Internet Founder to Discuss the Future of Technology and Opportunities for Nebraska

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By Rod Armstrong

Vint Cerf is widely recognized as one of the “Fathers of the Internet.” In his current role with Google, he is well known for his predictions about how technology will affect the future society. Vint will share his deep knowledge of technology issues and trends at the second annual Broadband Connecting Nebraska conference in Lincoln.

The quote below represents a tremendous opportunity for Nebraska, one that is already being demonstrated by businesses and organizations across the state. For example, MetalQuest Unlimited in Hebron employs over 70 people in a precision manufacturing operation. Information technology and broadband access are essential to their success, both within and outside the plant.

Network Administrator Bethany Bechtold manages all aspects of the MetalQuest’s technology operations, from telephony to networks to Web. Interestingly, she does this 75 percent of the time from her home near Hays, Kansas—three-and-one-half hours from Hebron. This company has hit an economic development sweet spot: jobs in a rural community, global market reach and work/life balance.

Another example is 21st Century Equipment, headquartered in Bridgeport. Broadband technologies are essential to the operation of the business, with 11 locations in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. Transactional data for all locations are channeled through the home office, and monitors behind the parts counter in each location provide daily updates for promotions and offers.

According to IT Manager Kelly Mumm, customers have come to expect the level of service they receive through the company’s use of broadband. 21st Century is also able to reach out to a younger generation of producers who may have moved away from home. Going forward, they are exploring applications such as video conferencing to bring a personal touch to communications with locations ranging from an hour to six-and-one-half hours away from headquarters.

There are countless other examples.

  • Hudl, a fast-growing Lincoln business, has created a nationwide client base of sports teams at all levels by offering cloud-based management of video and other information essential to coaching success;
  • Fat Brain Toys in Elkhorn has grown from a basement operation to a leading online retailer of specialty toys, including their own line, and has opened a retail location;
  • Libraries statewide are improving access to broadband technologies and services through their “Library Broadband Builds Nebraska Communities” initiative;
  • Government agencies at all levels are continuously expanding online services, enabling Nebraskans to conduct government business from their home, office or mobile device;
  • Online delivery of educational coursework is extending the reach of specialized classes and degree programs worldwide;
  • The Nebraska Health Information Initiative is leading the effort to create a secure, Web-based Health Information Exchange designed to improve delivery of health information and contain costs.

Bringing visibility to these success stories and helping others learn from their example is core to the mission of the Nebraska Broadband Initiative. This is accomplished through research, webinars, video case studies and regional planning teams. The signature event is the annual Broadband Connecting Nebraska conference.

This year’s conference is scheduled for Oct. 2 at the Cornhusker Conference Center in Lincoln. In addition to the luncheon keynote featuring Vint Cert, participants will hear a wide range of success stories from across Nebraska. There will be presentations and displays of emerging technologies and how they can be applied. Much can be learned about applying broadband technologies in ways that can lead to organizational and community growth.

Besides the conference, there are other significant aspects to the Nebraska Broadband Initiative. The Nebraska Public Service Commission and their partner, Broadmap, have developed a comprehensive, interactive map of broadband service providers throughout the state. The site also includes tools for checking your connection speed and a feedback feature to report your views on broadband availability in your area. Visit the Broadband Portal at http://nebraska .broadband.gov and navigate to “Mapping & Speed” to browse the available information and services.

Regional planning teams led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educators have been hard at work for several months identifying issues and developing strategies to improve broadband adoption statewide. Visit the Broadband Portal to learn more about their work and explore ways to become involved in the effort.

The Broadband Portal also contains information about digital literacy programs and a number of planning and assessment tools to gauge community “e-readiness.” The Intelligent Community forum has identified five indicators of successful e-communities:

  • Broadband Connectivity. Broadband is essential for economic growth as well as lifelong education, health care and government services. Broadband services to the home or business as well as mobile broadband services are necessary.
  • Knowledge Workforce. A skilled, technology-literate workforce is a key component for economic growth.
  • Digital Inclusion. Efforts need to be made to provide public access to computers and the Internet and to provide introductory training on using computers and Internet applications. With so much information and so many services now available online, those without access can be left out without public access.
  • Innovation. Communities should encourage organizations in all sectors (business, government, education, health care) to develop innovative solutions.
  • Marketing and Advocacy. Communities need to market their successes and work within a community to build support for technology-related development initiatives.

The fundamental point of all this, as Vint Cerf points out, is that we now live in a connected world, and success comes to those who are prepared to take advantage. The partners in the Nebraska Broadband Initiative hope to foster rapid advancement in broadband infrastructure, digital literacy and other areas that build the foundation for success across Nebraska.

The call to action is compelling. The late Steve Jobs said, “We don’t know where it will lead. We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here.” There’s a sense of urgency, the need for a collective increase in our knowledge of the digital world and what it means for our businesses, our communities and ourselves.

We invite you to become involved, whether it is attending the conference on Oct. 2, participating on a regional planning group or simply increasing your understanding of what’s possible. Check out the Project Portal at http://nebraska.broadband.gov to see how.

 

Program and registration information for the Oct. 2 Broadband Connecting Nebraska Conference in Lincoln, Neb., can be found at the Broadband Portal, http://broadband.nebraska.gov. Partners in the Nebraska Broadband initiative include the Nebraska Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Information Technology Commission-Community Council, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the AIM Institute.

 

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