Social Inclusion-Technology Infrastructure (Destiny Driver #6)

November 20, 2009

6. By 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual community.

Stevens FORWARD! — ‘Virtual community’ through technology Morris Sun Tribune By Tom Larson, Sun Tribune Published Wednesday, February 11, 2009

“It might seem that computers and other technology such as cell phones are deeply integrated in everyday life today.
But for many people, that’s not the case. They are no more comfortable using modern technology than they are speaking in public.
Bridging that divide and improving social inclusion through technology is one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The goal of the Destiny Driver is enhancing “interconnectedness by making better use of the technology already available, thus creating a “virtual community” of people who might be separated by many miles.
Kristin Lamberty is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota, Morris Computer Science Department who has studied and participated in online communities.
Through a course at Georgia Tech, Lamberty said she participated in an online community of quilters and wrote about ways people in that community interacted and shared their love of quilting.
“There was a surprising variety of activities supported by their online community,” Lamberty stated. “Some activities were very linked to the quilting theme of the community (block swaps, fabric trading, quilting tips, gallery of finished projects, and questions and answers about specific quilting related topics). Some members of the community arranged for group events to happen in the real world (fabric shopping events, quilt shows, sewing retreats, and quilting classes).
“I found it particularly interesting that there was a whole discussion thread specifically listed as “off topic” that seemed to be very important to some members of the community,” Lamberty stated. “It was here that people discussed all kinds of things about their lives and seemed to forge strong friendships with other quilters, (such as) bonding over major life events and sharing thoughts about everyday life as well.”
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are social networks that help enhance “interconnectedness,” and provide quick sharing of information between family and friends.
Lamberty recently gave birth to her second child. She and husband, Jeff, were able to use Facebook profiles to give family, friends and even acquaintances almost immediate updates on the birth process. The Facebook updates came much more quickly and reached many more people than traditional birth announcements or even email, Lamberty said.
But there are still many obstacles to getting some Stevens County residents to trust and use the technology available to them.
Get Broadband! is a program through the Blandin Foundation which is intended to help businesses upgrade to high-speed, broadband Internet access by providing grants to pay for technical expertise. Michael Haynes, executive director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, received $30,000 in grants from Blandin in 2005. He expected it would take a year to direct money to business people for upgrades. Instead, it took three years to use up the money. “It was hard to convince some people, and I’m trying to convince people still,” Haynes said. “There were all kinds of reasons — they didn’t have enough time, they didn’t want to bother, they didn’t see the need. Some got it right away and some didn’t get it at all.” The people who shy away from using technology to its fullest run the gamut, from lawyers to retailers, Haynes said. Getting people to become familiar and comfortable with technology in their day-to-day lives might lead them to branch out into more social uses, he said. “It starts with the basics,” Haynes said. “It starts with city and county governments.” Building permits, dog licenses, applications, bill payments for utilities and other ways people interact with governments should all be set up to be handled online. People will then feel comfortable making mortgage and other payments and transactions online, he said. Once those hurdles have been cleared, people can take their knowledge into the business place, Haynes said. “There are a whole variety of things people should be able to do online that they don’t,” he said. “There’s no reason you can’t sell things in Idaho from Morris.” Andy Lopez, is a retired UMM Computer Science professor who founded Info-Link in Morris. He said technology can be a vital piece in building businesses and a “virtual community.” Technology can reduce travel, immediately keep people updated on merchandise, inventory, deliveries and the goings on in the local crocheting club. A UMM student recently worked with the Morris Senior Citizens Center to create a Web page dedicated to the schedule and events at the center. The technology can be important to people with limited mobility, such as seniors or those with disabilities, Lopez said. “That’s where the power of this is,” Lopez said. But progress has to be made with care. Technology can open up vast communities but can also create a legion of “hermits” who don’t have any other social interactions, he said. The technological networks and education also must be improved. People who are tentative about absorbing technology into their lives and then encounter problems and abuses are less likely to try again, Lopez said. “We see the dark side so much,” he said. “People are reluctant in some ways and I don’t blame them.” But the future is bright, especially as technology becomes smaller and more portable, and, as such, more integrated into daily lives. Technology will become more a support to person-to-person interactions, Lamberty stated. Technology can enhance intergenerational connections and also inter-business, interfaith, inter-neighborhood, inter-town, or inter-school connections, she said. There have been efforts to create a “free-cycle” group locally, through which people can reach out to save things from going to landfills and help people find things they want, she stated.
“I wonder if we need to create one, new virtual community to increase our interconnectedness, or if we should be striving to help people leverage the wide variety of technological resources already available to strengthen our connections,” Lamberty stated. “This particular Destiny Drive goal seems like it could impact the other goals, particularly the ones that involve drawing others to our community, since a virtual presence is much easier to share with the world.”
Are you a ‘Champion’?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking “Champions” — people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at:, or by phone at (320) 287-0882.”

