Minneapolis Unwired: City issues strategy sheet on administering community benefits

[Full Disclusure: I’m a member of the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee.]

Also at this weeks Committee of the Whole meeting, the City issued a strategy sheet entitled “Strategy to administer the Wireless Minneapolis community benefits in 2008.” (PDF copy here.)

Copying and pasting from the City’s PDF version is almost impossible so I will summarize and comment.

Besides the Digital Inclusion Fund which just gave out grant awards (and will have another $300,000 once the network is completed), there are several other community benefits in the City’s contract with US Internet. The City is going to reconvene the Digital Inclusion Task Force, add the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee, and have them decide on some of the guidelines for these benefits. If you have an interest in helping with this process, I would suggest contacting your Councilmember and requesting that you could join the group. Drop me an email too and let me know that you are doing this and I’ll send it up through my channels too.

Here are the other benefits:

  1. A civic garden (also know as “walled” garden) of sites to access free of charge whether a US Internet subscriber or not. This will be free wireless internet access to selected sites. The City of Minneapolis is one of the sites. The rest are to be determined. I think this mostly benefits visitors to Minneapolis with laptops, a.k.a. business people. So I would hope that the free listing would be targeted at them. The civic garden idea will integrate with the…
  2. Community portals that will appear when you log-in the network. These are free access if your computer has wireless capabilities. They will be location-based and the south portal will not be the same portal as the north portal. (I think there are six in all.) If we are targeting business folk with our free access, do they need to see these portals?
  3. 100 free wireless accounts awarded to nonprofits. How these will be delivered is still to be determined.
  4. $15,000 in annual Wireless Minneapolis monthly subscription vouchers for volunteers
    who are offering training in Community Technology Centers. No guidelines set for these yet.
  5. Up to 5% of the City’s geographic area, including some parks and plazas, designated as
    free WiFi zones. It would be nice if this were a priority and we had access for spring.

So the recommendation now is that the City engage the members of the Digital Inclusion Task Force and the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisors to do the following:

  1. Develop interim guidelines that direct how the 100 free non-profit accounts will be allocated in 2008; solicit requests for free accounts from non-profits that meet these guidelines; and make recommendations for recipients of 2008 accounts.
  2. Develop interim guidelines that direct how the $15,000 in volunteer service vouchers will be allocated in 2008; solicit requests for volunteer vouchers from non-profits that meet these guidelines; and make recommendations for recipients of 2008 accounts.
  3. Develop interim “acceptable use” guidelines for content on the community portals and in the Civic Garden and make recommendations for community portal and Civic Garden content for 2008.
  4. Develop recommendations for how the City of Minneapolis should address community involvement and oversight of the community benefits and the City’s community technology agenda.

That “acceptable use” on the portals (#3) seems a slippery slope. I would hope that publishing would be open to a large and diverse community—meaning just about anyone who wants to publish—and that guidelines would be very loose.

For #4 and community involvement, I’ve been lobbying to have a community engagement day based on the Open Space Technology concept.

Let’s hear some comments. Minneapolis residents have a serious stake in how we use these Community benefits.

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