Pope County wants to grow and broadband is part of the equation

According to the Pope County Tribune

The Pope County Board of Commissioners heard a report from West Central Initiative Business and Economic Development Director Greg Wagner and Donor Services Officer Tom McSparron at its meeting last Wednesday.

Wagner gave the board a report on the economic development of Pope County in 2016. He said that Pope County’s population decline has slowed and is on a slow upward trajectory, with a growth in population until 2025. From 2000 to 2016 Pope County lost approximately 147 people, but is expected to grow from 11,049 in 2016 to 11,758 by 2025.

2016 trends in Pope County included the need for a larger workforce, housing affordability, the need for increased wages, the need to expand broadband access and coverage, rising energy costs and the need for more child care openings and providers.

They also mention a website that helps businesses recover from disaster…

McSparron mentioned how WCI has created a website called stayopenforbiz.org that helps businesses prepare for disasters. He said that 25 percent of businesses that close their doors due to a disaster never reopen. The site is used to help those businesses develop continuity plans to prepare for disasters. WCI helps companies start up and expand through loan and business assistance programs.

Community calendar catches on in Fairmont

I always enjoy highlighting BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) projects. It’s fun to hear how folks are using broadband. Some porjects are entirely unique and some really catch fire. Knowing that, I was intersted in hear that Fairmount was really happy with their online community calendar.

Community Calendars are hard. They require constant updating. In theory, it’s great to get folks to add in their own events. In practice that great idea doesn’t always catch on. Fairmont’s calendar has caught on.

I think they had two secret ingredients: they worked hard to get people engaged and invested AND they found a calendar system that works for them.

I asked Margaret Dillard at the Chamber how they got peoeple to use and update the calendar. She said…

It is gaining the reputation of being a one-stop online presence for events here. Previously, the chamber was responsible for attempting to keep track of events, happenings and entertainment throughout Martin County, so our strength comes from working with multiple government entities and other organizations. In addition, we utilized billboards, newspaper, radio, CER catalog, chamber and city social media and publications and email campaigns.

Next I asked about the calender software. It seems they were able to grow a community calendar from the online school calendar. And better yet – the school calendar comes from a Minnesota company. I contacted Ray Drestke, CEO of the company for more info. I’m going to include most of what he said because – having worked on community calendar projects myself, I know that folks who are looking into this will appreciate the details. (And the rest  of you can save this until you might need it.)

We are based in Winona, MN and are a 24 yr old company that has a suite of 16 web software programs and 5 mobile apps that serves the K-12 and College market.  We currently serve over 5,000 school organizations in 44 states. (www.rschooltoday.com)

 

The calendar behind the Fairmont project is the Community Calendar version of our popular Activity Scheduler.  Activity Scheduler is a school calendar and Athletics Management System used by over 5,000 schools for the last 16 years.

 

With the Community Calendar, we set out to solve 3 problems that every community has:

 

1) Some say “there’s nothing to do around here.”

 

2) Community and Event Planners say. “Argh, if i had known these other 2 events were happening that weekend, I would have scheduled ours for a different weekend.”

 

3) Some say, “I would love to have gone to this event if i had only known about it beforehand.”

 

Why solving this has traditionally been hard:

1) Most of the organizations in any town have web sites that have calendar events on them.  But it forces the community to go to so many sites to get a real picture of what’s happening.

2) Nobody has time to enter their events on multiple sites

3) Even if you could afford to hire someone to aggregate all the calendar data in a community and repost it to one calendar, things still slip through the cracks. Date/time/location changes are mostly missed, etc.

4) Nobody wants to use a shared calendar as their organization’s calendar.  They want a calendar that is 100% theirs.

 

Solution: So, with the rSchoolToday Community Calendar, the goal is no one has to rekey anything!  Every organization in your community that wants to participate (city/county government, chamber, CVB, churches, youth groups, Park/Rec, schools, service organizations, etc) can have their own low-cost rSchool calendar, and that becomes their Web site calendar. It is simple to use, powerful, 100% editable, includes a free mobile app, and can be branded to match each organization.

 

When data is entered into each organization’s calendar to show on their web site, those events automatically also write to the community calendar.   And, the schools are likely already using our calendar so their data will already be in the Community Calendar.

 

But…”I have spent so much creating a special look to the calendar events on our CVB page – I don’t want to lose that.”  No worries.  rSchool can feed calendar data into any other calendar that can accept a data feed. So, by using the rSchool calendar to enter the data, you have the best of both worlds.

