Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.
Itasca County ranks 48 out of 87 counties for digital equity. They are in a position where they need to work on the three pillars of digital equity: affordable access to broadband, device ownership and the skills to use them. Itasca County is home county of the Blandin Foundation. They have strong history of broadband programming and a continued interest in creating equity in the community. They rank 79th for county population with a disability. That can be a challenge or an opportunity. Using technology to support and lift people with disabilities might be a compelling way to use technology and good way to reach a specific population.
Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.
Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.
Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)
|Access to 100/20||32|
|No HS degree||26|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||55|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||66|
|No broadband access||52|
The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.
So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:
- Arrowhead Library System
- Deer River Public School District (ISD #317)
Superintendent Pat Rendle
- Grand Rapids School District – Independent School District 318
Superintendent Mr. Matt Grose
- Greenway School District (ISD #316)
Superintendent Bryan Hackbarth
- Nashwauk-Keewatin School District (ISD #319)
Superintendent Dr. Rae Villebrun
Regional Development Commission
- Arrowhead Regional Development Commission
There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:
|Project Owner||Project Name||Description|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||Itasca Innovation||Project support to spur the innovative use of technology by small businesses in the Itasca area through training, technology business planning and implementation assistance with widespread promotion of successful results as part of the Broadband Program|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||Itasca Knowledge Workers||Project support for Itasca Area Knowledge Workers program as part of the Broadband Program|
|Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation||Itasca Community Portal||Project support for an Itasca Community Portal where new residents, existing residents and visitors can easily find the information they need in Itasca County as part of the Broadband Program|
|Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation||Itasca Community Portal support||Project support to continue implementation and marketing of a collaborative community portal and to create a mobile-friendly version of the portal as part of the Broadband Program. Includes mobile application, kiosk, maintenance and outreach.|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||Itasca Knowledge Workers Phase 2||Project support to help Itasca County become a learning community where technology best practices are shared through “Social Media Breakfasts” and utilized to the benefit of area businesses and organizations as part of the Broadband Program|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||Itasca Innovation Project Phase 2||Project support for business technology assessments, a Google Place initiative and to assist with capitalizing a loan fund for small businesses to implement technology improvements as part of the Broadband Program in Itasca County|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||BBC Alumni Grant||Project support to increase the technology sophistication of businesses and organizations through online resources, training and networking|
|Itasca Economic Development Corporation||Itasca Area BBC Alumni II||Project support to increase the technological sophistication of businesses and organizations by providing educational and networking opportunities|
There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation. Itasca County and Grand Rapids participated in multiple Blandin cohorts.):
|Elder Circle||Senior E-literacy||Senior E-literacy will provide seniors in rural Itasca County access to broadband services through basic computer training, skilled service training specific to online banking, and follow-up support.|
|Grand Rapids Library||Shared Portable Computer Lab and Training||The Grand Rapids Library will provide computer hardware, software and training to expand the understanding, use and availability of broadband Internet.|
|Itasca Community Television||Public Meeting Streaming||Public Meeting Streaming will provide improved community access to government and community information, with hardware improvements that will allow for seamless delivery of video to online viewers, particularly those in rural parts of Itasca County, whom are not served by cable access.|
|Itasca County Family YMCA||YMCA WI-FI Access Project||The YMCA WI-FI Access Project will provide computer hardware, software and training to expand the understanding, use and availability of broadband Internet, targeting the senior citizen population utilizing the Bruce Bauer Senior Center.|
|KOOTASCA Community Action||Low-income Computer and Internet Connect||Low-income Computer and Internet Connect will provide a computer and a one-year broadband Internet subscription to a minimum of 20 low-income households in Itasca County. KOOTASCA will provide the maximum number of reliable units possible to households selected from a pool of applicants that meet income guidelines (below 150% of the federal poverty guideline for a family of four). KOOTASCA will establish a selection process that provides a preference for providing the units to households that both meet the income qualifications and also assist students, parents with students and/or job seekers. KOOTASCA will be encouraged to obtain reliable computers from PCs for People for use in this project. GREDA will provide KOOTASCA the first 25 computers at no cost through the Federal Grant Award by PCs for People. KOOTASCA will also conduct quarterly follow-up interviews with recipients to measure the effectiveness of the program for the term of this agreement.|