Stirring the Pot: Connecting the dots

As originally posted on Blandin on Broadband

Stirring the Pot

By Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

“Connecting the dots” is a metaphor for people who can see the big picture in a complex world of technology, people and trends. In past weeks, I have seen the positive value of connecting people so that 1 + 1  > 2.  I saw references to the powerful impact of “connecting the people” in a Star Tribune article on Fargo Moorhead this weekend, at the Red Wing Ignite hack fest and at several community broadband meetings. With broadband, the universe of possibilities has expanded from local to global.

Last week, Bernadine Joselyn and I spent two days in Washington, DC trying to connect dots, first through a series of meetings with federal agency staff who either use broadband to achieve their mission or fund broadband as their mission, and second, at an excellent workshop of interactive learning and sharing. Both of these opportunities were well-hosted by NTIA, an agency that sees connecting people as a part of their post stimulus mission.

I did a bit of matchmaking myself over the past week. In one opportunity, I connected multiple telecom providers to each other and to regional community broadband advocates and our new Office of Broadband Development. These prospective partners have underutilized assets, that in combination, could improve broadband services in a number of counties at a minimum of capital expense. Combining assets could produce a great partnership, but I would not minimize the challenges of partnering across untraditional lines, especially private-public lines on new ventures. At least, the connection started a discussion.

Spurred by introductions at the state broadband conference, I met with state staff who work with the blind, deaf and hard of hearing community. Over the life of the Blandin broadband initiative, we have not paid very much attention to this community. People who rely on American Sign Language to communicate require a decent broadband connection to use video conferencing technology. For ASL users who want to communicate over distance with those who do not sign, three way connections to translators are required. While translators may be readily available in the metro area, they may not be close at hand in greater Minnesota, especially outside of regional center communities. Some rural residents with these skills may exist but they are not readily identifiable. I had a great conversation with the staff and we came up with several ideas for collaboration. Some of those opportunities might include you!

Sometimes these connections take root with immediate success or they might lay fallow until you provide some tilling and watering. With some, they might not produce at all. In any case, it is spring planting season here in Minnesota so make some connections!

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