Home Featured The Quilt: How One Organization is Helping Campuses Bridge the Digital Divide and Drive Innovation

The Quilt: How One Organization is Helping Campuses Bridge the Digital Divide and Drive Innovation

by Jenna Sindle
The Quilt

Today’s colleges and universities face tremendous challenges when it comes to keeping up with the pace of change as technology drives disruption and enables innovation on campus. To ensure that the institution, students, faculty, and researchers are not left on the wrong side of the digital divide, there must be a constant investment in IT and that’s not an easy task even for the most well-funded institution.

One organization, The Quilt, is working hard to ensure that colleges, universities, and other educational and community anchor institutions can access state-of-the-art technology that fits their needs and is easy to procure. “Not only is the pace of change today in technology development intense, but the threats to information security are unrelenting, and the expectations for what IT can facilitate are equally demanding,” shared Jen Leasure, President and CEO of The Quilt. “Just one example of how the demands on IT capabilities has changed can be seen in how a campus supports research. Where research used to be conducted by a single group in a single department, it is now, more common than not, an intra- and inter-institutional activity, crossing over states, countries and continents. Universities must have the technology – from cloud to data management and security – to be able to facilitate this collaborative environment.”

However, colleges, universities, and community anchor institutions face two major obstacles when it comes to accessing and acquiring new technology and infrastructure:  pricing and procurement. “Individual procurement processes often move slowly as technology and vendors are evaluated, and many institutions lack the scale and purchasing power to drive down prices. As a result, new technology can become outdated by the time it’s acquired or may not be able to even be purchased because it’s too expensive,” shared Tim Boltz, Director of State, Local, and Education Sales at Carahsoft. “To keep up with the pace of change and bring the types of technology to campus that will continue to support student learning and research endeavors, campus IT leaders need to be able to connect with vendors that understand the unique needs of educational institutions and find ways to reduce costs through collaboration.”

It was exactly these types of challenges that The Quilt was designed to address. “At a Internet2 community meeting in 1998, a group of regional research and education networks recognized the benefits of collaboration and the power of partnership.  From there, the group grew and developed a clear mission which led to the founding of The Quilt in 2000,” explained Leasure.

At the heart of the success of The Quilt is trust. “From our earliest days we focused on making sure that our mission was in lockstep with our members’ missions,” Leasure said. “Since its inception, The Quilt focused on building a trusted group of member organizations and then expanded its programs to include a trusted group of technology providers that share a passion for the mission and have a proven track record of understanding and supporting the unique needs of educational institutions and not just the mass market.”

As colleges and universities enter the age of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence there will be more pressure than ever to integrate new technology quickly and securely. The good news for campus IT leaders is that the member organizations of The Quilt will be there to help them navigate the challenges and facilitate success. As Leasure summed up her thoughts on this next-generation campus she shared that: “The Quilt was founded to spark relationships and drive our work together.  None of us could do the work that we do alone. As these technology refresh cycles shorten and budgets constraints persist, we’ll dive deeper into our collaborative work to continue to deliver valuable programs to all our members and their connected institutions.”

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