WILKESVILLE — Are you connected?
That is one of the questions that Connect Ohio will be working to answer as it begins the Connected Community Engagement Program in Meigs and Vinton counties.
The Meigs-Vinton area was one of five selected across the state of Ohio to receive a comprehensive technology assessment and innovative project plan to enhance technology in the area.
On Wednesday, representatives from both Meigs and Vinton counties met in Wilkesville with representatives from Connect Ohio and Connected Nation to discuss the initiative, survey process and the next steps in the project.
Stu Johnson, executive director for Connect Ohio and vice president for Connected Nation, Inc., explained that one project was selected in each region of Ohio, with Meigs-Vinton selected in the southeast region.
The project covers not only a large geographic area compared to some of the others selected, presenting its challenges. Other project applications in the region could have been easier, with Johnson referring to the area as the “Sahara Desert of the digital divide.”
Johnson said the project will get the facts and figures of what the area is dealing with which can help with funding.
“The key is capturing the data,” said Johnson.
Not only will the project look at access to high-speed internet, but also the adoption and use of internet by those in the area.
Johnson noted that the issues impacting high-speed internet use in this area are very different that issues that would impact those in Columbus or other areas.
In Columbus City Schools for example, Johnson noted that only 50 percent may have high speed internet at home, but that it may be the cost or the availability of it at nearby locations (ex. the library across the street), may be the reasons that individuals do not have internet access at home.
In an area such as that, a $10 a month promotion for broadband access would dramatically increase the percentage of those who have access.
A similar promotion in an area such as Meigs or Vinton counties would not receive the same dramatic increase, as the cost is not likely to be the main hurdle which prevents broadband access.
The first step in the process is the formation of the Community Broadband Team which works with Connect Ohio representatives on the assessment, action planning and implementation.
Among those involved in the meeting Wednesday were representatives from schools, libraries, first responders, economic development and service providers who are currently in the region or could expand into the region.
The next step is for the surveys to be completed over the next approximately 60 days.
There is a residential survey, as well as a business survey and specialized surveys to look at the access, adoption and use of high-speed internet in agriculture, schools and public safety.
In addition to the residential survey, surveys being conducted are as follows:
- Business survey — Any private business
- Agriculture survey — Any agricultural producer, farming business, or agriculture-related organization
- Government survey — All local units of government, including townships, towns/villages, cities, and the county. Clerks and supervisors are good targets for taking the survey.
- Libraries and Community Organizations survey — All libraries, community centers, senior centers, or other organizations supporting the communities in each county
- Economic Development survey — Both county economic development organizations, any chambers of commerce, main street organizations, downtown development authorities, etc.
- K-12 Education survey — All K-12 public school buildings (elementary, middle, high schools), any private K-12 schools
- Public Safety survey — all county and local emergency management groups, fire departments, police departments, 911 support
The surveys can all be found at http://connectmycommunity.org/meigs-vinton/
Those at the meeting on Wednesday noted that an online survey may not be the best way to reach many of those who they are working to reach through the survey.
Options discussed on alternative ways to conduct the surveys included sending paper surveys home with students, setting up with computers at locations in the community and having the surveys available on public computers such as libraries.
After the surveys are completed, then the results will be analyzed to see what can and/or should be done in communities. A report is expected to be completed in May with a presentation of the action plan for the project.
Connect Ohio is a program of Connected Nation, the national leader in community technology planning and data analysis. Connected Nation has compiled strategic technology plans for communities in the U.S. for more than 10 years. This work evolved into what is known as the Connected program, a community technology assessment and planning tool. Connected has led more than 300 communities across seven states in the development of their own technology plans for enhanced success.