Category Archives: Events

Tele-worker promotion ideas

Yesterday I attended MTA’s Telework seminar. It provided a foundation on which to build some local or statewide efforts by MTA members. I could see a number of economic developers wanting to join in a collaborative effort. As I listened to the presentation, I came up with some ideas that might help community leaders to get a local teleworker program started:

  1. Survey non-homestead property owners for business owners and flexible workers for teleworking promotion opportunities.
  2. Create a space for co-working to host teleworking residents and visitors; provide bandwidth, professional networking and tech support.
  3. Offer and promote advanced services to your teleworker customers – data back-up, IT support.
  4. Open provider networks (within exchanges or groups of exchanges) to very high speed networking to connect collaborating creative home-workers. (For example, within all Federated or CTC exchanges, thereby avoiding off-network transport).
  5. Harvest statewide remote worker job openings from the DEED database or on an ongoing basis and promote these opportunities to local job seekers.
  6. Implement joint marketing efforts by local telcos and economic development authorities to Twin Cities and very large regional center companies about capabilities of rural telecommunications and workforce. Bring metro companies to rural regions for job fairs. Host them in nice places!
  7. Create a local fact sheet on local telecommunications capabilities that job seekers can take to job interviews to show telework capabilities. Distribute from local workforce centers through job counselors and on display racks.
  8. Work with DEED to create a telework class offered at Workforce Centers.

Telework is a great focus for local telcos and EDA folks – because we share the same goal – rural economic vitality. If would be great to see some of these folsk get together next week at the Blandin Broadband Conference next week (Oct 13-14) in Baxter. There will be time and space for attendees to address ideas such as telework.

Lac qui Parle unveils mobile computer lab

Last week, I was fortunate to participate in the ribbon cutting for the Lac qui Parle’s Computer Commuter mobile computer lab. There was a great crowd to tour the bus and try the new laptops before listening to the presentations, highlighted by Congressman Collin Peterson, chair of the House Agriculture Committee.

EDA Coordinator Pam Lehmann thanked all of the project partners, including Blandin Foundation, which provided financial support in addition to that provided by the TDF Foundation of Washington DC. The project leaders will establish a schedule for the mobile lab with regular stops in at least six communities around the county. Mary Quick, the Computer Community coordinator will provide computer classes and one to one assistance to anyone who wants help in learning how to use the computers.

2010 Intelligent Community – Suwon, South Korea

Suwon, South Korea was named the Intelligent Community of the Year last Friday. They won over the other six finalists, including some of my favorites – Dublin, Ohio; Tallinn, Estonia; and Eindhoven, Netherlands. Stockholm, Sweden was the 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year. Suwon is just 15 miles from Seoul. South Korea has now produced three of the last five Intelligent Community winners.

What I find most fascinating about this competition and these communities is how it reveals the culture of the participating communities and countries. “Happy Suwon” is the marketing tagline for the winning community. “Fast-fast” is their operating style. They get input from the people, make decisions, do things, measure results, move on. Always fast-fast. Eindhoven and Tallinn are fiercely strategic and highly encouraging of collaboration and innovation. The US communities seem more haphazard and free-flowing. In the European and Asian communities, there seems less conflict about the proper government role in moving a community forward. They seem to talk more about what should be done rather than to argue the proper approach to getting it done.

All of these communities put a strong emphasis on world class infrastructure – telecommunications, transportation, and education systems. They are working hard to put these in place and to make use of them to increase their economic competitiveness.

Notes from Building the Broadband Economy in NY

Participating in the Intelligent Community Forum’s Building the Broadband Economy has been very interesting and fun. Last night I sat with people from across Canada and learned about the emphasis that their leaders are putting on broadband as an economic development strategy – from the Atlantic Provinces, to Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. They saw the support of their top government leaders as essential to their successful efforts. On behalf of Dakota Future, I was pleased to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that formalizes a culture of collaboration between communities adopting the Intelligent Community approach.

Today I co-facilitated a session entitled “Five Burning Issues in Rural Communities“. Our five issues were demographics, gaps in broadband services and the difficulty in forming effective partnerships with private sector providers, funding for infrastructure, digital inclusion and application development, creating a culture of use and the many barriers to application adoption for problem solving, and leadership. It turns out that the list from the urban group was amazingly similar!

I am awed by the strategic thinking and doing going on around the world as communities and country’s strive to create and maintain competitive economies. In the same way, people from around the world are very interested in the Blandin Foundation’s approach to our MN Intelligent Rural Communities project. I have been asked many detailed questions and have received very positive feedback. I look forward to reporting lots of progress next year!

Breakfast with Adelstein

Given a chance, what would you say to a top federal policy maker about rural broadband? I had my chance at the Broadband Properties Summit this week in Dallas with USDA Rural Utilities Services Administrator Jonathan Adelstein. I first saw him in the elevator and he asked me what I wanted to hear from him during his keynote. I asked him how we will get broadband to the countryside surrounding RBOC-served communities that have been CLEC’d by smaller independent companies who have cherry-picked the significant customer base in the town but are unable to overbuild the countryside. He told me that this was too hard of a question! As we got off the elevator, I saw that he was heading to the restaurant for breakfast alone. I overcame my natural shyness and asked him if I could join him and he welcomed me to his table. What followed was a very interesting discussion (at least for me!).

