Minnesota to invest $500 million for tech initiatives in State Government

State Scoop reports

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a dozen government spending bills into law on Wednesday, setting funding for the next two years. In total, the bills provide more than $500 million for technology initiatives across state government — with $130 million going directly toward the Minnesota IT Services agency and its efforts to modernize state systems and digital services.

One of the 12 funding bills Walz signed, the state government and elections finance bill, lays out how MNIT will use the new funding, including greater cybersecurity protections, putting up matching funds for Minnesota’s award from the federal cyber grant program and improved user experiences in state digital services.

Minnesota Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes said in an interview that the funding for technology initiatives at both his agency and others across the state signals a unified stance by Walz’s administration for improving residents’ experiences.

MN high school tech education is the worst

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

In the next 10 years, Minnesota businesses will have to fill 81,000 tech jobs, including 45,000 in the next five years, vacancies mostly from retirements and job changes to other states, according to the Minnesota Technology Association (MTA). In that same span, there will be an additional 6,500 IT jobs.

Minnesota projects to produce only 6,600 new tech workers by 2032, not nearly enough to address all the positions.

Technology is a profitable career choice…

As of 2022, there are roughly 110,000 tech employees in the state. That figure ranks 18th among the 50 states, according the Computing Technology Industry Association. A year ago, Minnesota ranked 12th in net tech employment.

Experts forecast the state’s unemployment rate for tech occupations to stay at 1.1% through 2027. Software developers and analysts are the most sought after workers in Minnesota with more than 7,000 positions advertised each month, though employers fill only 1 in 4 of those positions each month.

In Minnesota, the annual median tech wage is $94,715, 106% higher than the state’s median wage. Depriving students, especially those living in underrepresented communities, from high salaries can be a detriment to the state’s economy, experts said.

Schools are not helping…

Minnesota ranks last in the U.S. in the percentage of high schools offering computer science coursework with only 21% doing so. Of those schools, 12% are in urban areas, according to MTA. The national average of states whose schools offer computer science courses is 53%.

Meanwhile in Iowa, 71% of high schools offer a computer science course, and in Wisconsin, it’s 66%. North Dakota recently signed into law a bill that makes taking at least one computer science or cybersecurity course a requirement for graduation.

Walmart to offer telehealth for pets

KDAL in Duluth reports…

 Walmart Inc said on Monday it has signed a deal with pet telehealth provider Pawp to offer the retailer’s subscribed members access to veterinary professionals via video or text without an appointment.

Walmart+ customers can use Pawp’s services for a year from Tuesday, the top U.S. retailer said, as it looks to tap growing demand for pet telehealth from inflation-hit customers looking for cheaper alternatives.

OPPORTUNITY: Federal funding for regional tech hubs

The US Department of Commerce reports…

The Biden-Harris administration, through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), today launched the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs) competition. This program will create tech hubs in regions across the country by bringing together industry, higher education institutions, state and local governments, economic development organizations, and labor and workforce partners to supercharge ecosystems of innovation for technologies that are essential to our economic and national security. The program was authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act and is a key part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda, stimulating private sector investment, creating good-paying jobs, revitalizing American manufacturing, and ensuring no community is left behind by America’s economic progress.

This first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) the Department is launching today will open applications for planning grants and Tech Hubs Designations. Later this year, the Department of Commerce will launch a second NOFO, for applicants designated as a Tech Hub to apply for implementation funding.

Here’s the gist of what they want to do…

The Tech Hubs Program is intended to advance the capacities of places to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy these technologies. Key priorities that guide the program include:

  • Expanding Regional Economic Opportunity and Democratizing Technology Innovation: Tech Hubs seeks to make more U.S. regions strong competitors in the global innovation economy. Through strategic collaborations among regional partners, a geographically diverse network of Tech Hubs will allow more communities and more people to benefit from the opportunities tomorrow’s industries will create. Tech Hubs’ focus on regional consortia underscores EDA’s belief that collaborative, place-based solutions are the most successful means of accelerating growth and strengthening competitiveness.

    The various types of eligible entities and requirements for forming a Tech Hubs application consortium are outlined at TechHubs.gov.

