America’s First TechPresident

Personal Democracy ForumI don’t remember where I started but today I fell into a new (to me) blog today called Personal Democracy Forum. They write about how technology is changing politics.

First I love how they keep a running commentary on what the Presidential candidates are doing on the Internet and who’s doing it best. As of yesterday Ron Paul seemed to be getting a lot of attention. I have a friend who is a big Ron Paul supporter and I seem to get a YouTube video a day via email on the guy – so I have to agree with the blog – he is certainly hitting a stride online.

Second I love the tracking of lots of Web 2.0 applications: Continue reading

Blandin Grant Programs Workshops

Bill ColemanThere is strong interest in the Blandin Foundation’s two new grant programs. Today’s workshop in Grand Rapids was the third of six workshops offered this and last week. Remaining workshops are in Bemidji, Fergus Falls and Little Falls. Complete information on the programs can be found at on the Blandin web site.

The Light Speed program provides funding to launch new bandwidth-intensive applications. Attendees at the workshops brought their ideas for tele-psychology, home health care, services to the home schooled and other ideas. The projects will bring new partners together to meet community needs or provide new opportunities for existing partners to expand services. The relatively short time frame from program announcement to grant deadline (June 20) rewards those organizations with technology plans in place. Applications that are bandwidth intensive, reach the home user and are interactive will receive priority for funding. The maximum grant is $50,000.

Several communities have expressed interest in the Open Networks Feasibility Fund program which will provide matching funds to study the development of a new high speed network in a community, enabling multiple providers to sell retail services over the same network. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded; applications involving multiple communities can receive up to $40,000.

Hearing attendee’s ideas for projects and the barriers that they see to implementation reinforces the idea that the Blandin Foundation is on the right track in funding these two new programs.

Super Tough Kid Lap Tops

CambodiaLast night I watched 60 Minutes. I loved their story, What If Every Child Had A Laptop? It featured Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at MIT, who has been working on building super tough laptop computers for kids in third world countries. The target cost is $100 per laptop.

The computers include lots of kid-friendly features, such as a webcam, WiFi access, bright colors, touch handles and batteries that last up to 12 hours, which means kids without electricity in their homes can bring home the machines to show their families and do homework.

Negroponte started a school in rural Cambodia in 1999. It is the test pilot for his idea and first graders there have each received a super tough computer.

It was fun to see the computers in the homes without electricity. It was fun to see kids teach each other how to use the computers. One aspect I didn’t want agree with is that Negroponte seemed to think that giving a kid a computer was enough – you didn’t need to teach them how to use the computers.

I have a first and second grader, they spend a fair amount of time online – but I like to know what they’re doing because you can run into some scary things and/or you can waste an awful lot of time. I think you need a teacher to help kids recognize a scary area before they get in too deep and to help kids be constructive online – at least part of the time.

I actually was a computer teacher for a very brief time. And I think kids can figure out how to play online – but they need help learning to use the computer as a tool.

What I did love was that eventually these computers will available in the US market but when they are the rule will be that you can buy one for your kid but you also have to buy one a kid in need. Heck – seems like a deal for me to get a super tough computer for $200 each!

WiFi, WiMax, 3G

Deb Miller SlipekMy job is so easy this week – people just keep sending me great broadband articles. It’s great!!

This morning Deb Miller Slipek sent me a fun article on wireless broadband (Wireless Broadband Utopia: Are We There Yet? from Knowledge @ Wharton). It’s a great primer on wireless.

The article quotes Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of information technology at Wharton, sums up the current state of affairs. “The long-range future vision is very clear and a virtual certainty. At some point, you will be connected with a broadband link everywhere you go by devices that are always on. The question is: How are we going to get there?” Continue reading

Broadband Brings Business to Rural Towns

Matt RezacMatt Rezac from the Blandin Foundation just sent me a great article (Global Business Thrives in Small-Town Harlowton, Montana) from New West, an online newspaper from Colorado.

It features Elk River Systems, who runs TicketPrinting.com, a site that allows users to design their own tickets for events (performances, concerts, plays, sporting events, etc.) The company employs 14 people and serves 30,000 customers around the world.

The article sums up the reason Elk River Systems can and does locate in a small town in Harlowton, Montana (population 914). What they had to say and their experience seems so valuable to economic developers anywhere – but especially in rural areas:

Elk River systems exists in Harlowton thanks to four things, he says: the Internet (with a nod to Microsoft); the transportation network (a nod to UPS); the quality telecom network in Montana; and the expertise of TechRanch‘s economic development network.

Equally important, Trebesch says, are the people now working for him in Harlowton—“smart, high-quality, hard-working people that value their jobs.”

It sounds as if the founder did not necessarily have any connections to the area before moving it to Harlowton. They wanted to find an economically disadvantaged area. The people are good there; real estate if affordable. The Chamber of Commerce was very encouraging.

eLearning in Glencoe-Silver Lake High School

TIESI just learned (from my new favorite listserv from TIES) that Glencoe-Silver Lake High School was featured on Kare 11 news for their cool tech programs.

Glencoe-Silver Lake recently participated in a program sponsored by NASA that allowed students to communicate directly with folks at NASA. The article mentions other projects as well.

The article mentions that this is possible because of a “technology called a CODEC”. The Codec is actually the machine or program that (I think) encodes the signal for transmission, storage or encryption and decodes it for viewing or editing. In my not so technical mind I think of it as a modem that turns the signal from something I can transport (across the phone line) to something I can access (see/hear/use) on my computer. (Here’s a better definition.)

Broadband is obviously also necessary for these cool programs and projects. I just think it’s important to point out that broadband is required. I think it’s often assumed, which is great. But sometimes people forget that you have to plan and pay for the assumed part of a program.

Rural New England is Getting Redlined

Redlining has been an issue that has emerged in the Statewide Cable Franchising hearings (mentioned earlier in this blog). According to The Nation (Broadband Redlining Targets Rural America) rural areas are right to be concerned about redlining. They recently featured a story on Verizon and their plan to sell off (some might say sell out) “low-value” landline customers to focus on FiOS, Verizon’s branded FTTH service.

(Just ‘cause it rarely comes up I’ll mention that Fios comes from the Irish word for knowledge and, in Irish, is pronounced [Fees] with a slightly aspirated s. It’s not every day you get a telecommunications blogger that knows a little Irish!)

In rural New England, Verizon is looking at selling its services to a small company called FairPoint, which would not be able to provide broadband services. There are huge tax incentives for Verizon to sell to FairPoint as opposed to a larger company that might be better poised to provide better service – and meetings are being held in local communities, where consumers can voice their opinion.

On their web site, FairPoint provides infromation on the merger and mention that they are committed to providing broadband service to rural and small urban customers.

From the Minnesota perspective I think it’s interesting to learn about these loopholes that can allow for such skewed levels of service, to see how and who is bringing the issue to light, and it will be interesting to see how it is resolved.