Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 27, 2014

Looking for Research Vendors for Mpls Community Tech Survey

I thought some readers might be interested both in the contract and the RFP in case anyone was looking at a similar project…

The City of Minneapolis Information Technology (IT) Department is soliciting proposals from qualified consultants for professional surveying services to plan and conduct a series of surveys of Minneapolis residents regarding computer and internet use. The surveys are referred to as the Minneapolis Community Technology Surveys and are primarily used to determine the state of the digital divide in Minneapolis.

IT conducted a Community Technology Survey in 2012, 2013, and 2014. IT would like to continue the survey over the next several years to continue to measure changes in the community over time. 

IT is seeking proposals from a variety of research firms to evaluate current professional research options and opportunities within the surveying industry as part of the extended commitment to this project. 

The desired contract period will be up to six (6) years to conduct up to three (3) resident surveys.  Responding to this Request for Proposals shall not be construed as a guarantee of work under the Scope of Services or of any total dollar amount of compensation. 

http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/finance/procurement/rfp

 

On Tuesday late afternoon, Kanabec County celebrated their progress with broadband through the Blandin Broadband Communities program. You can see their PowerPoints, a quick video and some of the notes below.

Healthcare project with First Light brought St Scholastica students and hip/knee replacement patients together where students provided training and instructions for patients. The project was successful despite some setbacks outside of the actual project (like flooding in hospital). The program will be featured at a healthcare conference in California this winter.

PCs for People brought computers to 50 low income households. Kanabec Computer Services provided local support for the computers. But that job was not onerous. The PC recipients also got access to broadband – they got reduced rates for 1 year, with an option to re-up. Worked with MidContinent and CenturyLink. The general retention rates are varied from 80+ percent retention. Although some providers will continue with reduced rate.

Interactive Video programming – such as virtual trips to the Baseball Fall of Fame, Pearl Harbor and the Coral Reef. [Working on getting some video and will add when I can.]

They did a series of training with local businesses, built a community portal, community mapping and Wi-Fi expansion.

  • There were two days of training for 8 people. They were interested; they learned to build their own website, work with social media and got one-on-one attention. They also built a network of cohorts.
  • A community portal at www.dala.mn – a site that takes traditional elements of a website and aggregates it with calendar and volunteer contributor angle.
  • Community Mapping – helping 70 local businesses claim their Google Places and/or other online presence opportunities.
  • Community Wi-Fi – in early stages but plan to get 20 Wi-Fi locations

Tele-Work Center – need to provide a facility with high speed access for residents and visitors. We are hoping for a lot of demand – although we know we have limited resources. We need to find a way to increase capacity as need increases.

I’ve spoken about opportunities for broadband Ramsey County. In 2012 Ramsey County was looking at a solution that would bring fiber to the government builds but also open the door to a private provider bringing fiber to local homes and businesses too. That didn’t work out. Instead, the Pioneer Press reports…

The Ramsey County Board recently voted 6-1 to approve a five-year agreement with Comcast to provide high-speed broadband communications between government buildings.

County Commissioner Janice Rettman, who cast the sole vote against the agreement, expressed concern that Comcast has signaled it may spin off its Minnesota clients to a different provider as a result of a pending national merger.

“Who is going to own the intellectual properties if Comcast takes a hike?” Rettman asked.

It is interesting to think about who might get the contract if/when Comcast gets out of the market in Twin Cities. Maybe there’s an opportunity for the PUC to get involved if that happens and maybe there is a way to create opportunities for the residents

Admittedly, I’m not exactly early with this news 0 but I had to look it up myself so I figured I’d share what I learned. The short burst – is that the doors are open for applying for the FCC Rural Broadband Experiments funding. According to Lexology

On August 19, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released a public notice establishing the process for applying for support under the Rural Broadband Experiments program.  Applications under this program must be submitted via the FCC’s online auction system and will be due no later than 6 PM (EST) Tuesday, Oct. 14.

As described in our prior advisory, the Rural Broadband Experiments program will disburse up to  $100 million for competitive providers (such as competitive local exchange carriers, cable operators, fixed wireless ISPs or other entities) to deploy broadband networks in high-cost, unserved areas. The FCC implemented this program in its Technology Transitions Order in order to determine the most cost-effective way to direct support to competitors to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved areas.  The results from these experiments are expected to guide the Commission as it begins to develop the competitive bidding process for directing Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II support to competitive providers.

