Get access

Government as Catalyst: Can It Work Again with Wireless Internet Access?


Abhijit Jain is an assistant professor in the Cisler College of Business at Northern Michigan University.

Munir Mandviwalla is chair and associate professor of management information systems in the Fox School of Business, Temple University, and executive director of the Irwin L. Gross Institute for Business and Information Technology.

Rajiv D. Banker is the Merves Chair in Accounting and Information Technology in the Fox School of Business, Temple University.


As the Internet becomes an indispensable component of the global economy, Internet access is an increasingly important prerequisite to exploiting social, economic and educational opportunities. Municipal wireless networks (MWNs), which are wireless Internet access networks created with active local leadership and involvement, are seen as a potential solution. In this case study we describe the development of the Philadelphia MWN including goals, stakeholder expectations, policy, applications, technology, management models, funding, and implementation. The case provides insights on how communities can act as catalysts and use information technology to promote social and economic change. We found that MWNs involve competing private and public sector stakeholders, and it is important to clearly identify the main application of the MWN. We also found that focusing on the digital divide affords both opportunities and risks, and there are powerful external forces that impact MWNs and the underlying technology.