Broadband Conference 2007: Community Transformation via Portals

Official description from agenda:

Track II: Technology – The Infrastructure, The Applications
Suite 2
Community Transformation via Portals
Projects are underway throughout Minnesota to help connect people online to their local communities through online citizen engagement and citizen media. A panel of participants in Blandin Foundation’s Get Broadband grants program will talk about their plans, their hopes and their experiences to date.
Panelists: Jill Klinger, Mankato, Sheila Howk, New Ulm, Bill Carlson, Moose Lake, Maggie Montgomery, KAXE
Moderator: Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

Notes from the session. I think I will be able to follow up with their PowerPoint presentations soon. I don’t have them yet – but I think I will soon (by soon I mean tomorrow or next week).

Bill Carlson of Moose Lake (

We looked at our emergency plan and realized that broadband wasn’t mentioned. We need a proven model so we looked at the local public access channel, which has worked well in Moose Lake.

Our web site opened us up to global challenges. We needed to know that we could control access. We know the rules for using the library; we don’t know the rules for the online portal. SO, we’ve had to make that up.

We broke it up into 3 aspects:

What do residents need to know?
What do visitors need to know?
What do first responders need to know?

We created an e-information center at the public library. It’s a community server and provides email.

Jill Klinger of Mankato (

We had a business that lost opportunities because they couldn’t get the information they needed – the information was actually available from a local resource but they weren’t able to find it. So they created a portal that connects businesses with other businesses and with local education resources.

Found a technology provider. Also needed to provide expertise to highlight on the portal to create a database of knowledge.

Numbers were low because we didn’t want to use newspaper to get false hits. So we plan to take the rest of our money to create a manufacturing directory online – as requested. MSU plans to use the SourceLink tool in house.

Sheila Howk of New Ulm (

New Ulm had two great providers – we needed to make a connection with the retailers to get them online. We wanted to increase number of retail businesses online. We had 103 businesses. We also wanted to create an online marketplace by revamping the Chamber web site.

We struggled with the term broadband so we renamed the effort Local-e-Shop.

We looked at the usability of the existing portal (the chamber site) and realized that the retail was hidden. We are in the process of creating a new site that is much clearer.

We provided training to retail business: 1) build a web site, 2) e-marketing, and 3) how to sell online. The classes were a great success. We planned on 6 classes and ended up with 11.

Local-e-Marketing is the last phase. We’ve had events and articles published in the local news.

Maggie Montgomery & Scott Hall from KAXE (

See Hall’s presentation on KAXE 

KAXE is a community owned, member-based 100,000 watts radio station located in Grand Rapids. They are interactive or web 2.0 on radio.

We have volunteer training classes. Last week we had 20 new volunteers. One volunteer had only been in town for a month – and the radio as a big draw.

KAXE wants to foster a process where small communities can create community web sites that convey the same sense of home that KAXE does. On the world wide web, if you’re everywhere then you’re really nowhere. Creating a sense of place on the web is a different approach.

Citizen Journalists – Doug McGill has provided some training to get people involved with media to add to its breadth.

Young people get news and music online. Radio listeners are going down – but we can move to listen online.

Small markets are losing their newspapers and they need a medium for local news and for local marketing.

Local community groups will manage the sites.

The business model is the public radio model with pledge and business underwriters.

What were the challenges?

SH: Awareness and need. People were afraid of costs and were too busy to look into much.

MM: We were surprised with the number of people who came to the classes.

JK: The relationships that were built were amazing.

What about the digital divide issue? Have you thought about the folks who don’t have access to a computer?

SH: At the beginning of the project we focused on that issue. We planned to tell folks about public kiosks but some of the kiosks were removed so there are areas that we can go.

BC: We have the e-information center at the library.

How do you get people involved?

SH: We hope to have a hook that will entice people with a wide range of content.

How does KAXE reach the region?

MM: We use our contacts that we have through the radio. Just people who are on the radio is a base to market events and news. We have an online newsletter.

Why go with a new address for KAXE?

MM: We don’t want to lose people who might not be interested in the radio.

How do you organize the web site?

SH: It’s hard to build a web site by committee.

BC: We will let anyone get top billing.

1 thought on “Broadband Conference 2007: Community Transformation via Portals

  1. Pingback: KAXE leading communities online « Blandin on Broadband

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