NEWARK, NJ — A $2.3 million Smart and Connected Communities Grant from the National Science Foundation is on its way to help bridge Newark's digital divide, Rutgers University announced Monday. 

The grant will allow a research team led by Rutgers-New Brunswick faculty, which will partner with Newark, to develop the city's digital services, according to a press release. Tools and strategies, which could include innovations like smart traffic control, will seek to improve residents' quality of life. 

“In this project, we will explore the implications of smart service conflicts for social inclusion,” said Desheng Zhang, principal investigator for the research team. “This is important because when service conflicts occur, their impacts are likely concentrated in less affluent communities, meaning that some groups of residents will experience lower quality services than others. Put differently, digital service disruptions contribute to a digital divide in service provision that we aim to mitigate.”

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The research team plans to create a digital service dashboard and open data portal with training support. City residents can look forward to a mobile application that expands access to government information and public services and digital literacy workshops. 

“I am enthusiastic about collaborating with Rutgers University on this important project that will enable residents, public officials, planners, developers and others to easily access comprehensive information about every property in our city,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “We have wanted to create one interactive map to be the sole source of information for every land parcel in Newark on a website that will be intuitive for residents to use.”

Ultimately, the project will develop technology that makes providing input on community improvements easier for Newark residents, which the city can access and use to coordinate city services. Project and city leaders hope the collaboration will help improve services nationally and internationally.