A July FCC order set the budget for this program at $100 million, with $75 million reserved for projects that can offer 25 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream (category one); $15 million for projects offering 10/1 Mbps service (category two); and $10 million for projects in extremely high cost areas that would provide 10/1 Mbps service (category three).  In that order, the FCC determined that winning bids will be selected on a single criterion: cost-effectiveness.

You can check out the Lexology article for more details. Good luck!!

I thought some folks might be interested. I’d like to see them get someone really good.

GRANTS SPECIALIST COORD

$ 23.15-$ 34.18 hourly, $ 48,337-$ 71,368 annually

Date Posted: 08/25/2014
Closing Date: 09/02/2014
Hiring Agency: Employment & Econ Development Dept
Location: St. Paul
Who May Apply: Open to all qualified job seekers
Posting Number: 14DEED000184
Employment Conditions: Limited, Full-time
Work Shift: Day Shift
Days of Work: Monday-Friday , 08:00 AM-04:30 PM
Travel Required: yes
Job Grouping: Finance Regulatory Econ Devel
Classified Status: Unclassified
Job Description: This is a one year temporary Unclassified position, with the possibility of an extension.

The purpose of this position is to develop, promote, implement, provide technical assistance for, evaluate and report on state and/or federally funded financing programs of the Office of Broadband Development. The Office develops and administers programs designed to achieve high quality broadband access for all Minnesotans and to support and promote the skills necessary to adopt and use broadband tools for economic, educational, health, and institutional benefits.

Major job responsibilities include the following:

1). Program development/marketing (provide outreach and marketing and training, solicit grant applications from potential applicants, provide advice and input on detailed and technical aspects of financing programs)

2) Program implementation: soliciting applications, providing technical assistance and financial packaging assistance to applicants; analyzing and reviewing applications for financial assistance.

3) Program management, and management of grant portfolios (training of clients to assure they comply with the contract and program conditions, work closely with client to assure they are aware of project timelines and timing of funds available from the Office, monitor program caseload, monitor grantees for compliance with contractual requirements).

4) Recommend financing conditions and awards to the Director. Negotiate and coordinate grant agreement closings.

Minimum Qualifications: Please describe your qualifications, experience and education in the Job Specific Question Section in Resume Builder.

Two (2) years professional experience in one or a combination of the following areas. To receive credit for experience, you must provide specific information regarding your experience, education and accomplishments in the areas of grant management,training and workforce development related experience (job title, specific duties, dates performed, number and nature of grants administered).

Grants experience: professional experience involving evaluating, administering, accounting for, training and/or monitoring of grant/grants proposals, grant agreements, or grant recipients for a grant making organization or similar work for a grant recipient organization.

Extensive knowledge of federal and state laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures with ability to effectively interpret and communicate those to grant recipients.

Training and workforce development experience: professional experience working with training and workforce development issues, including but not limited to business and economic development, instructional design and methods, labor market data and employment projections, accrediting standards, industry certifications, training resources, federal poverty guidelines, strategic planning, finance, marketing.

A Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, planning and/or community development or Political Science or related degree may substitute for 6 months of experience.

Selection Process: The selection process is a resume-based, skill-matching process. Resumes of all applicants to this posting will be evaluated against the Minimum Qualifications stated above. If your skills match the required skills for this position, the department may contact you.
Employee reference checks will be conducted on all finalists. This may include a review of documentation related to job performance. It includes contact with the applicant’s former employers.A Criminal Background Check will be conducted on those positions that have access to confidential information and/or private data, handle financial transactions, or enter the homes of our clients. Please note that a Criminal History Check will be conducted on all finalists for this position. A criminal conviction will not automatically remove you from consideration for employment.

When the position requires travel and the applicant drives a state owned or leased vehicle, a driver’s license and record check will be conducted.

How to Apply: Most State selection processes utilize a resume-based screening process. You will be contacted by agency staff if your background best matches the selection criteria on this job posting. To apply for this position, click the APPLY box found at the bottom of this job announcement. For additional information about the State’s selection process, go to <http://www.mn.gov/mmb/careers/>.

