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.

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.