  • Driving Economic Opportunity and Inclusive Economic Growth: The Tech Hubs program is committed to building strong communities that share in the prosperity technological innovations bring. The Commerce Department will look at how proposed Tech Hubs will ensure equitable access to good jobs for workers and increase opportunities for diverse business owners. Applicants are also expected to design their projects to minimize the potential for adverse impacts on the environment and the local community, including communities with environmental justice concerns.
  • Building a Skilled, Diverse Workforce and Supply Chain: Recruiting, training, and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce is critical to strengthening U.S. technological competitiveness. Tech Hubs aims to spur the creation of new jobs and support opportunities for workers at all skill levels, working with labor unions and state and local workforce development organizations. Tech Hubs consortia will focus on holistic approaches to upskilling and training workers in the fields and industries of tomorrow, while strengthening supply chains to keep our stores, warehouses, and companies stocked with more American-made goods.

Read more about Tech Hubs and the first funding opportunity at TechHubs.gov

A Minnesota Take on the Federal Farm Bill

Axios parsed out Minnesota reaction to several aspects of the Farm Bill, starting with MN policymakers’ role…

Minnesota lawmakers are set to play a big role in shaping the final bill. Klobuchar and Tina Smith are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, while U.S. Reps. Angie Craig and Brad Finstad are on the House panel.

They note precision ag…

A bipartisan proposal cosponsored by Klobuchar would provide low-interest loans to farmers who want to buy precision agriculture equipment.

“That’s going to allow them to use less water and target their pesticides instead of spreading it over areas that don’t need it,” she said. “Imagine what a game changer that will be.”

And broadband…

Broadband: An estimated 144,000 Minnesota households still don’t have access to high-speed internet. That’s a problem, especially for a growing number of families where one person farms and the other works remote from a rural area, Klobuchar said.

Fiber touted as future-proof necessity for Edtech in Minnesota

Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal have a recent article on the virtues of EdTech, including the three steps you need to take to make it happen in a school:

  1. Evaluate your internet service and bandwidth
    Fiber is a proven winner for school networks. While many technologies have the potential to meet growing demand for bandwidth, fiber is a clear leader for several reasons. Fiber is highly secure and can easily scale to speeds of 100 Gbps or more.
    As more edtech devices proliferate on networks and digital learning continues to advance, demand is growing for bandwidth and speed. Fiber is designed to be future-proof and suited for current and future needs.
  1. Shore up your cybersecurity strategy
    Growing your IT network and tech capabilities is a net positive, but introducing more devices inherently comes with risks. It’s a numbers game. The more connected devices you have, the more points of entry there are on a network. If your infrastructure is not properly secured, it’s vulnerable to hacking, phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other emerging threats.
  1. Be aware of assistance programs such as E-Rate
    Broadband services represent a large share of the technology budget for many districts, making the best available service options — fiber, for example — seem out of reach. The reality is, access to scalable, redundant or symmetrical speed fiber networks is more possible and cost-effective than ever. The federal E-Rate program is a big part of making the best in broadband more affordable.

Electronic Health Records used less in rural hospitals – what do MN hospitals look like?

A recent GAO report indicates

Electronic health information exchange is the ability to exchange medical records and other health information electronically among health care providers and between health care providers and patients. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provided federal enhanced Medicaid matching funds to states through 2021 to support certain efforts to advance electronic exchange. Nearly all states used these funds, and most have identified other sources to sustain those efforts. Survey data show that the use of various electronic exchange methods among hospitals and physicians has increased in recent years. However, GAO found that as of 2021, reported use among small and rural hospitals was lower than that of other hospitals.

The GAO surveyed seven states to see what happened to that funding and how hospitals were using Electronic Health Records (HER). Minnesota was one of those states. The table below shows how Minnesota hospitals are exchanging information. It is eye opening to see that 40 percent of MN hospitals often use mail or faxes and 73 percent receive them! It’s worth noting that both MN and Colorado have a higher percentage of use of EHR vendor network; that’s because in both states most hospitals used the same vendor.