Anyone with a disability who believes they may need an accommodation should contact the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, in advance, so any necessary arrangements can be made. To request an accommodation, email DEED.ODEO@state.mn.us; or call 651-259-7094 (voice) or 651-296-3900 (TTY), MN Relay 711 or use your preferred relay service.

Contact for More Information: Sue Zeches, 651/259-7107/sue.zeches@state.mn.us.

The Office of Broadband Development continues to tour Minnesota with a preview of information on the Border to Border Infrastructure Grant Program. If that’s new to you – or you’d like a reminder on the details, you can check out the webinar that Danna MacKenzie did with the Blandin Foundation earlier this summer…

DEED has been working on a list of FAQs based on the meetings.

The final meeting is tomorrow:

Tuesday, August 26 from 3:00 to 4:30 Perham Area Public Library 225 2nd Avenue NE Perham

Just last week I attended the meeting in Owatonna. It was attended by about 25 people – providers, County IT folks, reporters and elected officials. People had pretty specific questions. I had them all typed up and then to be honest I somehow lost them over the weekend – but maybe the highlights are better anyways…

  • The Request for Proposals will come out in last September – no specific date has been set yet.
  • A draft application will not be made available since they push is to get the actually application form out ASAP.
  • They are checking into any issues with prevailing wages to see if there are minimum requirements for salaries.
  • People are encouraged to apply – whether they feel the application is solid or complete or not. The ideas alone may help paint the need for future legislative funds for broadband.

Apparently my renewed kick this month is demonstrating that broadband is an interdisciplinary solution that demands investment – not a problem that simply costs us. The tricky part about maintaining that perspective is that it’s a perspective that’s better demonstrated from outside the field and industry. So I was delighted to see the notes from the most recent Resilient Region Telehealth Community Meeting. You’ll notice below a call to the Office of Broadband Development for help with policy (#2), broadband purchasing (#4) as well as information on adoption.

We wanted to give you an update on the various opportunities that have emerged from the Resilient Region Telehealth Community Meeting that was held July 28:

  1. Opportunity – Telehealth Advocacy: We will be writing a letter on behalf of the Resilient Region Champions and task force members to the Governor’s Broadband task force to ask them to address the issues of reimbursement parity and inter-state reciprocity. We will send the letter in the near future in case you would like to add your name to the letter.

  2. Opportunity – Project: Shared Purchasing Agreement: Maureen Ideker would like to work with NJPA and other health care providers on identifying an educational model for home care that could be purchased through a shared purchasing agreement contract. If you would like to be involved in this please contact Maureen Ideker at Maureen.Ideker@essentiahealth.org

  3. Opportunity – Discounted Broadband Available through: The Greater MN Telehealth and Broadband Network Initiative (GMTBI) is a discounted broadband program and is currently open to new participants under the Health Care Connect Fund from USAC. It provides a 65% discount rate. Interested health care providers are invited to participate (see more information below). If you wish to participate please contact:  Jeff Plunkett at the Community Health Information Collaborative (CHIC) in Duluth:  jplunkett@medinfosystems.org

  4. Opportunity-Essentia Health-Blandin Telehealth Demonstration Site:  Deer River is serving as a Telehealth training and demonstration site this upcoming year and MN healthcare facilities are invited to participate on-site in actual hospital and clinic implementations of new Tele-health services.  A home monitoring learning collaborative is also being offered.  For more information contact:  Kimberly.shropshire@EssentiaHealth.org

  5. FYI: Telehealth Reimbursement Information: Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center provides general information about Telehealth and the website has up to date information regarding telehealth reimbursement:  http://www.gptrac.org

  6. FYI: Demonstration Project: We will be working with to develop a teleheath demonstration projects to demonstrate the power of the robust high-speed internet access provided by WTCA. We will keep you posted on this project as it evolve

  7. FYI: Updates on a Partner: Good Samaritan Society is working to transform care for senior citizens using IBM Big Data and Analytics. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/good-samaritan-society-transforms-care-for-senior-citizens-using-ibm-big-data-and-analytics-2014-07-30?reflink=MW_news_stmp

  8. FYI: Study: Telehealth could cut companies’ health care costs- A study by Towers Watson showed U.S. companies could save more than $6 billion in health care costs annually if they required employees and dependents to leverage telemedicine services instead of face-to-face doctor visits. The study showed that 37% of responding employers plan to provide telehealth consultations to their employees to help them with nonemergency medical concerns by next year, while another 34% might offer such services in 2016 or 2017. Clinical Innovation + Technology online (8/11)

