Computer Commuter – what can visitors do on the broadband bus they can’t do at home?

The Computer Commuter is a revamped mini-bus filled with computers. It travels around Lac qui Parle County, visiting 6 rural towns weekly. At each location it is able to hook up to fast (fiber) broadband. Visitors come to use the computers or come with their own computers and devices to use the fast connection. (The connections have not always been fast and some items below reference that change.) Many users come to take advantage of the knowledgeable driver and hostess – Mary Quick.

I asked Mary what folks do when they visit as a reminder of what folks can’t do at home in some parts of rural Minnesota. (Much of LqP County has fiber! But not everyone has access.)

Here’s a sample of what goes on in the Computer Commuter…

  • Ortonville Sanford Health has a wonderful website where several of my users login, schedule appointments, read test results, and email personnel questions.
  • 2 people preferred using the MNsure website on the bus during the enrollment period.  Friendly setting, my help and fast internet helped the process move along.
  • The Madison Dollar General store only took online applications.  I helped several residents apply for jobs on the bus. The application process was quite lengthy and having a strong, steady connection kept the info open and didn’t time out on us.
  • The Workforce Center in Montevideo is sending their clients to our program to boost their computer skills, and improve their ability to work online.
  • They use several online tutorials that include videos or downloading a lesson to complete and then upload.
  • We have several grandparents who watch distant grandchildren perform in concerts, sports or conferences.  They use the school’s live feed, YouTube or Facebook.  Before we had broadband at all 6 locations, we just sat and watched it spin, unable to open.  Things were so bad in Dawson and Boyd, we couldn’t even open emails, the internet was so slow.
  • At Christmas and Graduation, some users create projects using Shutterfly. There were times when the person couldn’t upload their photos – at home or with the slower connection.
  • An Avon saleswoman uses the bus to send her orders, monitor her account and print labels.  In the past, again it would be an issue of her session timing out and the task uncompleted because of slow internet.

It’s a fun glimpse at how technology changes what we do – when we have access to a computer, broadband and know how to use it!

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN 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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