One concerning factor across the board (for most readers here)…

Stakeholders we interviewed, including representatives from state agencies and HIE organizations, also noted that broadband access and availability in rural communities had improved in recent years, primarily due to federal and state efforts aimed at expanding broadband. However, they noted that despite these efforts, lack of broadband access, particularly in very rural areas of the country, continues to be an impediment to electronic exchange.

I’m not patient waiting for a kid’s strep throat results; I can only imaging the USPS playing a role in other diagnosis and I’d hate to think that lack of broadband was a cause!

4,000+ Attend GigaZone Gaming Championship in Bemidji MN

News of the GigaZone Games makes me happy every year…

An estimated crowd of over 4,000 attended the GigaZone Gaming Championship & TechXpo on Saturday, April 22 at the Sanford Center. The event featured free gaming, numerous gaming tournaments, over 35 technology exhibitors, door prizes, and special guest Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. This one-of-a-kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event was run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.
Mathew Wagner of Duluth won the 6th annual GigaZone Gaming Championship and the top prize of $500. Shawn
Haines of Grand Forks secured second place and $400. A total of 76 of northern Minnesota’s best Super Smash Bros.
Ultimate players competed on the main stadium stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.
In addition to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament, there was several other open tournaments including Fortnite, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Madden 23, and Overwatch 3v3, Rocket League 3vs3 plus high score competitions in Pac-Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. There were also two tournaments for juniors 13 and Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, “Wow. When we first envisioned this event, we wanted to grow it so we could have a true arena e-sports event. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow so fast and that we would have Steve Wozniak the co-founder of Apple join us. It has been incredible to see the attendance and enthusiasm for the event! By adding the TechXpo, we were able to connect a wide variety of students and potential job seekers with schools and businesses that are utilizing the latest in technology every day right here in northern Minnesota. It was awesome to see so many people from all over come for the fun!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members. The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship & TechXpo showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“A huge shout out to our entire team for putting on one of the most unique events of this type in the country. Thank you to all of the exhibitors that were a part of the first ever TechXpo and our local partners, we couldn’t do this without them. We’re already looking forward to next year!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing
This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, the Sanford Center as well support from several regional and national partners.
For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com 

EVENT May 3: MHTA Tech Connect conference

The Minnesota High Tech Association is hosting an upcoming conference…

Tech Connect brings you together with our region’s top technology leaders in one location on one day. We have assembled 40 speakers from more than two dozen companies to dive into disruptive technology and inspire us to harness the opportunities now available for transformational business growth. Your ticket to Tech Connect gets you access to:

  • Two fantastic keynote speeches
  • A panel discussion among Chief Information Officers
  • 24 breakout sessions
  • Networking opportunities

Visit the Tech Connect event site to learn more, see which sessions you are interested in attending, and get tickets.

Gilda’s Club in the TC helping to get cancer support to unserved with broadband and devices

Yahoo Finance reports

Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, part of the Cancer Support Community (CSC) global non-profit network providing free social and emotional support for everyone impacted by cancer, announced a new initiative to improve access to cancer support and education, especially among individuals at higher risk of developing cancer residing in urban and rural settings in Minnesota. In a highly unique approach to connecting with medically underserved people, Gilda’s Club Twin Cities is working with Equiva, a digital health platform provider that recently unveiled its Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)-centric solution.

Here are some details…

Through Equiva’s ACP-centric solution, the organizations are collaborating to ensure eligible households get FCC discounts of up to $30 per month toward internet service (up to $75 per month for Tribal lands) and that each household enrolled by Gilda’s Club Twin Cities receives a tablet device preloaded with digital access to virtual cancer support groups, healthy lifestyle education, cancer treatment information, and other resources. It also includes the clinically validated Cancer Support Source® distress, depression and anxiety screener, which will allow Gilda’s Club to identify individuals who could benefit from emotional support services or resource referrals.

To help enroll ACP-eligible households across Minnesota, Gilda’s Club Twin Cities is making impacted individuals, healthcare providers, and community organizations aware of the ACP. Additionally, they are educating these constituents about their collaboration with Equiva and their efforts to deliver oncology- specific digital offerings to at-risk individuals.