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 24, 2014

Hack4Good #6 – Climate Change #hack4good – 12-14 Sept 2014

I love this idea. Unfortunately this is the same weekend as the biggest school fundraiser for one of my kids (and the big Replacements concert) or I would try to rally a bunch of us to attend online. I wanted to share the info for folks who might be able to join the event. Also I think I’ll at least sign up and try to see how the work flows because this might be a good model for a statewide event. It would be great to create an opportunity for interested folks from communities across Minnesota to collaborate on an issue…

http://bit.ly/hack4good6climatechange

The world’s biggest global hack against climate change

Uniting globally 12-14 September 2014, 3,000+ leading software engineers, hackers, ui/ux designers, product makers, founders, thought leaders and civic-minded organisations will gather in 40+ global cities to hack against climate change, building prototypes of technology solutions that address 15 global climate change challenges.

There are Global and Local sponsorship opportunities available right now! Contact hack4good@geekli.st today!

How does #hack4good work?

Teams respond to problem statements and challenges set by NGOs, government organisations and subject matter experts, collaborating intensively over a 48-hour period. The result is 100s of prototype projects that demonstrate innovative technology solutions to have a positive impact for humanity.

In each location, a judging panel made up of technology leaders and subject matter experts will select the most promising teams in terms of their potential impact. These go forwards into global judging. The teams selected by the global judging panel will present their projects as part of Climate Week NYC alongside the UN Climate Summit in New York in September.

15 Global Climate Change Challenges

Climate Awareness Challenges

Public awareness – Gain a critical mass of public awareness and support for addressing climate change Personal impact – Help people understand their personal impact and carbon footprint Digital activism – What digital tools can we give to savvy activists and campaigners that will unlock the potential to create powerful movements for climate action?

Compelling visualisation – Create compelling visualisations of climate models and climate impacts International negotiations – Facilitate effective international negotiations and strong international agreements

Climate Adaptation Challenges

Resilient communities – Build tools to empower strong, prepared and resilient communities Temperature rise – Respond to heatwaves, drought and agricultural challenges Extreme weather – Respond to flooding, tropical storms, wildfires and extreme sudden weather events Ecosystems and nature – Protect and restore ecosystems, natural spaces and animal habitats NGO collaboration – Facilitate collaboration and communication between NGOs

Climate Action Challenges

Consumer behaviour – Influence and encourage climate-friendly consumption choices Energy production – Develop global scale solutions for low-carbon energy production Responsible finance – Encourage responsible finance and divestment away from fossil fuels Sustainability and energy efficiency – Increase energy efficiency, appropriate use of resources and sustainable business Reforestation – End deforestation and stimulate reforestation

Where is #hack4good and how do I get involved?

Geeklist #hack4good 0.6 is In 40+ cities and participation can be online if your city does not have a physical venue!

Click “Join the Hackathon” at the top-right of this page to sign up in your city or as an online participant!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 23, 2014

Small business and social media: numbers, tips and trends

Today’s post is a little different but as I read the report I realized that it might be a good fit considering the popularity of Social Media Breakfasts and business-focused digital literacy classes I hear about across Minnesota. Small business use of social media is a topic close to my heart. I know businesses often want to know “what’s normal” or how to better focus their online campaigns. SmartBrief came up with a report that addresses those questions. I’ve just condensed the highlights into an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) format.

What are small business goals for using social media?

Thirty-six percent of small businesses surveyed by Manta, a small business directory, say their primary goal in using social media is to acquire and engage with new customers, 19 percent say they use it to generate leads and referrals and 17 percent use it to drive awareness.4 In a separate survey, 60 percent of small businesses and nonprofits say social media marketing is well-suited to attracting new customers and engaging existing ones.

How much time are small businesses spending on social media?

Two-thirds of small businesses are spending more time on social media than they were a year ago, and 43 percent report spending six or more hours a week working on social media marketing. Much of this time is spent creating content, reaching out to customers and analyzing results of online campaigns. However, small businesses also use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to learn about their competitors and post exclusive deals.

Three in five business owners expect to spend the same or more time on social advertising in the coming year. However, only 8.7 percent plan to use more paid tools such as promoted Facebook posts and sponsored tweets.

