MN Broadband Task Force Meeting: Digital Inclusion

Today the Broadband Task Force met at SPNN (St Paul Neighborhood Network), home to CTEP, which manages a number of tech-focused AmeriCorps members. What they really got was a partial sneak preview of next week’s national Net Inclusion conference.

They heard about tools such as the Northstar Digital Standards, CTEP Portal for online digital inclusion lessons, storytelling classes and tools and stories of success. They also got a taste of what it’s like to be on the far end of the digital divide when they tried to write a resume on their smartphone or learn how to knit in Spanish. Fun projects that successfully made the point that digital inclusion is hard when it’s entirely new to you, the language may be new and you may or may not be a motivated learner. There are some smart cookies on the Task Force – but very few future knitters at least not after their 5-minute lesson today.

There was also a legislative up – in the video below.


10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments

10:30 a.m. –10:45 a.m. Update from Office of Broadband Development from Danna MacKenzie

  • New projects are already getting ready.
  • Got preliminary data of mapping info. Will publish by June 1.

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Welcome and Overview of St. Paul Neighborhood Network from Martin Ludden, Executive Director & 10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Overview of Community Technology Empowerment Program (CTEP) from Joel Krogstad, AmeriCorps Program Director, CTEP

  • 70,000 AmeriCorps in MN.
  • AmeriCorps gets some state funding.
  • We’ve been around for 10 years.
  • We have members around the Twin Cities working in digital inclusion. We have folks in workforce centers, libraries, community based organizations.
  • We working with people who have no experience
  • We’re gearing up for the Net Inclusion conference happening next week.
  • Most people who went through the AmeriCorps program felt comfortable looking for a job with their technical skills after training.

Question: Where do members go after their stint?
Many members are right out of school. This is their first job. It’s a bridge. About 40 percent go into entry level position at nonprofits. About as many go into graduate school. And then 20 percent go back to their jobs.

Question: Do you match members with opportunities?
We always have more opportunities than members.

Question Do people ever ask about health records?
Yes we have a whole lesson on using online health portals

Question: Looks like lots of people get computers after doing training.
That’s mostly through PCs for People

Question: What’s the impact of smartphones?
Yes we now offering training on smartphones – like how to create a video on your phone. But we recognize that the phone can’t replace a computer. You still need a computer to do a resume. Spreadsheet classes are still very popular.

Question: How do you ensure that members are culturally sensitive?
We consider cultural sensitivity when we hire – even more than technical skills.

11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking from Madison Neece, CTEP Member at Neighborhood House

Started CTEP 1.5  years ago – noticed that patrons were trying to use their smartphone for everything – apply for jobs, pay bills… Computer centers and libraries with public access to computers are essential.

We needed programs for folks with limited experience and limited literacy skills. We created an interface that allows a student to select a skill and select a literacy level – the Digital Homeroom built on Weebly.

Many people have been interested in our tool. We’ve been getting feedback as we use it. Templates allow us to create a look and content that suits the different students (kids vs adults…).

Question: Do you think you’ll take these skills to the workforce?
I came to Americrops to work on community projects – in a way that school didn’t afford.

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. Varieties of Digital Literacy Training from Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva, CTEP Director of Education and Training and Tom Hackbarth, CTEP Member at SPNN

Take a story and find the best way to share it with the world.
We use the stories to track what we’re doing and to motivate them.

We have developing a digital storytelling badge through Passport. Makes the work easy to share.

Question: What is digital storytelling?
Taking a story or message and finding the best medium and mode to share with others. It could be anything from a PPT to a video.

Question: Does everyone have a story?
People can come in with a story too.

Storytelling has been a good way to get STEM lessons in experiential learning hands.

Boston Scientific has some great research on levels of STEM work. We are starting to find ways to measure digital skills for things like creating a video on your life story.

Storytelling is tied to Northstar standards so that people can qualify and quantify the skills they have.

Question: Do these classes stay at the basic level or do you have advanced classes?
SPNN does that with a range of folks and opportunities.

Question: How do new tech tools change your curriculum?
Hugely – we have to go broad with stories. We can’t just assume that people will find our  material on public access – we need to put it on YouTube and other platforms.
And more options means more critical thinking about which tools to use.

11:50 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Tour of SPNN
12:10 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Lunch

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. How Community Leaders Build Effective Digital Inclusion Coalitions from John Richard, Pillsbury United Communities

Everyone needs basic literacy – even a dishwasher needs to be able to work a computer system enough to get paid.

