Minneapolis Unwired: Digital Inclusion Update

I am a community representative on the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee and if you drop by often you may have read this article when we were looking for proposals for our very first funding cycle.

I now have forty-five proposals to go through requesting far more than the $200,000 that’s available for grants. I think there will be some interesting projects coming along in the next year to help low income and marginalized folk in Minneapolis get to the Internet. Not much more I can say until an official announcement some time before the end of the year.

I can announce our members though. I was shy about that previously as there was no listing available on the web until recently. I planned to check with my colleagues about listing names here after reading Josh Breitbart’s post pointing out that we aren’t identified anywhere. That has changed and the official list of reps is up at the Digital Access site. (Thanks, Josh. I have a feeling your blog post helped in getting this information out there.)

Read Josh’s post. His ideas around horizontal collaboration vs. hub-and-spoke deserve serious discussion. He likes much of what he sees in Minneapolis compared to Philadelphia. But we are still in the development stage, now creating the reality of the shared vision. What is disheartening for me is the minuscule information about the Wi-Fi project itself and the walled/civic garden portals. (I am supposed to be on a committee that is planning the community portals and it hasn’t met in months.) The deployment is a month or more behind schedule and I doubt if the network will be completed before 2008. I think delays are to be expected in new ventures like this but US Internet Wireless (USIW) and the City of Minneapolis have not been forthcoming in updating residents as to status. There is a city-sponsored mailing list but little flows through it and there has never been any type of status report even when new neighborhoods are added to the Wi-Fi mix.

USIW and Minneapolis need the community to rally round the Wi-Fi system. Frequent and honest communication is the best way to ensure that engagement.

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