Public libraries make public computers feel like your own with Personal User Privacy and Security – PUPS

Telecompetitor reports on new sresearch from the University of Kansas Institute for Policy & Social Research on the state of computer use in libraries. The idea that people get access to computers, skills and broadband from the library isn’t new – although it is still valuable. But Telecompetitor picked up on something that is new – the Personal User Privacy and Security…

The University of Kansas developed and is testing, in the libraries, a system called PUPS (Personal User Privacy and Security). PUPS is “a USB-based virtual computing environment… designed to afford public computer users increased customizability, session state per­sistence, and security as compared to the restricted use settings of most library PCs.”

In other words, while library computers are generally locked down and don’t allow for customization, PUPS gives its users the feeling of a personal computer, including the ability to download software and retain their unique user settings. They found that PUPS is most useful to users with digital access but was less useful for users struggling in the second area: digital literacy.

Having worked in libraries, I’ve seen there is a spectrum of skills that walk through the door and there always has been. There are the kids or travelers who are power users. Back in the day, they wanted the DOS prompt to get to their email. As technical as I am, they are often much more so or at least experts in some segment of use. There are folks who may need help remembering how to get to their Gmail. There are folks who, especially since prevalence of smartphones and tablets, aren’t comfortable with the mouse. PUPS targets the first and second group of folks.

There are so many reasons PUPS is a boon. It’s easier to use a computer when it looks like they way you are used to seeing it. (Just think about using a friend’s computer or phone for a minute. It’s disorienting.) Second your digital stuff is always with you. You don’t have to worry about something happening to the computer at the library or having to access “the cloud” every time you want to work on something. Finally, you can open up your files in various locations. So if you move to another part of town, you can still access your midterm report.

PUPS can help users who are digitally astute, but lacking access to a device or broadband, feel more autonomous and more digitally connected.

EVENT April 22: GigaZone Gaming Championship Announce Exhibitors

Here’s the latest from Paul Bunyan Communications on their upcoming Gaming event. I’m sharing it for two reasons. First, because it will be a fun event if you’re a gamer or have a gamer in your life. Second, because this is what happens when you invest in broadband and in the community in creative ways — you get interesting young people connecting with interesting opportunities in your backyard!

The 6th GigaZone Gaming Championship and TechXpo with special guest Steve “Woz” Wozniak the co-founder of Apple is coming up Saturday, April 22 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The event features free gaming on various console and arcade games, numerous tournaments, door prizes, and the first ever TechXpo.  All the fun is free.

The GigaZone TechXpo is a new part of the event with the mission to spark excitement and create opportunities with technology by connecting students, job seekers, employers, educators, and technology enthusiasts from northern Minnesota. There are over 35 exhibitors that will be showcasing various innovation including virtual reality, drones, simulators, and much more.


The confirmed exhibitors include

  • Minnesota North Community College Hibbing Campus
  • NLFX Professional
  • Simmuk
  • Bemidji State University
  • National Center Autonomous Technologies
  • Rocketman
  • Red Lake Nation College
  • Kinbee
  • Bemidji Aviation
  • Visit Bemidji
  • Pinnacle Marketing Group
  • Sanford Health
  • Wells Technology
  • Enfinity
  • AirCorps Aviation
  • Community Voice Mobile App
  • Marvin
  • Beltrami Electric
  • Northwest Technical College
  • St. Cloud State University
  • HUG Hydronics
  • Bemidji Steel
  •  Ape Man Games
  • Northwest Mutual
  • Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing
  • Center of Excellence
  • Operating Engineers Local 49 Training & Apprenticeship Center
  • Plum Catalyst
  • Digikey
  • First City Geeks
  • Paul Bunyan Communications
  • IT Center of Excellence Central Lakes College
  • Youth Drone Sports Championship Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference
  • ICON Architectural Group
  • Minnesota North Community College Virginia Campus

“We are excited to have so many different exhibitors at our first ever TechXpo which will expose a growing regional audience to technology and help them realize their potential to leverage their technical skills and enthusiasm into successful careers right here in northern Minnesota.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

The 6th GigaZone Gaming Championship main stage tournament will feature Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate on the esports stadium style stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.  In addition to the main stage, there will be tournaments of Overwatch 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Madden NFL 23, Rocket League, Fortnite, Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, and junior tournaments for kids 13 and under of Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  Registration for all tournaments will start at the Sanford Center April 22 at 10 a.m. and go until full.  For more information visit www.gigazonegaming.com

This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidentally Cool Games, Northern Amusement, the Sanford Center, as well as support from several regional and national partners.