 

Advertising?  You can choose for NO ads on the calendars. Or, you can use our Local Ad model and control the ads on your calendar.  you can feature all local businesses and charge whatever you want each month or year. This can make the Community Calendar a powerful revenue-generator for the community as well.

 

Buying Tickets online for events?  If you have a ticket program, you can link any ticket site to that event in the calendar to make things easy.  Don’t have a ticket app? We can provide one.

 

Social Media?  Your community can promote any calendar event to their social media sites.

 

Can I be selfish?  “I only care about restaurants, live music, art galleries and soccer.”  No prob. Select the things you care about, generate a personal calendar, and push it to your smart phone or tablet. Now any changes to those activities auto-update your smart device.

 

But I tend to forget….No worries, sign up for reminders and change notices for the activities you care about and receive email or text messages automatically.

50 innovative ideas – MN gets nod for rural broadband plan

Fast Company just published a list of “50 projects that are really making America great again” – one for each state. Minnesota gets a mention for the Border to Border broadband grants.

Minnesota
A high-speed hookup for rural residents
More of Minnesota will soon have access to what’s become a necessity: reliable, affordable high-speed internet. In January, the state announced its latest Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant to expand service to some 16,000 households and 2,000 businesses in underserved areas.

Not all of the ideas were technology related – but here are the ones that were (with abbreviated decsritions)…

Arkansas
A push for faster classrooms
The state’s effort to bring high-speed internet to all K–12 schools will be complete by summer. …
Delaware
A statewide embrace of blockchain
With last year’s Delaware Blockchain Initiative, the state became the first to adopt distributed-ledger technology, to underpin its public archives. …

 

Virginia
A technology employer for all
Richmond’s Maxx Potential is a five-year-old tech company whose workers are paid (starting at $12 an hour) to learn on the job. …

 

Connecticut
A help desk for citizens
New Haven resident Ben Berkowitz created the SeeClickFix app to allow locals to quickly report nonemergency issues (broken meters and streetlights, potholes, and even excessive noise from ice-cream trucks). …

 

New Hampshire
A bridge with a mind of its own
… sensors along the span that gather data on everything from structural soundness and traffic patterns to the effect of the bridge on the marine life below.

 

New York
A big-city tech-talent pipeline
…steeps students in digital product development and entrepreneurial thinking while giving them an appreciation for the real-world needs of society…

 

Kansas
A lifeline for rural hospitals
… a tech platform that connects remote clinics with primary and specialty care from bigger facilities, eliminating the need for long drives or costly transfers….

 

Missouri
A database for smart cities
…opened its data to residents so that they can access traffic patterns and find available parking spots. It’s also sharing its information with other cities to help them develop best practices.

 

Nebraska
A digital connection for seniors and their families
…LifeLoop, a web-based platform that connects employees at senior-care facilities directly with residents’ families. The LifeLoop site offers relatives real-time updates on their loved ones’ daily activities, along with the ability to send messages to staff…

 

Colorado
A marketplace for adventure
…inviting ski coaches, yoga experts, musicians, and more to list their services on its app and find eager clients. The app, which has developed a robust community with more than 1,000 experiences in the Denver area, is setting its sights on nationwide expansion.

 

Idaho
A new lens for nature lovers
… an online platform that provides emerging shutterbugs with a million-person community and tools to perfect and sell their work, including online photo tutorials and preset Lightroom-editing filters.

 

Oregon
A housing service that doesn’t discriminate
…NoAppFee.com, a platform that runs a background check on applicants and returns a list of buildings guaranteed to approve them.

 

Wyoming
A map of the natural world
… an interactive mapping system that encourages outdoor enthusiasts to contribute on-the-ground info and photos of the state’s trails. ..

New Smart City Toolkit Guides Government to Help Disabled

You know how Microsoft has handy templates you can use for everything from a cover letter to a graduation open house invitation? Turns out their templates aren’t limited to small business and personal use –  they have a whole suite of tools and templates focused on how local governments can use technology to better serve people with disabilities.

Smart Cities for All currently has four toolkits:

  • Guide to implementing priority ICT accessibility standards
  • Guide to adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy
  • Communicating the case for stronger Commitment to digital inclusion in cities
  • Database of solutions for digital inclusion in cities

And it looks like they’re gearing up for more.

How can the Twin Cities become smart cities?

