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Minutes
Community Council Meeting 2/27/98

Members Present Members Absent
Jim Lowe Lowell Johnson Donna Hammack Tim Lowenstein
Tim Hammelman Craig Schroeder Judi Morgan
Jean Saathoff Lance Hedquist
Rod Armstrong Gary Kiel
Jim Beatty Chris Hoy

Chris Hoy opened the meeting by saying that he would like to propose and discuss a possible agenda for the Nebraska Information Technology Commission meeting scheduled for March 20th. It is the responsibility of the Council, he said, to report to the Commission our tentative project list for 1998. He suggested that three topics be presented to the Commission: (1) Clearinghouse; (2) Statewide plan for teleliteracy; (3) Statewide strategy for information technology-based economic development.

  1. Clearinghouse: Rod Armstrong described the Clearinghouse by saying that it might consist of two pieces-a directory, or list, of state government people to contact who had special knowledge of particular areas of IT (such as the Internet); and success stories, or best practices, so that citizens could see examples of how things could, or should, be done. A discussion followed Rod's remarks in which the following points were addressed:
    1. The best practices model could be expanded to include international, national and local examples...
    2. We should focus on a pro-active strategy of promoting the website so people know about it...
    3. Can the website generate revenue? Could retailers or other business people pay for ads on the website and could the revenue stream pay for the cost of it being moderated, etc?
    4. Good, relevant content is what attracts users to websites...we need current content, updated regularly...maybe we could use interns from UNL as staff to the website...
    5. Could this site be a forum for candidates running for public office?
    6. Maybe we need a "mission statement" for the website so we would know the answers to these questions. Who is the target audience? What is the purpose of the website?
    7. Maybe it should be developed in phases: (a) directory; (b) success stories; (c) moderated forums; (d) other...
    8. Isn't the purpose of the website/clearinghouse to "move questions to those who have the answers?"
    9. We should build it so that it has "levels of information"-we start with a call, but move up the food chain to other levels that eventually create teleliteracy...
    10. Whatever we build, it should be smart enough to direct us to the next evolutionary step...we should monitor customer needs while responding to them...
  2. Teleliteracy/education: Chris Hoy introduced a concept for discussion that involved making all the state's facilities available for educating citizens of all ages about telecommunications. Schools, libraries and other facilities would be seen as life-long learning centers with expanded missions that would include opening their doors to the public (who paid for them in the first place) so that computer labs and other services could be accessed. Some laws would have to be tinkered with but primarily a change of perspective would be required. The basic notion that teleliteracy is the responsibility, in part, of the public sector would have to be sold to the Commission/legislature, perhaps. And then it would be possible to explore the expanded use of existing facilities, people and other resources. A discussion ensued that brought these points to light:
    1. Barriers to using public facilities for IT education for citizens should be removed...
    2. Is it public demand or a change in the law that will open the doors of schools and other public facilities? In other words, will changing the law do it alone or does there have to be public interest, as well?
    3. The law that the ESU's obey about limitations on the use of public buildings has to do with funding, with resource sharing...
    4. Somehow, the money has to be found that will pay for the extra cost of using public facilities for these new services...
    5. Senior Net might be a good model to look at for how public facilities can be used...they were successful in getting access to schools, etc...
    6. It will be necessary to legally change the missions of libraries and schools to include adult education for IT so that money can be found for them...
    7. The cost issue should be turned over to the community. As their share of the responsibility for this mission, they should bear the costs for extra staff time, utilities, etc...the business community probably would do that if they understood the benefit, long-term, to the workforce.
  3. Information-based economic development: Chris Hoy initiated a discussion on how the Council might suggest a strategy for using the state's economic development resources (to include the Department of Economic Development) in an effort to improve or accelerate the parts of the economy that are connected to information technology. These points were discussed:
    1. What makes people focus on this? Empirical evidence that it is important. We need a measurement tool that will enable communities to measure the impact IT is having on their economies...
    2. 60% of the US GNP is now semi-conductor or semi-conductor related...
    3. We need a "litmus" test that can be given to communities to help them see how they are doing with IT. Perhaps DED could administer it. They used to do that with manufacturing.
    4. Omaha got their $23M from the state for their engineering school because they had numbers and statistics to back up their claims. We need numbers, too.
  4. Perhaps it could be done in phases: (a) numbers; (b) what percentage of DED's resources should be spent on IT? (c) can we change CDBG grant fund criteria to reflect IT requirements?
  5. Craig Schroeder suggested that a fourth piece be added to the presentation to the Commission. He said he thought it would be a good idea if the Council created a needs assessment process for communities to follow that would lead them to some good conclusions about IT strategies. The process might require them to sit down with their incumbent cable and phone providers and work on a plan that would satisfy their infrastructure needs. Then they would take that plan to the PSC for approval. In this way, he said, there would be a uniform process for communities to use in determining how they should prepare themselves for the Digital Age.

The next meeting of the Council was scheduled for March 27th from 1 to 5 p.m.

Meeting Minutes