That which gets counted, gets attention: broadband and the census

In November, Blandin hosted a webinar on the census, the theme was: Minnesota is better when everyone counts. One message was the importance of getting full participation..

To ensure fair representation and allocation of resources, and access to complete and reliable data to support community engagement, planning and economic development.

Later in the month there was an article in the Washington Post warning that the census may not be ready – actually they are maintaining that many features won’t be ready before the big testing scheduled to begin in August, 2017. The article also extolled the virtues of the greater use of technology planned for the 2020 census…

The decision to innovate with technology, instead of creating new systems, contributed to a significant cost savings, according to census officials. The 2020 Census will cost $12.5 billion, a $5 billion savings over “the paper-and-pencil-based design of the 2010 Census,” Thompson, the Census Bureau director, said.

Census officials are “under no illusions that the task before us is an easy one,” Smith added. “In fact, it is very difficult.” But he’s confident “the foundation to carry out a successful census is in place.”

And the pitfalls…

One innovation will allow replies to census questions via the Internet. Yet, “while the large-scale technological changes for the 2020 Decennial Census introduce great potential for efficiency and effectiveness gains,” the GAO warns that it puts people “more at risk for phishing attacks [requests for information from authentic-looking, but fake, e-mails and websites].”

It’s an opportunity for a push at the national level for public service announcements and education on digital literacy and cyber security. It’s also an opportunity to push better, ubiquitous broadband. (Maybe some of the $5 billion saved could be used to increase education and infrastructure to reach the census takers!)

The fear of not going to extra/last mile to reach to the far corners of the country is that we could get a skewed view of where we are and what we need. A recipe for widening and deepening the digital divide.

Increasing commutes and wear on physical infrastructure makes case for better broadband

Did you know that since the Paleolithic Era, people have always lived roughly 30 minutes from their work even as transport tech evolved from bare feet to carriage to train to automobile? Well apparently that was true, but it’s changing – according to an article in HyperLoop

Commuting rings just kept expanding outward. But Marchetti’s Constant has broken down in most big cities. New data collected from the public transit app Moovit shows average round-trip commute times are now 93 minutes in Philadelphia, 77 minutes in San Francisco, and 86 minutes in Boston and Chicago. A third of the people in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia say they commute more than two hours each day.

So what does this have to do with broadband? Well, the article is written to spur conversation…

But the maps are great conversation-starters for transportation planners and policymakers pondering how and where to deploy the potential billions the incoming Trump administration wants to spend on new and repaired infrastructure. Investment decisions should consider the way people live and work across boundaries of culture, politics and electoral districts. Transport should support and connect these dynamic economic zones to foster business formation, job mobility and personal economic freedom.

It seems to me that broadband could and should be part of the solution.

The article includes some compelling maps of commuting around the Twin Cities. In the red-orange map, “high volume, shorter commutes make up the bright yellow core while longer and less frequent routes show in red.” In the second darker maps looks at the same data but removed boundaries. Suddenly we see not one epicenter but several regional centers.

Imagine the improved quality of life for the commuters and economic potential if the commutes were less frequent or non-existent.

How fiber makes the roads safer

For folks who know me – the answer isn’t because fiber can keep me from driving. Although that might make the roads safer. No, the exciting news is that Ohio is about to pilot a smart road that will track and compile information that will help the Department of Transportation make changes to improve driving.

According to GCN

By the end of next summer, sensors on a 35-mile stretch of highway in Ohio could be providing real-time road, weather and traffic data to the state.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is upgrading its Smart Mobility Corridor with high-capacity fiber-optic cables that connect to embedded and wireless sensors — a new network that ODOT officials say  will ultimately provide data to researchers and traffic monitors. …

This means research and manufacturing facilities would be able to test their smart transportation technologies on a road through both rural and urban terrain in all four seasons. The route already hosts testing with auto manufacturers and suppliers, including the Transportation Research Center, which is a partner in this project.

And here’s an example of the difference it can make…

The collected data would result in more frequent and accurate information about traffic, congestion, weather and surface conditions, which the agency can use for traffic management operations and incident management improvements.

For example, if a connected vehicle hits a patch of black ice and the tires slip, the information would be sent to ODOT, which could then quickly dispatch a salt truck. Sensors detecting sudden temperature drops or a reduction in speed indicating traffic congestion could pass the information to vehicles. Along with vehicle-to-infrastructure information sharing, this technology facilitates vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which could send warnings directly to drivers about incidents related to nearby vehicles or traffic.

Webinar Archive: Census 2020: The Count Starts Now

Pleased to share the information from yesterday’s webinar – Census 2020: The Count Starts Now…

Minnesota works when the Census works. We have a better Minnesota when everyone is counted. Everyone gets a role in our government and their civil rights are supported. Dollars get allocated to help families and communities close opportunity gaps. We churn the wheels of “small d” democracy with data to plan, make good decisions and measure the impact of our work. We help grow jobs and our local economy by providing every business with the data it needs to make smart investments.

