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.
Wadena County ranks 77 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Their ranking for access to broadband as speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up is actually quite good at 31 – but everything else is pretty low-ranked especially poverty rate below 150 percent (rank 85) and no college degree (rank 86). They are in a position where they will want to focus on the three pillars of digital equity: affordable access to broadband, device ownership and the skills to use them. And really focus on making sure people have computers and the skills to use technology. The good news is that they have been working on digital equity, so they have the local expertise and community engagement.
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||31|
|No HS degree||68|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||85|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||80|
|No broadband access||37|
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:
- Menahga School District (ISD #821)
Superintendent Jason Kjos
- Sebeka School District (ISD #820)
Superintendent Mr. David G Fjeldheim
- Verndale School District (ISD #818)
Superintendent Jeannie Mayer
- Wadena-Deer Creek School District (ISD #2155)
Superintendent Lee Westrum
Regional Development Commission
- Region Five 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|
|Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp||Brainerd Lakes Area Talent Recruiter Launch||Project support to launch a talent recruitment program to market the area’s technology services industry jobs to ensure a highly qualified workforce is available to the region’s business community|
|Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp||Enhanced Marketing of Our Technology Sector||Project support to implement the Tech Services marketing plan|
|Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp||High-Tech Center Research and “Next Steps” Outline||Project support to determine the feasibility/strategy to create and sustain a high tech Live/Work Center in the Brainerd Lakes region|
|Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp||Tech Ready Brainerd Lakes Area Hackfest||Project support for a two-day hack fest to share information, use local skills to problem solve local challenges, and develop new technology solutions|
|Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp||Video Conferencing System||Capital support for video conferencing equipment for use by area businesses and organizations in CTC Technology Room at the BLAEDC/Chamber Offices|
|Consolidated Telephone Co. & Region Five Dev. Commission||Economic Impact of Broadband Infrastructure Expansion & Subscription||Project support to measure the changes in the lives of new CTC broadband customers who are now benefitting from a fiber expansion project supported by the DEED Border-to-Border Broadband grant program|
|Essentia Health Foundation||Launch Telehealth Development & Implementation||Project support to provide tele-health training sessions in Resilient Region Five’s five-county area and on the Leech Lake Reservation|
|ISD 181 – Brainerd Public Schools||CTC Schools Technology Bundle||Project support for technology and mobile devices in the Early Childhood and Family Education programs|
|MN State Community & Tech College-Wadena||“What the Tech?” Technology Expo||Project support to host a one-day tech expo event in Wadena that will combine active learning by MNSCU students and displays and seminars for the general public|
|The Brainerd Baxter Youth Center||PCs for People Youth Project||Project support to continue to train youth to refurbish computers and distribute them to low-income families in the Brainerd area|
|Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative||Rural Broadband Feasibility Study||Project support for a feasibility study to extend broadband services to the under and un-served areas of the Todd Wadena Electric Cooperative service area|