireless board member Laura Forlano. A question-and-answer session was moderated by SCT lecturers Susan Jacobson, of the journalism department, and Hana Iverson, of film and media arts.

The next day, Feb. 29, Mayor John Street announced that the city-sponsored nonprofit Wireless Philadelphia had signed a deal with Earthlink to implement the city’s plan for broad public access to the Internet.

- By Julia Straka