Twitter Tips & Trends

Facebook is the most popular social media platform among small businesses, with 35 percent using it compared with 33 percent on LinkedIn and 19 percent on Twitter.7 However, Facebook hasn’t been the most reliable tool for driving online leads. For that, small businesses have largely flocked to Twitter.

Twitter accounts for 82 percent of all social media leads for small businesses, while Facebook accounts for just 9 percent.

In all, 27 percent of U.S. Internet users 18 to 29 have a Twitter account, compared with 16 percent of Internet users in their 30s and 40s.

More than 70 percent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a small business after following the company on Twitter, and 73 percent say they enjoy receiving updates on products from the companies they follow.

Seventy percent of Twitter users say they have retweeted a small business’s post because they “liked the content,” and 64 percent have mentioned a small business when sharing a positive experience online.

Facebook Tips & Trends

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with 1.15 billion active monthly users.11 Members tend to be older and wealthier than users of competing networks. Since the end of 2012, the number of Facebook users ages 45 to 54 increased 45 percent. Facebook members include 73 percent of users in the U.S. whose annual incomes are more than $75,000.

According to Facebook, the most successful posts — measured by the number of “Likes” and comments they get — contain 100 to 250 characters. Users also respond to posts that include visual elements such as photos and videos.

Small businesses that cater to mothers and families are more likely to be successful on Facebook, as 72 percent of American moms have a profile page on the social network

LinkedIn Tips & Trends

Since its debut in 2003, LinkedIn has amassed a network of more than 238 million members in 200 countries. Thirty percent of U.S. business owners report using LinkedIn regularly, and 41 percent say the network is the “most valuable agent for growth” among social media platforms.17 One in five online adults is on the platform,18 and students and recent college graduates make up LinkedIn’s fastest growing demographic.19 LinkedIn visitors skew heavily male, 61 percent to 39 percent female.

Pinterest Tips & Trends

More than 70 million users worldwide21 “pin” favorite images onto inspirational “boards” dedicated to subjects on everything from interior decorating to healthy recipes.

Fifteen percent of Internet users regularly visit Pinterest, with well-educated, high-earning women between 18 and 49 making up the bulk of the virtual scrapbooking site’s dedicated users. Twenty percent of college-educated Internet users use Pinterest, compared with 15 percent on Twitter and 12 percent on Instagram.22 Eight of 10 users are female, according to Internet stats keeper comScore, and Pinterest fans are more likely to live in rural areas than members of competing social networks.

Instagram Tips & Trends

More than 150 million active monthly users congregate on the network to share photos and videos from mobile devices. The network is most popular among people ages 18 to 29.

Most businesses use Instagram in conjunction with other social channels, automatically pushing Instagram photos onto Twitter and Facebook. The integration makes it possible to run contests and reward customers for sharing Instagram photos with their friends on other social sites.

Earlier this week I was talking with someone about the advantages of looking at a wide range of funding opportunities to support digital inclusion programs and projects. It comes back to the idea that technology is a solution to a wide range problems. One example is a series of recent grants awarded through DEED – most of the training went to hands-on classes such as manufacturing and healthcare but some went for technology training.

DEED Awards 16 Grants to Train Lower-Income and Current Minnesota Workers
Over 1,700 workers will receive training to become self-sufficient and enhance career options

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has awarded grants totaling $1,904,435 under the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP) to train 1,199 lower-income individuals and 505 current workers.

Twelve Low Income Worker Training Program grants will cover the cost of training for ‘training-ready’ individuals with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and four MJSP grants will train 505 current employees of Smiths Medical, Engineered Products Company, Precision, Inc., and Plunkett’s Pest Control, Inc.

The MJSP works strategically with businesses and educational institutions to train or retrain workers, expand work opportunities and keep high-quality jobs in the state. With support from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota legislature, the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership Program has awarded $25.4 million since 2011 to train 32,239 workers and has leveraged $56.8 million in private funding.

“The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership Program responded to business workforce needs by training more than 260,000 Minnesotans,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “These training initiatives will help individuals acquire the necessary skills to pursue new career opportunities and ultimately achieve economic self-sufficiency.”