$80 million federal funds available to train workers to build and deploy infrastructure

The US Department of Labor announces

To maximize the impact of the Biden-Harris administration’s historic infrastructure, manufacturing and clean energy investments, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of $80 million in funding through its Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program.

It sounds like this is funding to build the workforce to help deploy the infrastructure that federal funds will be buying over the next few years. It’s an opportunity to train workers and to build the workers we’ll need close to home. More info on the grants…

The grants will enable partners in the public and private sectors to develop or scale workforce training programs to prepare job seekers in advanced manufacturing; information technology; and professional, scientific, and technical service occupations that support renewable energy, transportation, and broadband infrastructure sectors. These include occupations in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors; broadband and transmission expansion; advanced manufacturing, including biomanufacturing; and electrical, industrial, and civil engineers and technicians who facilitate the design, construction, modernization, and maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure.

Nonprofits, labor organizations, public and state institutions of higher education, economic and workforce entities, and state, county and local governments may apply for grants ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. Applicants must choose one of the following tracks for this grant program:

  • Development track: Establishes local and regional partnerships that will implement new sector-based training programs across infrastructure-related sectors.

  • Scaling track: Expands an existing local or regional training partnership model, with demonstrated success in a specific infrastructure-related sector, to the state or national level.

With the Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program, successful applicants will develop or scale strategies that provide the training and supportive services needed to build a talent pipeline for career pathways in infrastructure-related industries, with emphasis on programs serving people from rural or historically marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented communities. The funding will also support programs that align with the department’s Good Jobs Initiative and embed diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility into the project design.

Learn more about the funding opportunity announcement.

What content draws you in online? Might depend on your age.

If you’re looking to offer tech training in your community or you’re trying to get a message out. It’s nice to know what appeals to different demographics.

A recent article in Ofcom report looked at what draws kids’ attention online

  • Drawn to drama: Kids gravitate to dramatic, short-form videos on social media
  • Rise of ‘split-screening’: Trend for watching two videos at once
  • More careful, less creative: Youngsters more socially self-conscious, posting fewer videos.
  • Screen time: 16–24-year-olds more likely to take social media break to manage wellbeing

While the Wall Street Journal looked at what appeals to the 50+ crowd:

  • Fitness wearables
  • Home assistants
  • Streaming services
  • Password protection
  • Scam prevention

EVENT Jun 12: Telehealth 101: What libraries need to know

I used to work a Reference Desk so I know, librarians are the frontline support for nearly everything, especially digital equity. It’s helpful to be as prepared as possible and the National Library of Medicine is offering a class that will help…

Libraries in locations across the United States are beginning to offer their patrons access to telehealth services as a strategy for addressing inequities in digital access to healthcare. This class introduces telehealth, why it’s important, and how it enables people to have greater access to quality healthcare. Explore how different libraries provided patrons in their communities with access to telehealth services. This class will address privacy and ethical concerns, and review the technology and infrastructure needed to launch a successful telehealth program in your library. The class will consist of three one-hour modules. Each module will focus on one of the course objectives, which are:

  • Recognize the different approaches/models to providing telehealth access within libraries.
  • Describe resources available to the library for Telehealth technology and the role of the library in support of digital skills training for telehealth.
  • Address potential ethical and legal concerns in offering telehealth access within libraries.
Date(s): June 12, 2023 – July 12, 2023
Platform: Moodle
CE Credits: 3.00
CE Categories: CHIS Level 2
Class Experience Level: Beginner
This is a National NNLM class.
Learn more about this class and find other upcoming instances: