St Paul Library’s Mobile Workplace Project

I have to give a nod to my friend Kevin Featherly for getting the details on St Paul Library’s Mobile Workplace Project. The good news is that they recently received a $300,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

They are going to build a mobile computer lab. It’s a genius idea that I’ve heard before – but not seen implemented. The idea is to teach people to use computers and use them to help find jobs – especially to non-native English speakers. Can’t wait to see it!

New OECD report: Network in support of user needs

After a hellacious flight, we’re arrived in Dublin – and well I’ll just say that the weather is perfect for catching up with some report reading. One quick note – I’m super happy with my pay-as-you-go mobile broadband provider here. It’s been 5 months, since I last logged in but one quick top-up (online payment), a desperatejog of my memory for my login ID and I’m back online in minutes! Soon we’ll set up something faster for better home access but mobile broadband has its definite advantages!

Back to report reading, today I’m enjoying the OECD’s Network Developments in Support of Innovation and User Needs. Their first line says it all,

“This report makes a case for investment in a competitive, open-access national fibre-to-the-home network rollout based on potential spillovers in four key sectors of the economy: electricity, health, transportation and education.”

In short, they looked at ROI on government spending in broadband based on cost savings realized in those four key sectors. The OECD postulates that,

“On average, a cost savings of between 0.5% and 1.5% in each of the four sectors over ten years resulting directly from the new broadband network platform could justify the cost of building a national point-to-point, fibre-to-the-home network.”

The savings they specifically call out include:

Electricity – creating smart grids with advanced metering options
Healthcare – health monitoring, which reminded me of presenter from Eindhoven about how they noted access to healthcare as a service they were able to provide to citizens who might not have known they wanted/needed broadband access
Transportation – remote data collection and dissemination of traffic trends
Education – better communication between schools and educators for coordination and professional development

The report makes the case that attempts should be made to support private investment – but I think it also touches on the fact that government investment, unlike most private investment, does not need to focus on fairly quick ROI. Governments generally have the luxury of accepting a slower ROI. Also governments can look at cost savings in other areas when calculating ROI.

I think Minnesota’s Scott County is a good example of a county focusing on cost savings. They have been working on a region-wide fiber backbone. Gary Shelton spoke about the network and savings almost a year ago at one of the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force meetings.

International Broadband: US at 15

Here’s more information than you need about me – but I’m leaving for Ireland in three days. I’ll be there for six months and I’ve been looking for an excuse to do some traveling while I was there. So I owe a debt of gratitude to the Daily Yonder for their recent article on Broadband Lessons Beyond Our Border.

According to the Daily Yonder, “We have much to learn from other places, especially in connecting broadband in rural communities.” Well, I’m going to see if that’s true. (Not that I doubt it.)

As the Daily Yonder reports the US ranks number 15 in terms of the OECD International broadband subscriber rates. Some of the top countries have the advantage of densely populated areas. But many countries have are more like the US; again as the Daily Yonder reports, “These countries have higher rates of broadband adoption not because of fortuitous geography or densely-packed populations; rather, more of their citizens have access to high-speed internet connections because their governments made formal policy decisions which made the creation of such infrastructure a national priority.”

So it will be fun to learn more and report in. I’ll start with the latest on the Irish National Broadband Scheme. I know they have a goal of ubiquitous coverage by 2013 and have started by working with a provider to coverage the un- and underserved. I know they’ve been hosting broadband adoption meetings to promote especially commercial use of broadband. It will be interesting to see how it’s going.

Details on U of M ARRA project

Thanks to Ann Higgins for sending me a link to more details on the U of M’s successful ARRA broadband stimulus project. The details come straight from the Big U. Here are the guts of the project – but again more detail is available at the U of M’s News Release site.

The university will work with its partners to improve 10 existing public computer labs and establish a new computer lab at a public housing site, Glendale Homes in Minneapolis. This will add 93 new workstations and replace 49 existing stations and is based upon a model developed by the Office for Business and Community Economic Development (BCED).

The grant also will allow the labs to hire local residents as training and support staff and will provide software programs and culturally sensitive curriculum relevant to education, health and economic development. The project will be implemented by the Office for Business and Community Economic Development and the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC), established in 2007. University of Minnesota Extension also will be involved.

Minnesota gets ARRA Broadband Mapping Funds

The official word is out. Today the NTIA announced the next round of mapping grants. They awarded grants to Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Here’s the word on the Minnesota funding:

Minnesota: NTIA has awarded Connected Nation approximately $1.2 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period and almost $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a five-year period in Minnesota, bringing the total grant award to approximately $1.7 million. Connected Nation is the designated entity for the state of Minnesota.

A quick reminder – each state was asked to recommend one mapping project. Minnesota recommended Connect Minnesota’s proposal. I’m hoping to talk to Connect Minnesota about the project after the holidays. They are usually very accommodating with more info.

Minnesota Company gets into Mobile Money Transactions

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a top 10 tech predictions for 2010 article written by the CEO of Mashable. One of the hot trends mentioned was mobile payments. So I was pleased this morning to read about a Minnesota-based company that is getting involved with mobile payments.

On December 21, MoneyGram launched a pilot of the service in a select number of agent locations in San Diego, California, and Hong Kong. Consumers can send transactions from these pilot locations to any SMART Money account linked to the SMART mobile phone in the Philippines. Most of the article I read focused on the service in the Philippines – but it wasn’t the details that struck me here.

I liked to see a trend getting some traction and I like to see a Minnesota-based company leading the way!

Internet & the news

Last week BusinessNorth (the “business news source of Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin”) ran a couple of articles on the future (and present) of news in a wired world. They talk about how the readers of Duluth News Tribune have gone online. Unfortunately, few newspapers have a created successful business plan for an expanding online presence.

Some newspapers, including Superior Publishing Corp., (with 11 dailies and weeklies in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin) have started to charge a fee for visitors to access some services. I’ve heard about combining free/fee-based content as a strategy for several years – but so far I haven’t heard of a great deal of success.

But as the BusinessNorth article points out – reporters deserve to be paid for their work and that’s hard to do when everyone gets their access for free – in a format that doesn’t necessarily support advertising revenue.

SavetheNews just posted some ideas for – funny enough – saving the news. They have 10 Journalism Resolutions for 2010. If you’re at all interested in the topic, it’s a fun article because the suggestions really tie into making the most of the technology – not trying to make the old model work; suggestions incldue creating an engaged community, cultivating collaboration, making media mobile and more.

What I wonder though is, with the big shift online and the big shift to the 24 hour new cycle, how will we find today’s news tomorrow. David Brauer recently hit on that topic, pointing out an article from the Chaska Herald pointing out that one other issue these days is archiving the news. Just as newspapers have tightened their belts, so have historical societies.

As a former librarian, I can tell you – those newspaper archives get used. The article points out that the microfiche machines are always booked out. The article refers to using technology to harvest archives – but how do you decide what qualifies as news? Do you include comments? DO you look for local bloggers? Do you look at topical blogs?

No answers today – but lots of questions.