The Low Income Worker Training grants include:

Takoda Institute of Higher Education, America Indian OIC – $199,700
The American Indian OIC (AIOIC) will offer training to 100 low-income individuals via five training programs: Java, Data Analysis and Reporting with SQL, Powershell, Health Information Technology and Nursing Assistant. Trainees are partnered with a career services representative and an academic advisor who provide ongoing support and monitoring. Upon graduation, students receive job search/placement assistance and personal and professional support.
Contact: Joe Hobot, American Indian OIC, 612-341-3358, ext. 149

Creating IT Futures Foundation, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis – $197,340
JFCS will partner with the Creating IT Futures Foundation to start 60 low-income individuals on a pathway to Information Technology careers through the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, eight weeks of technical and business skills training. Successful students will earn CompTIA A+ certification followed by a six-month paid apprenticeship by a Twin Cities area employer. Participants are also expected to complete at least a second IT certification in Network Administration through mentored and peer-supported on-line coursework to ensure increased employability and advancement in the field.
Contact: Margie Earhart, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Mpls., 952-542-4815

MN Resource Center, RESOURCE, Employment Action Center – $99,875
Employment Action Center (EAC), one of four divisions of RESOURCE, Inc., is one of the largest providers of employment and training services for low-income individuals in the Twin Cities. MN Resource Center (MRC), another division of RESOURCE, provides career training programs specifically designed to meet the needs of individuals with barriers to employment, particularly those with low education or skill levels. RESOURCE will provide 37 participants with the technical skills needed to enter employment within two diverse career areas, office support and manufacturing. After successful completion of training, participants will receive ongoing support, and job search and placement assistance.
Contact: Carrie Scheffler, RESOURCE, 612-752-8833

Century College, Precision, Inc. – $49,776
Precision, Inc., located in White Bear Lake, is a high-tech manufacturing company which designs and manufactures magnetic components used in several markets including medical, telecommunications, consumer electronics and avionics/aerospace/defense. In partnership with Century College, 110 employees will receive training in Design for Manufacturing, Principles of Magnetics for Non-Engineers, World Class Manufacturing, Precision Tools, and Advanced Leadership Skills. CEUs will be awarded for successful completion of the coursework.
Contact: Jeralyn Jargo, Century College, 651-779-3235

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and our services, visit us at http://mn.gov/deed/. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/mndeed

Bill_ColemanI have been a fan of the Intelligent Community forum for quite a while now. I have attended their annual conference many times and led Dakota County’s Intelligent Communities’ initiative that led to three consecutive years recognition as a Smart 21 Intelligent Community. I also brought the Intelligent Community concept to the Blandin Foundation to serve as the framework for their Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community project. Most recently, I worked with ICF co-founder Robert Bell on a project with three rural Louisiana communities. I provide all of this background to let readers know that I have a favorable bias towards the ICF concept and team.

I recently read Brain Gain: How Innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption. The authors, ICF co-founders Robert Bell, John Jung and Louis Zacharilla, provide numerous interesting stories about communities creating their own positive future. The stories are quite varied, but share common threads woven together into the quilt of the Intelligent Community elements – broadband, innovation, knowledge work, digital inclusion and marketing/advocacy.

The stories are from great urban centers, suburbs and rural regional center communities. The common element is smart and sometimes heroic leadership, often shared across business, government and education sectors. Shared vision, collaborative strategy, long-term commitment-these are at the heart of the all of these success stories. All involve creating an environment that can support business development and entrepreneurship. The themes are similar to those expressed in the book “The Rain Forest” by Hwang and Horrowitt.

With a visit today to the FDR and MLK memorials, it reminded me that the ICF founders have always had a strong commitment to social equity as expressed through the Digital Inclusion ICF element. In fact, this book makes the case that creating and supporting an inclusive, innovative, well-skilled and well-connected workforce may be the most important strategy that any community, large or small, should prioritize.

I recommend this book for a number of audiences- for community leaders wanting to learn about success stories; for community economic developers who want to know how broadband and digital inclusion fit with more traditional economic development elements of innovation, workforce and marketing; and for community broadband advocates who know that broadband is important, but not sure how the full benefits of current and prospective fiber networks can be realized.