But, we don’t gain any of the benefits if we do not make sure everyone is able to participate. Some barriers have always been there; families do not think to count their young children, people of color are not counted, we miss people who are new to our communities or we miss people who live in rural areas. Making getting a full count even harder in rural communities is the increased reliance on computers, smart phones, tablets and other devices to collect Census responses in 2020 – not easy task in communities underserved by broadband.

To get a full count in Minnesota, we need to be talking with state and federal lawmakers so they organize and fund an effective Census and American Community Survey.  We also need to start planning how we are going to organize ourselves – our own communities. Who from your community should be involved in helping with the advocacy and making sure we have a good plan for Minnesota?  Certainly you, but what other partners in business, the public sector, nonprofit communities or your faith community should be involved? Send your thoughts to MACS (Minnesotans for the American Community Survey)

Broadband facilitates deeper civic engagement in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is working on their comprehensive plan – called 2040. The process is on their website – the how and the do.

I’m sharing this for two reasons. If you’re in Minneapolis and think technology is important, now is a good time to visit and let them know it’s a priority to you.

For folks outside of Minneapolis, I think this is a slick way to encourage deeper civic engagement from the comfort of the residents own home.

The website is a hub for instructions on how to participate and the results of the participation. Here’s the beak down from their site…

Make your voice heard by participating in the Minneapolis 2040 planning process both online and in person.

Sign up for Updates

Stay up to speed with regular updates via email.

Civic Engagement Overview

This overview outlines why civic engagement is important to the plan, who will be engaged, how it will happen, and when you can get involved.

Events Calendar

A list of upcoming opportunities to participate in shaping the future of Minneapolis.

Past Events

Documentation of what happened at previous Minneapolis 2040 engagement opportunities.
See also the Phase 1 Engagement Summary


Would you like to host your own conversation and provide feedback on the comprehensive plan? Download your kit today, and tell us your vision for the future of Minneapolis!

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When there is new information to share, we’ll tweet it.

Contact Us

Have a question or comment? Feel free to contact us.

The materials are all there – might be a good time to check it out to see if that might work in your community.

Three keys to Digital Inclusion plans in US Cities

The Benton Foundation recently published results of work they’ve been doing related to helping cities reduce barriers to digital inclusion – aside from funding.

They came with three key recommendations…

Based on our preliminary examination of the digital equity plans created by the cities of Austin, Portland, and Seattle, and through our own interviews with local policymakers, we offer these recommendations to federal policymakers, local governments, and other key stakeholders interested in creating effective digital equity plans:

  • Local governments should employ a central planning and coordination office with legitimate authority to facilitate digital equity planning.

  • Local planners should ensure that traditionally-excluded groups are included in digital equity planning.

  • Local decision-makers should use research from a variety of sources to inform digital equity planning.

What grade does MN government get for digital? B+

Government Technology recently released the results of their 2016 Digital States Survey. Minnesota gets a B+. Here’s what they say…

State: Minnesota
2016 grade: B+
2014 grade: B+
CIO: Tom Baden
To Sum it up: Minnesota’s No. 1 priority when it comes to IT is the development of a strategic cybersecurity plan, with executive support evidenced by Gov. Mark Dayton’s $46 million 2016 budget request. In addition to security upgrades at key agencies, the IT office has developed a Breach Response and Notification manual that aligns with the NIST framework to define roles in the event of a breach and encourage agency-level preparation. The IT agency, MN.IT, also tests preparedness with tabletop events aimed at agency partners. Planning for the Internet of Things is driving some of the security conversation, as the state positions itself to securely manage its ever-growing data inventory. The state has some impressive stats to back up its commitment to a smaller footprint, reducing its data center count from 49 to 29 in the past two years and virtualizing 80 percent of its servers. Minnesota’s move toward a hybrid cloud model will allow it to make the most of existing infrastructure while shifting to as-a-service options on a case-by-case basis when the benefits justify the switch. Another significant accomplishment from Minnesota since the last survey is its GenTax integrated tax system, which brings together all tax functions and offers Web-based filing and processing services for citizens. An online audit room enables taxpayers to interact and share information directly with auditors. The audit room’s first iteration used an off-the-shelf product, but additional functionality is being added continuously using in-house teams. The state has upped its transparency game too, adding an Open Checkbook feature to its website to expose detailed financial information.

B+ is pretty good – but it’s always nice to know what the curve looks like. Here’s what Gov Tech says about the – seems like we’re well above average…

No states received a D or F, and just eight states landed in the C grade range. A growing number of states fill out the top of the curve compared to surveys past — 20 states earned a grade of B+ or higher, and a whopping 10 states earned an A or A-.