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Community IT Planning and Development

Objective

To foster community and economic development in Nebraska communities through the effective use of information technology.


Description

Technology is an important economic development tool for communities. Telecommunications infrastructure is often compared to roads and water in its importance to communities. As important as infrastructure is the ability of community leaders to utilize technology effectively to enhance economic development opportunities. The Comm unity Council has been addressing technology-related development in Nebraska's communities since its formation in 1998. As technologies and the needs of communities have changed, programming and areas of emphasis have shifted. The Community Council recognizes the importance of building partnerships, leveraging resources, and building community capacity in addressing technology-related development. Over the past several years, partnerships have been developed with many partners including the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Public Service Commission, Nebraska Public Power District, the AIM Institute, and other organizations. The Nebraska Public Service Commission is partnering with the University of Nebraska, NITC Community Council, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and AIM Institute on a broadband planning project funded as part of the Nebraska Public Service Commission's broadband mapping grant from the National Telecommunications Information Administration. The grant was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project is identifying barriers to the adoption of broadband and IT services, creating and facilitating local technology planning teams, and collaborating with broadband service providers to encourage broadband deployment. Project activities are summarized below:

1. Regional planning teams are being formed to conduct regional assessments, prioritize needs, and develop strategies to address needs.

2. An initial survey of Nebraskans about their computer and Internet usage, challenges and desires for the future was conducted in 2010. Follow-up surveys are also planned.

3. Regional forums were conducted to present broadband mapping and mail survey results, to solicit feedback, and to kick off regional planning efforts.

4. A broadband conference was held in Lincoln on Nov. 1, 2011 to facilitate learning and discussions regarding broadband issues.

5. Businesses are being surveyed through the Business Retention and Expansion process to identify the strengths and challenges they face in utilizing technology.

6. Seven to ten focus groups will be held with anchor institutions and utility providers as well as populations with low usage rates to gain understanding into the barriers from their perspective.

7. Use of the Internet and computers will be encouraged through demonstration workshops and training in collaboration with the broadband service providers and information technology companies.

8. Regional technology plans as well as a statewide report and recommendations will be developed and presented to the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Public Service Commission, Department of Economic Development and University of Nebraska Lincoln. These plans will be made publicly available through the project website.


Benefits

The potential benefits of information technology to communities, businesses, local government, and residents are numerous:

Communities can use their websites to publicize community events, communicate with former residents and prospective newcomers, and advertise available commercial sites.

Communities can enhance promotional and informational activities through the use of newer technologies such as social networking or video content delivered through YouTube or podcasts.

Businesses can use information technology to decrease costs, increase sales, and provide better customer service.

Local governments can use information technology to more efficiently deliver services and provide information to citizens.

Residents can update their skills through continuing education, search for employment, network with others who share their interests, and share photos or videos with distant family members or Internet users worldwide.


Current Action Items (2012-2014)

1. Identify and address technology-related needs in communities through participation in the planning component of the state's Broadband program.

Refer to the Statewide Technology Plan for further information.