5 Responses to “Social Inclusion-Technology Infrastructure (Destiny Driver #6)”

  1. […] 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual […]

  2. Stevens County to receive rural broadband grant
    In state, 11 communities to get up to $100,000 each to enhance technology

    Published March 26 2010

    Stevens County is among 11 Minnesota communities that will receive up to $100,000 each to improve rural broadband.

    The United States Department of Commerce on Thursday announced that the Blandin Foundation has been awarded a $4.7 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant to be used in rural Minnesota communities.

    BTOP is one of the stimulus grant programs of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

    The BTOP grant will be used to extend small business technical assistance and training, expand hours for access to workforce centers, distribute refurbished computers, train individuals and business, create courses for knowledge workers, and bring to Minnesota an online network of care for mental health workers.

    The demonstration communities in rural Minnesota also will receive up to $100,000 each to develop and demonstrate broadband projects through the grant. The communities are Stevens County, Benton County, Cook County, Grand Rapids/Itasca County, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Stevens County, Upper Minnesota Valley region, Thief River Falls, Willmar/Kandiyohi County, Winona, Windom and Worthington.

    Through the grant, the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities coalition will bring a network of resources and support to rural Minnesota individuals and communities, especially those unemployed and seeking employment, small businesses, coalitions of government entities, and local leaders.

    Blandin Foundation president Jim Hoolihan said that, currently, there is almost a 20 percent gap between rural and urban home broadband adoption rates.

    “Advocacy will harness the power of the Internet and overcome barriers of distance,” Hoolihan said. “That’s the goal, and the critical work, of this statewide coalition.”

    In August 2009, Blandin Foundation submitted the application for federal broadband stimulus funding.

    Total cost of the coalition’s proposed projects is estimated at more than $6 million. Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities coalition members will contribute $1.3 million in resources as match toward the effort.

  3. Federated Telephone receives $3 million in broadband funds
    The rural telecommunications cooperative is one of five in Minnesota to receive Recovery Act broadband money, ag secretary announces

    Published August 04 2010

    Federated Telephone, a rural Morris telecommunications cooperative, was awarded almost $3 million through the Recovery Act broadband program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

    Federated will receive $2,987,274 to establish a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) voice, video and data network. U.S Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the awards Wednesday.

    Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. in Lac qui Parle County was also one of five awards in Minnesota. Farmers Mutual was awarded $9.7 million.

    A list of 126 awards in the U.S., see:

    According to the USDA, through Federated Telephone’s project, “more than 950 people stand to benefit, as do 20 businesses. In addition to the jobs this project will create upfront, it will drive economic development and create jobs for decades to come.”

    The other three Minnesota awards are:

    0 Woodstock Telephone Co., serving Lyon, Pipestone and Rock counties ($15.2 million);

    0 Wikstrom Telephone Co. in Kittson, Marshall and Roseau counties ($7.4 million);

    0 Arvig Telephone Co. in Cass and Crow Wing counties ($5.04 million).

    The 126 awards nationwide are $1.2 billion, and the total rises to $1.31 billion when $117 million of private investment sparked by the USDA grants is included. The awards were made in 38 states and tribal areas.

    The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s broadband initiatives are designed to accelerate broadband deployment in rural and other areas and are available to institutions that can create jobs and benefit the public.

  4. County organizations to receive $84,000 for technology initiatives
    Published December 15 2010

    Eleven Stevens County schools, libraries and organizations will receive $84,000 for broadband technology projects through a grant from the Blandin Foundation.

    Upcoming free training sessions on issues such as using Google, assessing businesses’ online presence and doing business online also are expected to give participants the tools to enhance their use of the Internet, said Michael Haynes, Executive Director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, which announced the grant recipients Tuesday.

    “They will help businesses be more survivable and use the Web more intelligently,” Haynes said. “(The training) sessions will help everybody.”

    Stevens County was one of 11 rural areas eligible for the Broadband Technical Opportunities Program grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

    The following community organizations received Blandin funding awards. All project must be completely by 2012.


    Resource Connections will permanently install at least one public assess computer and one wireless router and their associated software and support equipment for a community “wireless wi-fi hot spot” and a three-year Internet subscription in each of the five incorporated cities of Stevens County. All public access computers and wireless routers shall be provided for the use of the general public at no cost to users.


    Midwest Special Education Cooperative shall provide speech therapy and other special education services via the Internet to students in 9 West Central Minnesota Public School Systems (Browns Valley, Chokio-Alberta, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Cyrus, Hancock, Herman-Norcross, Morris Area, West Central Area, and Wheaton). Midwest Special Education Cooperative will collect system use data to measure the effectiveness of this new service delivery model. The data will be used to establish the effectiveness and possible future uses of Internet delivery of special education services.