He was a very good questioner. We talked about the marvel of cooperatives as a model for rural broadband development. We talked about the appropriate scale for this type of cooperative development and whether new cooperatives could make it economically today as start-ups. Necessary scale versus local control – how does one find that balance. As Minnesota’s telecommunications providers get larger through acquisitions (CenturyLink purchasing Embarq and Qwest, growing independent telcos like ACS, Iowa Telecom and New Ulm Telephone), will the connection to the local community remain a priority?

The Broadband Properties Summit includes a focus on the business linkages between real estate development and telecom services. Telecom providers like ATT and Verizon pay real estate developers commission when tenants sign on with these providers. This got me thinking about if there was any real differences between an apartment building and a community? If communities are actively working to boost broadband adoption and subscriptions for community economic vitality, what is the proper role between communities and their providers on broadband promotion initiatives? I will be meeting with Minnesota’s telecom providers to discuss this very topic as we prepare to implement the Blandin Foundation’s MN Intelligent Community NTIA BTOP program.

Ramsey County/City of Saint Paul Community Broadband Summit

I attended a very interesting event yesterday at the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul. The setting was very appropriate for a community discussion on commerce and information. James J. Hill is one of Minnesota’s greatest financial giants – railroad man, banker, agricultural innovator – whose fortune is still benefitting Minnesotans today through the Northwest Area Foundation. The library closed its doors yesterday for the Summit, but was still serving customers through its incredible online collection of business information.

Yesterday’s broadband summit was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; its funds came from the founders of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Knight is extremely supportive of broadband initiatives as it links to information and democracy. Knight focuses on the communities on the 20 plus communities where the Knights owned newspapers.

It was very interesting to hear the Knight staff’s linkage between broadband, information, journalism and democracy. They have a new report “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.” The focus is on local information needs for a democratic society. You can find the report here:

St. Paul and Ramsey County are exploring ways to connect public sector entities with a high capacity broadband network. In fact, they are in the final stages of selecting a vendor to move forward on this network that would also include a private sector service provider offering open access network services. They are also inviting other public sector entities into the discussion. But the Summit was not limited to the infrastructure side of the broadband topic. Digital inclusion was an important topic as well.

What are the community challenges? Examples include: county workers stifled by lack of bandwidth and an inability to do their jobs as a result; job applicants who cannot complete online job applications in the time limit set for library computer users; children racing to the library so as to be able to complete their homework. (As someone who works all over the state, this confirms the notion that broadband access is a statewide issue, not limited to the rural corners of the state.

A highlight of the event was to hear about what is happening in Miami/Dade County. Kim Marcelle, executive director of the Miami-Dade Broadband Coalition, talked about their efforts. They have seemingly created a unified initiative that includes strategies on connectivity, education, training, and computers and services for low-income residents. Their I-Net services are priced such that public sector entities receive robust services at affordable prices while still generating profits that fund their digital inclusion initiatives. Some of these include: “Rites of Passage” – a programs that provides computers and free Internet for low-income kids; “Beyond the Bell” – a program that provides customized online learning opportunities for kids that targets their specific needs. Google “elevate Miami” for an overview to a philosophy that links assistance to commitment. I also liked their strategy of sector roundtable discussions to discuss technology trends, connectivity and human resource needs. The most striking statement that came out of their education roundtable was “Kids with access to technology are different than kids without.”

Mayor Chris Coleman talked about St. Paul’s historic role as a transportation hub – for river traffic, for railroads, air and auto – and our need to ensure that we have what we need for Internet infrastructure and services. He stated that broadband is a critical infrastructure tied to the need to have the workforce that can exploit this asset for economic development. He stated that we cannot wait until the economic downturn is over or we will be too far behind those that are acting now.

Rick King, chair of the state broadband task force spoke about their report. I have heard him talk several times about the efforts of the task force and the report. Yesterday, he came up with a new analogy I think emerged as he was thinking about beaches in Miami! In essence, the task force has set the destination of ubiquitous 10 Mb broadband for our sailing ship of Minnesota. In a sail boat, one rarely sails in a straight line to the destination. Winds and currents affect navigation so while the specific route is unknown, the destination is. In light of this, I hope that Rick stays on as captain!

I think that the Summit was an excellent launch for the Ramsey County/City of St. Paul community. The next steps will be critical for keeping the momentum going. The group should heed Miami’s Marcelle challenge to keep all key stakeholders engaged on all broadband elements. Reaching out aggressively, moving forward continuously. Strong leadership will be required. Good luck!!

Dakota Future featured in Rosemount Pages

Dakota Future was featured in a recent article in the Rosemount Pages. The article highlighted Dakota Future’s effort to prepare Dakota County to apply to be ranked by Intelligent Community Forum in 2012. CTAC Founder Bill Coleman has been working with Dakota Future on the effort.

It is an opportunity to receive international recognition as well as the motivation to plan to be a world class community. As the article says,

“Becoming an Intelligent Community will benefit the county and organizations and cities within it in several ways. Coleman said getting involved will ensure Dakota County has world-class broadband that companies are globally competitive and citizens are connected and will attract investments.”

On October 3, 2009, Dakota Future will kick off the initiative with a project launch. The event will be an opportunity for Dakota County businesses and residents to learn more about the Intelligent Community Forum, starting out with how Dakota County currently stacks up on an international scope and what is necessary to get to a world class standing.