Owatonna’s People’s Press recently ran an editorial from Mike Martin, executive director of the Minnesota Cable Communications Association and Brent Christensen, president of the Minnesota Telephone Alliance. Both are supportive of the $20 million broadband development fund. Both represent industry and celebrate the progress that industry has made in investing in broadband across the state…

As telecommunications stakeholders — including the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, members of the media, legislators and the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development — continue to look at ways to improve our state’s broadband coverage, it is important to remember that Minnesota has great coverage today with 98 percent of all homes and businesses with service levels at or above the FCC’s definition of broadband. Almost 90 percent of homes have access to broadband at speeds of 10 mbps download/ 3 mbps upload. These numbers continue to improve with each construction season.

Their hiccup with the broadband fund is that both underserved and unserved communities are eligible…

While this new fund has a role to play in helping expand broadband coverage, Minnesotans will be best served if these funds are dedicated toward areas of our state that lack service today. And, with a 50 percent match required, the state’s telecommunications industry looks forward to leveraging these new grant funds to expand in areas of our state that currently do not have service. Leveraging these public funds with private investment will foster the right kind of partnerships to expand coverage. This is the most cost-effective approach, and it will guarantee long-term success in these areas.

What’s the difference between served and unserved? Unserved areas do not meet the FCC definition of broadband, which is 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up. Underserved areas do not meet the State definition of 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. (Regardless of where the community sits today, the proposed improvements must be scalable to 100 Mbps; so funding shouldn’t go to solutions that move a community only from unserved to underserved.)

Right now the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is touring Minnesota talking about the grant; I’ve been to a number of those meetings and plan to attend the meeting in Owatonna tomorrow. While the details of the grant have not been finalized, it seems like they are pretty close and that applications in unserved areas will be weighted more than underserved areas, but it is just part of the equation that will help the OBD rank success applications. Other factors include good business plans, good story to tell, readiness, geographic distribution, residents served, anchor institutions served, digital inclusion component and local match.

I have seen a range of providers attend the information sessions on the grants. I think that a community with a willing provider is probably in good shape for applying for funds, assuming the provider has plans and is will to provide (or help provide) the match. A few providers who attended the meetings pointed out that the funding in question isn’t a large percentage of most build-out projects but it just might be enough to start a discussion, to get community support to spur some local digital inclusion initiatives that help promote higher adoption in currently underserved and unserved areas – and it might also help the investment pay off – for the community, the provider and the OBD

1871This week I had the opportunity to attend the OpenGovHack Night in Chicago. It happens every Tuesday night from 6-10 pm. They have free pizza and between 50-100 (or more) attendees each week! The meeting is part scheduled agenda and part time to meet with your group and work on ideas. It seems like a great way to create civic tools, promote tools and build skills within the community.

I would love to find a way for smaller communities to find a way to make similar meetings happen – so I took pretty good notes with an eye to helping that happen. Also, I know similar meetings happen on monthly basis in the Twin Cities (Open Twin Cities) – maybe these notes will be informative to those folks too.

The meeting started with brief introductions. There were about 50 people in attendance – including seasoned coders, new and wannabe coders, government and city employees with an interest in using technology to solve their problems and reporters. People come to be helpful and/or learn. Some are very passionate about a given project and they can really drive a project; some are less driven but certainly committed enough to show up for four hours on a Tuesday night!

The meeting started with brief introductions. I’d say 12 people were brand new and probably 12-15 come every week. I think there were as many as 10 women. Lots of different ages. People were friendly.

After introductions were announcements, which included the introduction of some cool tools, so I’ll include those:

  1. Expunge.io expunging a juvenile record, which doesn’t necessarily expunge without a request!! It connects you with legal aid
  2. Holla Back – public site to track street harassment
  3. Codefund to raise funds for good code ideas; first user Rose Afriyie http://bit.ly/meet-rose
  4. James Kalven wins open data battle to make Chicago police misconduct info public
  5. Five-O app to help document police brutality
  6. tutormentorprogramlocator.net app for parents, leaders, decision makers

Usually they have presentations next, but this was a working-only group so we got updates from workgroups:

  • Civic hacking 101
  • new coders – github & getting started today
  • transportation – red light ticket analysis from tribe to tack right turn accidents on lights with cameras – tribune will actually be speaking to group next week
  • education – CP’s procurement & easy to share info
  • environment – rain intensity & take back recycling – landlords need to recycle 5- apts+ site to report
  • vacant bldgs – open data to build model of when bldgs are likely to become vacant – mapping & predictive modeling;
  • social service delivery – 10 program integrated into one app to assess eligibility – looking at design
  • modeling pension reform – people are in for &40000 to bring pension to healthy – need to make info accessible – learn financial tools
  • make research available to public

