Recipe for Broadband Expansion in Benton County

The St Cloud Times ran an article over the weekend that highlighted efforts of the local Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) program. It reads like a recipe for successful change in the area.

They focus on training and introducing non-adopters to broadband through classes and easy public access to computers…

They [Independent Lifestyles] created classes as part of Project BRAVE: Broadband, Resources and Vocational Exploration. Hermanson and other teachers of the classes find that as people get more comfortable online, they begin to use digital resources more.

Most of the people coming into the open lab simply didn’t have access before.

She’s seen people who previously spent maybe a minute a month on a computer coming in and spending hours.

The Independent Lifestyles lab also has lots of adaptive equipment so people with disabilities can use the computers. Equipment includes everything from vision aids to equipment that helps with those who have low mobility.

They also have the local libraries working on efforts…

Digital literacy is one of the goals for programming for the Great River Regional Library system, said Beth Ringsmuth Stoltman, patron services specialist for the system. It’s up to branch managers to make decisions on programming, but they have in the past run classes on computer basics.

They focus on getting computers in homes…

Places in Benton County have benefited from a PCs for People program that travels around the state to provide computers. Fifteen went to Independent Lifestyles, eight to Heritage of Foley health care campus, two to the Good Shepherd Community and two to the city of Rice. PCs for People collected 30 computers from the area in the last year that will be refurbished and provided to others.

They focus on helping new adopters use technology to solve some of their most stressful issues…

One person Sorenson met said getting online changed his life. He told Sorenson that before, it took him three days to apply for a job using the limited time he had access to a library computer. After he got a computer, he was able to spend hours applying for jobs, landing one in two months.

This entry was posted in economic development, MIRC, MN, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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