$12 Million Statewide Project Increases Broadband Services, Access, and Education
Kurt DeMaagd is in the midst of a three-year project to assist Michigan's preparedness in the new information economy by increasing the availability of public computer centers, expanding broadband access in the centers, and providing technology education for Michigan citizens.
DeMaagd and his partners received three federal grants totaling more than $12 million, awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. DeMaagd works with officials in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), documenting information and progress.
The work being done addresses both financial and educational challenges in the knowledge economy, according to DeMaagd. "People need access to the technology, and then they need education and training so they can become familiar with tools and skills that make them marketable." Also, "increasing the population's confidence in technology will contribute to a more skilled workforce that is better equipped to meet the current entrepreneurial demands," said DeMaagd.
The first grant provides funding for installation of computers in 88 existing public library computer centers, and establishment of new centers providing broadband access in 15 underserved Michigan counties in primarily rural areas. Michigan libraries play a key role in providing computer access to their patrons, including the unemployed.
"Increasing the population's confidence in technology will contribute to a more skilled workforce that is better equipped to meet the current entrepreneurial demands."
The second grant increases broadband coverage by working with an additional 207 community partners to create or expand public computer centers statewide. It also involves working with the Michigan e-Library to provide online job search and retraining resources.
The third grant provides tools and training for broadband use for residents in distressed urban areas included in the State of Michigan's Cities of Promise Initiative: Detroit, Flint, Highland Park, Pontiac, Saginaw, Benton Harbor, Hamtramck, and Muskegon Heights, as well as Lansing, Jackson, and Muskegon.
DeMaagd has a long list of collaborators, including: the Library of Michigan, housed in the Michigan Department of Education; the adult education unit at the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget; Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center; Lansing Community College; Jackson Community College; Lansing's Information Technology Empowerment Center; Detroit Digital Justice Coalition; YMCA of Marquette; and 274 libraries and centers.
The entire project involves 300 partners and covers 76 out of 83 Michigan counties.