Then the groups met up and worked. I attended the Civic Hacking 101 session presented by Christopher Whitaker of Smart Chicago. I thought he did a very good job. I’ll include a very high level outline of his talk:

  1. Intro to Chicago data portal
  2. Intro to APIs
    1. Example: Wasmycartowed.com
  3. Open source software
    1. Example: Chicago flu shot app – where to get it? Transportation? Code lives in github repository. Boston forked flu app in36 hours; made it better; made Chicago’s better; issues fork
  4. Need community activist for real world problems to solve

Civic Hacking only lasted about 20 minutes with the idea that then folks could head off to another work group. I was very tempted – but had teens waiting for me. But next time I’m in Chicago on a Tuesday without kids, I’ll plan to join again.

TDS recently announced that they have completed their ARRA funded project, which included improved broadband in Cass and Crow counties…

TDS Telecom has completed its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus-funded broadband internet projects in parts of Michigan and Minnesota. As a result of the project’s completion, businesses and more than a combined 1,250 households gain access to broadband service. TDS is receiving funding for 44 projects, including these two, from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) as part of the ARRA. …

 

The stimulus-funded project in Minnesota is also now complete and impacts customers in parts of Cass and Crow Wing counties. TDS reported in October 2013 that a portion of this project, in TDS’ Arvig Telephone Company, was complete. The project included installing nearly 100 miles of fibre optics cabling and twenty cabinets in order to connect more than 900 area residents to broadband. TDS projected the cost at more than USD 6.7 million. The company invested 25 percent (nearly USD 1.7 million) and the RUS grant covered 75 percent.

The first 6 months of the year I spent time every month on the Fond du Lac reservation – specifically at the tribal center in Cloquet. There’s a library in the tribal center – with computers and good broadband. And once I month I was in the building providing some kind of Internet/computer training. Turns out FdL is top of the class when compared to other tribal libraries.

I was shocked by some of the stats on tribal libraries in a recent report: Digital Inclusion in Native Communities: The Role of the Tribal Libraries:

  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to the Internet, but only 89 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to public computer workstations, but only 86 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • Sixty-eight percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide free public WiFi, as compared to 86 percent of rural public libraries; however, only 17 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide WiFi access when the library was closed.
  • Only 36 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to offer e-book access, as compared to 76 percent of public libraries, and only 11 percent of respondent tribal libraries were able to support remote access to e-books.
  • Only 46 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample offered access to licensed electronic databases (such as journal indices, science learning tools, and genealogical data) as compared to 98 of rural public libraries
  • At least 40 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample did not have a broadband Internet connection. The actual figure may be as high as 89 percent.
  • Only 42 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide patrons with technology training, as compared to 87 percent of rural public libraries and 90 percent of all public libraries.
  • Only 34 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a website.
  • Only 45 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a Facebook presence as compared to 65 percent of rural public libraries; nonetheless, it was far and away the most frequently reported means of social media communication.
  • Federal and tribal government funding are the two most common sources of revenue for tribal libraries; respectively, 89 percent and 54 percent of survey respondents reported these sources of funds.
  • Sixteen percent of tribal libraries in the study sample reported that IMLS was their only source of support.
  • Only 15 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample received E-Rate discounts; statistics suggest that the limited uptake of E-rate support can be attributed, in part, to complicated eligibility requirements and a general lack of awareness.

There are so many aspects of the report that are of interest to me – both in the libraries’ role in teaching patrons to access technology and the libraries’ role in preserving culture – but I’ll stick to broadband:

Just last week I read a report that the me an broadband speed (download) in the US was 57 Mbps. This report doesn’t give a direct correlation – but I can see that only 24 percent of the tribal libraries report access of 40 Mbps or faster. Also I find it shocking that 2 percent of tribal libraries have dialup access.

bob - tribal library speeds

The good news is that there’s easy opportunity for improvement through better funding. Few of the libraries had heard of E-rate…

bob - erate

And few libraries have a technology plan. So perhaps a first step is creating a technology team to create a technology plan that includes research on funding, such as E-rate.

bob - library tech plan

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