MinnPost recently an editorial from Mike O’Leary from  Ernst & Young LLP. He offers a three-pronged approach to becoming smart…

Government

Big data is a term frequently thrown around when it comes to cities. But it’s much more than a buzzword. Big data allows government entities to take a granular look at their populations’ demands and behavioral patterns. As real-time data become more easily accessible through new data and analytics tools, governments are becoming more adaptable to meet their populations’ needs and more resilient against shocks, such as widespread disease or large-scale cyber attacks.

I would challenge governments to take this a step further by increasing their use of predictive models and behavioral approaches to policy to anticipate the needs of growing cities to become more proactive. Take transportation as an example. Data can allow government to predict commuter behaviors should autonomous buses become commonplace. If the predictive behavior looks positive, governments can make the decision to move forward with funding and create pro-autonomous bus policies.

Corporations

One key question for corporations in the Twin Cities is how to use smart assets to drive superior return on investment. Smarter infrastructure, both physical and social, is a key component for smart cities. The real estate and construction industries have a key opportunity to optimize physical assets for new technology that could revolutionize the way businesses manage assets. As an example, smart buildings equipped with the latest technology have the ability to detect and respond in real time to occupancy, environmental and operational changes. Real-time data on usage and temperature, and the ability to respond to changing conditions, can allow for reduced operational costs and greater energy efficiency.

Entrepreneurs

The sweet spot for entrepreneurs in the smart landscape is using new technologies to transform how citizens engage with their city. They are asking themselves better questions, such as: How do commuters move around the Twin Cities? Where are the epicenters of work in our cities? How are our residents spending their leisure time? Their ability to identify gaps in the market will continue to drive new commercial opportunities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A prevalent example that comes to mind is the growth of ridesharing companies that derived from the transportation needs of those living in the city. We will continue to rely on entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers to identify the latest needs of city dwellers and innovate to meet the changing citizen demands.

Support for Digitizing Cultural Resources

Thought this might be of interest to some…

Council on Library and Information Resources: Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives
Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives, an initiative of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), is intended to help digitize and provide access to non-digital collections of rare or unique content in cultural heritage institutions. Through this program, CLIR aims to enhance the emerging global digital research environment in ways that support new kinds of scholarship for the long term and to ensure that the full wealth of resources held by memory institutions becomes integrated with the open Web. Grants, ranging from a minimum of $50,000 to a maximum of $250,000 in the case of a single-institution project or $500,000 for a collaborative project, will be provided to colleges and universities, research centers, museums, libraries, historical societies, cultural associations, etc. To promote broad access, careful preservation, standardization, and usability, approaches to digitization should be coordinated across institutions when feasible. Online initial proposals must be submitted by April 3, 2017; final proposals are due September 20, 2017. Visit the CLIR website to review the program guidelines and application process.

Broadband for civic engagement: Facebook Live easy tool to broadcast public meetings

I am the newest, biggest fan of Facebook Live. It allows a person to livestream video from their phone. You just need a Facebook account, a smartphone and enough broadband to maintain a connection. You point your camera – click on Live – and it starts broadcasting.

I had an opportunity to use it to help out a friend this week. She was planning a conversation on homelessness in Dakota County. I figured I could help spread the word by livestreaming it for her. Amazingly 220 people showed up Monday for the event!. BUT another 250 tuned in live online – and since the event (three days ago) more than 1000 people have viewed the post and video. Again, amazing!

Recently I used Facebook Live to record a House Committee meeting too. I’ll be using it more often.

I like it because the video livestreams so it doesn’t reside on my phone, which means I don’t run out of memory. It drains the battery but not much more than taking (and not streaming) video. You will want to be on WiFi or you may hit some data caps and big bills. Once the event is finished, the video is archived. You can embed the code into your website or download the video and upload it to YouTube.

It is a great way to broadcast government meetings on a budget. Or as a citizen to record open meetings or event to share with folks who can’t attend and to have an archive for later. I spoke with Matt Ehling at the Coalition on Government Information – he let me know that as an observer, you can life-stream a public meeting that you are attending under the First Amendment.

If you use this trick to broadcast a broadband event – please let me know!

There’s another advantage of Facebook Live – the immediacy and public nature of the broadcast. Think of the livestream video of Philando Castile’s last moments posted by his girlfriend. I remember hearing an interview with her soon after the fact and she mentioned that safety was one issue she streamed video. She wanted people to know she was there and in distress. After the fact, that video has served as a record of the events.

I have also heard of people who will livestream a walk to the car at night or in a parking ramp alone. It’s not the same as having someone walk with you but it is a deterrent for unwanted attention.