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Blog // Connect Michigan

Michigan Broadband Conference in Review – The Human Impact

By Eric Frederick

Standing room only in panel session "Innovate Solutions for Rural Connectivity" at 2015 Michigan Broadband Conference.

Whether working for commercial or community development, all broadband initiatives have one driving force in common: people. Stewards in broadband development make the lives of their customers, friends, and neighbors easier across the nation by implementing technology to solve problems. Michigan's Broadband Conference brought together leaders, pioneers, and devoted workers using broadband technology to change their fields for the better. During panel discussions and presentations, experts in their fields shared their experiences with broadband. These testimonies and many others like them show how broadband technology is changing communication, education, and economic development in Michigan, and across the nation.

“We want to get everyone digitally fit,” said Marcie Wolf, one of the collaborators behind the HarborActive computer training programs in Northern Michigan.  HarborActive, a finalist in the Connected Community Project Awards, connects residents and businesses through a series of fun and interactive social media classes. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms, HarborActive introduces businesses to new markets across Michigan and introduces formerly isolated residents to advanced communicative applications.

In “The Twenty-First Century Library” panel, Scott Morey, Assistant Director for Technology at Traverse Area District Library, described a storm that blew through Grand Traverse County, damaging homes and utilities, leaving many without means to communicate or coordinate emergency services.  Library staff worked overtime to get the locations connected and give citizens a place to go. “Every table, every place people could plug in their laptop, they were,” said Morey. “They needed a place to work and the library became that place.”

“We've completely transformed what we're capable of doing,” said Sheryl Cormicle Knox, Capital Area District Library Technology Director, as she described the gigabit fiber backbone connected Lansing's thirteen urban and rural districts. “We're exploring what it means to provide library services wherever you are.”

Stu Johnson, Vice President of Digital Works, illustrated how economic development and personal growth collide at the “Talent Development” panel. After retraining over 400 individuals—many in poverty, out of prison, or in recovery—for technology jobs, Digital Works has seen many drastic individual transformations. Johnson described one of Digital Works' first graduates, a meek and uncertain young woman with a bad record, struggling to find a job to support her family. “Two months before starting, Jill wouldn't even look you in the eye,” said Johnson. “Now she works for Apple.”

In “Technology in Tourism” Cheryl Fahrner, Executive Director of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, and Amanda Oppe, Social Media and Marketing Manager for the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, united their information and their directives to build an online and offline platform that visitors and residents could rely on. “Before, the Bureau and the Chamber never talked. Now, we're collaborating on joint projects for the betterment of everyone,” said Fahrner. “As a community, we have to work together.”

Learn about these projects and many more going on across Michigan and across the nation at www.connectmycommunity.org.

 

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