    Morris Area Community Education (MACE) will add to its holdings, 10 laptop computers (a Mobile Leaning Laboratory) and their associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for its and the Morris Area School System’s (MAS) use. They will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by MACE or MAS.

    STEVENS FORWARD – $3,000

    Stevens Forward will provide countywide coordination involving public entity web site development and updating throughout Stevens County. The web sites, at a minimum shall include 1 county government site, 5 city government sites, 1 chamber of commerce site, 1 county economic development organization site, and 1 Resource Connections site. Other sites may or may not be included.


    The Morris Public Library will add to its holdings, 6 laptop computers and their associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for use within the library. They will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the Library. In addition a space and resources within the library will be provided to create a business and career work center.


    Stevens County Historical Society (SCHS) will become a globally connected resource by providing its collections and records on its web site. The collection data to go broadband first will be the Stevens County cemetery records. Digital inclusion of the other collection data such as the 20,000+-photo collection as well as some digital images of artifacts and archives will also be uploaded to the web site. Wireless routers will be installed in the upper and lower meeting spaces and the lecture space at the Museum.


    Hancock Public School District 768 will increase its broadband strength from 3mbs to 10mbs by 31 December 2011.


    The Morris American Legion will add to its holdings the equipment necessary to make the Walter Tripp American Legion Post 29 an Internet Community Internet Center, a public access computer site, and a community “wi-fi” hot spot. The Community Internet Center will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the American Legion.

    MORRIS HRA 1 – $2,000

    The Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) will establish a web site for the City of Morris Public Housing Program. The web site will provide information to past, current, and prospective public housing tenants and other interested parties with up-to-date guidance and educational information. The web site will also have on-line versions of all Morris Public Housing Program documents (applications, etc.). MHRA will provide the public with computer access for the Morris Public Housing Program.

    MORRIS HRA 2 – $5,000

    The Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) will establish a web site for the Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority Rental Housing Licensing Program. The web site will provide information to past, current, and prospective tenants, landlords, and other interested parties with up-to-date inspection results, guidance and educational information. The web site will also have on-line versions of all landlord/tenant Rental Housing Licensing Program documents (applications, etc.). MHRA will provide the public with computer access for the Morris Rental Housing Licensing Program.


    The Hancock Community Library will add to its holdings, 1 laptop computer and its associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for use within the library. It will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the Library.

    To disburse the grant funds in accordance with rules and regulations of the C.K. Blandin Foundation and the US Department of Commerce, SCEIC established a 12-member Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) Steering Committee. Committee members are Karen Arnold (Morris Area Chamber of Commerce), Kevin Beyer (Federated Telephone), Jim Dieter (Tech Plus), Patty Kill (Riverwood Bank), Scott Monson (Morris Area Schools), Carolyn Peterson (Stevens Forward), Holly Witt (Bremer), Sheri Holm and Greg Wagner (West Central Initiative), Karl Samp (Blandin) and Michael Haynes (SCEIC Executive Director).

    This summer a community meeting of all the possible county organizations that were eligible to receive funds was held to inform them of the available funds and the projects that would qualify. The steering committee then published a Request-for-Proposals and received 13 responses to it.

    The free training sessions, through the University of Minnesota Extension service, include a January session, Google U, intended to teach participants how to use Google’s search features more efficiently. A February training session will focus on how businesses can assess their presence on digital maps and GPS applications and how to fix inaccuracies and more efficiently use their listings. And a March training session will dwell on how small businesses are using the Internet to gain and improve online presence.

    Other training opportunities are in the planning stages, Haynes said, stressing that participants within 25 miles of Morris are welcome to take part.

    Haynes also said that Blandin will likely pursue other initiatives to enhance broadband in rural areas.

    “I don’t think they will cease their activities,” said Haynes, noting that Blandin and the SCEIC have been working to promote broadband in the area for years. “They’ll be looking for more opportunities.”

    For more information regarding the SCEIC’s Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) grant program, contact Haynes at, at (320) 585-2609, and at the SCEIC offices at 507 Atlantic Avenue, in Morris.

  5. Public computers and hotspots now available in Stevens County Published April 19, 2011, 01:49 PM

    Look for these signs at a Public Access Computer Site and Wi-fi sotspots in each of the five cities in Stevens County. Sites include H&D Co. in Donnelly, By-Lo in Hancock, American Legion Post 29 in Morris, La Tienda in Morris and yet-to-be determined locations in Alberta and Chokio.

    Resource Connections, a group of non-profit organizations in Stevens County working together to make each other strong, placed these computers through a $20,000 contract with the Blandin / Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, Inc. MIRC Program to provide Internet access to those who for whatever reason do not have the ability to access the Internet at home, at work, or at school.

    Other Public Access Computer Sites are the Hancock Community Library and the Morris Public Library and they will also have these signs.

    For more information regarding the Stevens County Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) Program, contact Michael Haynes, Executive Director,, 320-585-2609, 507 Atlantic Avenue, Morris

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