The GED testing has moved online.

To move digital inclusion forward we had a few goals:

We needed to sell the need.

Recognize the equity issues.

What have we gotten from our collaboration (TLC)?

Community Technology Empowerment Program – great partners and unique in mission

Development of Northstar Standards

Mpls WiFi was starting at the same time – So we got some community benefits

We received a lot of support from Minneapolis until recently

Tech FIX it Clinics

How many computers does the Mpls Public Library have 300?
Yet the wait can be hours.


  • The collaboration includes many small nonprofits
  • Need a fiscal agents to help support efforts

Questions: Funders seem to like the idea of the private bootcamp. Can the collaboration communicate the separation between whether business is part of the business or not considered integral?
We’re not paying attention to the education of the technology workers in MN. In other communities the digital inclusion work is funded by local government. Best Buy had funded 4 teen tech centers. And it’s good to get private support but that’s not enough. The work force in the TCs is undergoing a dramatic shift. We used to be highly educated – that’s no longer the case. If we don’t start engaging young people from various communities – it’s not only the far end of the digital divide that will suffer.

Question: There’s no central place for digital inclusion in the state – should we create one?
If it comes with funding yes. There’s no money out there specifically to support basic tech education.

The OBD does try to make time/space for digital inclusion. They pay attention to opportunities for federal funding – but it’s not really resourced. Maybe we need to make recommendation – the need is there.

Digital inclusion is low hanging fruit. To have someone at the top funneling te work that’s already happening would not be a big ask.

We need to invest in education!

1:15 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. A Question of Justice: Digital Inclusion and Digital Equity from Michelle Andrews, CTEP Member at EMERGE

  • In North Mpls people do not have computers in their home.
  • 70 percent of jobs are only listed online.
  • People need to have
  • Even if you could create a resume on your smartphone – how would you format it, print it, edit it?
  • There is a 30 minute limit on most library public computers.
  • Digital disparities mirror other disparities
  • Because there’s a lack of computers at home, people come to the computer lab to see everything – from the Philando Castille killing to other latest news.
  • The internet is a community – without ready access to a computer you don’t have access to that community.

Take away  – what does the community need?

  • Fast and affordable internet access
  • Community-driven digital literacy classes
  • Meet people where they are
  • Digital literacy and access = empowerment
  • Don’t assume digital literacy and digital access in your community

Question: How do people find you?
They self select. Word of mouth. Fliers and other outreach.

1:35 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Update on Legislation

Legislators and Governor were talking. That talk broke down. Conference committees started budget bills. Many have passed through House and Senate.

It will likely include the Jobs Bill, which includes broadband budget. We now have $15 million for broadband. Last suggestion from Governor was $30 million.

  • Waiting for the Senate to pick up the file.
  • OBD still has $500,000 – which is status quo.
  • Sales tax exemption has been pared down to just fiber and conduit.
  • The satellite association (and Hughesnet)  talked to MAK & Danna
  • We said satellite was important but could not solve the state’s problem. They wouldn’t qualify for state funding because the cost to launch a satellite is so much more than the state budget allows. We will invite satellite to come into a future meeting.
  • Satellite does meet minimum requirements but isn’t on track to offer 100/100 or 100/20 at any time.

Lots of companies use satellite as back/redundant connectivity.

MAK sent a letter about the need for broadband funding. There was no push back.

Question: DO companies really use satellite for redundancy?
Yes – like a gas station that needs to accept credit cards. The satellite company had names to share.

MAK will be on Almanac on Friday.

VoIP – there was a court decision where court ruled Charter’s VoIP an information service, which means they are not beholden to state regulations.

These leave things lie TAP/911 in jeopardy. It’s even more light touch than FCC. The current bill (SF1937) leans in a different direction.

Telecom Equity Aid – we lobbied a lot (in EDU) but the ball doesn’t seem to be moving forward.

1:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Wrap-up, discussion of June meeting

Each committee should submit a draft of their section of the report thus far – maybe 2-4 pages. Also think about recommendations.

Next meeting June 28 – Rock County

Here’s sporadic video from the day – the connectivity was tight and therefore the live connection dropped often:

This entry was posted in Conferences, Minnesota Advisory Task Force, MN, Policy 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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