We are introducing the members of the Broadband Initiative Strategy Board. Our special thanks to Danna MacKenzie-Asche for talking to us this month…
Danna MacKenzie-Asche is the Information Systems Director for Cook County, Minnesota. We previously provided a more traditional bio on Danna on the blog when she was a speaker at the Annual Broadband Conference last year. That opened us up to learning more about her this time around.
Danna has been instrumental in bringing the Internet and now broadband to Cook County. She started15 years ago when the biggest challenge was convincing MRNet that Cook County was a good candidate for the Rural Datafication project. (A project that put a 56K and dialup modems in a handful of rural Minnesota towns.)
Danna finds that there is more support for upgrading technology today. Consumers and citizens are more knowledgeable about the Internet. But it’s more expensive and harder to talk about adding high-speed connectivity to the list of basic services that all citizens should have access to along with power, phone, water and roads. It will take complex partnerships and funding and governance to get the community to the next level of sophistication and capabilities.
The pay off is also greater. Danna is involved with facilitating post-secondary distance learning opportunities, including a very active nursing program right now through Hibbing Community College. Last year with the fires on the Gunflint Trail, Cook County helped the state and federal responders with communications capabilities that they did not expect to find in the woods. They were able to quickly configure a call center for them using their Voice over IP telephone system. They were also able to assist them in getting fire information and maps on-line when their own connectivity and websites failed. The county GIS worked closely with the USFS to help map the burned properties and quickly determine the location and value of all damaged structures.