Return to section 1 (Executive Summary)
Return to section 2 (Project Accomplishments)
"This was the catalyst and vehicle that allowed us to start to wake up and figure out what it was all about, and begin our education process in this new field that was reasonably foreign to most of us. It probably leaped us forward two or three years worth of our plodding along in our own pace."-resort owner
"... (Access Minnesota) probably moved things up by a minimum of 18 months, maybe as much as two years." -newspaper journalist
"...it would have been a lot more difficult without that (Access Minnesota) groundwork being set up for us. It probably would have eventually happened but I don't know when."-county data processing coordinator
"If (Access Minnesota) had not been in place, we would have gotten there eventually, but we would have struggled a lot harder and we would have been searching further afield until we knew more of what we were looking for and (Access Minnesota) helped bridge those start-up gaps." -resort owner
"We're an awful long way from main stream media and the information that is accessible through internet is something that allows us to be more along the cutting edge, just like somebody who's in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as far as knowing important information as soon as it's available."-Federal Natural Resources Conservation Service employee
"...our access to things that are happening in Minneapolis and St. Paul, like at the capitol, if it weren't for something like (the internet), we wouldn't have a clue what was going on."-County Highway Engineer
"(Access Minnesota) provided exposure as to the benefits of web pages for business, especially in a rural area, to have the same access as anyone in the metropolitan areas."-Minnesota-owned telephone company employee
"(Access Minnesota) made people more aware of internet and technologies that are available and I definitely do think that it helped people express more interest in getting the private sector moving on the internet." -County Extension Committee chair
When you're as far away as we are, sometimes it's difficult for people to have a vision of what these things are. I worked with setting up the local internet service and it really helped to have Access Minnesota there."-president of internet provider service
"In light of what we have learned (through Access Minnesota) we have initiated contact with the local school district and we've also had some discussions with the hospital."-county auditor
"Right now, we're in the process of looking at possible grants to be written for tele-radiology here at the hospital to be incorporated, down the road, into tele-medicine. (Access Minnesota) definitely has opened up that conversation."-county health service employee
"(Access Minnesota) created discussion, not only among the general public, as far as the benefits to businesses and residential people, but also the school systems."-Minnesota-owned telephone company employee
"(Access Minnesota) was the facilitator for the forming of a local internet access committee and we ended up with a partnership. As a result of that we've joined with a neighboring community and we're supposed to be on-line in two weeks."-mayor
"(Access Minnesota) has set the tone now for looking at internet access for other county employees. We're currently putting a network in place for the backbone structure of making that available to other county employees. It got us going."-county data processing coordinator
"It allowed us to move ahead with a timely information transfer with the work we do. As a matter of fact I was able to access the farm bill just as soon as it was signed by the president."-Federal Natural Resources Conservation Service employee
"I know that some of the county government offices are plugged into the Access Minnesota project now, but I think the more offices in each county that are plugged, the less likely it is that each county is going to have to reinvent the wheel in each office."-county attorney
The University of Minnesota/Extension Service county offices are viewed as good places within the communities to introduce and provide public access to the internet
"...there's a lot of the general public that does not have the computer knowledge out there and there is an awful lot of support that is required to provide internet access. I think the extension service is one source for adult education that can assist us in supporting people that access the internet." -Minnesota-owned telephone company employee
"... the University of Minnesota site makes sense... neutral territory, not somebody's business turf."- rabbi
and the continuation of public access sites is important to the Access Minnesota communities.
"I think the public is just starting to grasp it now and I think the continuation of a program like this, especially in a rural area, is very important."-county government employee
"This county is one of the poorer counties in the state and I don't know how rapidly people will be able to go on-line unless there is some type of public access at an extension office or at a public library." -newspaper media
"Yes, it is still important to have a public
access site. We still have a lot of people who can say the words
now but still don't know what it means."-community education
Access Minnesota increased public awareness of the internet, provided access for those who would not normally have access, and encouraged local businesses to provide public access.
"I think that the project was very successful in accomplishing its primary objective -- to increase the awareness among the population about the internet and what it has to offer. I realize that the awareness is going to increase without a program like this, over time, but not at the speed that it increased in our communities. I was really able to see the difference between our communities and those of communities farther away that were not exposed to the Access Minnesota project."
"It allowed people that would not normally have access to internet/WWW/technology the opportunity to experience this technology, gain knowledge and grow."
"Allowed a significant number of low income, neighborhood and community organizations an opportunity to have training and introduction to the internet."
"We set a goal during the grant to offer/acquire at least one local dial-up provider to our county residents. We have two."
"Access MN helped our community to see the potential value of this technology. Just as the "computers" and "satellites" in the 1980's, Access MN helped counties to "move forward"."
"It provided the spark that formed a local internet task force. In less than six months, that task force has created enough public interest, and researched internet providers to the point that a provider will have local, dial-up service in place by mid-August with nearly 100 subscribers signed up before the service is in place."
"In large part due to the Access Minnesota project
and the need it created, there are now private vendors serving
all exchanges within the county."
As a result of the Access Minnesota project, telecommunications infrastructure began to develop in communities, additional public access sites were created and planned, and county governments began planning for new telecommunications infrastructures.
"It was the first request for a 56K line into our town and spurred ahead the installation of a fiber cable into the community and the upgrade to digital switching from our central office."
"Frame Relay was brought into town. It sped up the introduction of a local internet service provider and since then another has started providing service. The county has obtained internet addresses for a lot of the staff. The county and city are looking at working together more in technology issues. They are considering sharing a T1 line and have plans to put a fiber optic cable between the city and county offices. Many of these changes may have happened anyway without Access Minnesota, but I think Access Minnesota has caused them to happen sooner and developed better partnerships."
"As a result of Access MN, in combination with our courts being in a video conferencing pilot project, we were able to get a T1 line coming into the county."
"Our county is now being connected to the internet, inter-active TV, and e-mail through a T1 system."
"County is networking, private service providers are now available with local-dial internet access, and the city is beginning to put a city fiber optic network in place."
"Neighborhood organizations and community groups are beginning to see the benefits of using the internet for community organizing. There are now additional public access sites in public libraries and the future possibility of a public access site at the Government Center."
"Through this project, our county government was able to see the advantages for their connectivity to the internet. They discovered new ways of doing business. Many have a new vision of operating in the future through this technology."
"Changes in the community include an additional
public access site at the public library and an acceptance by
the local county commissioners that this is the way we will do
our work from now on."
The Internet access provided through the Access Minnesota project allowed approximately 8000 students and their teachers, from locations throughout Minnesota, to communicate through e-mail and explore instructional resources throughout the world. The schools included small rural sites and a large inner-city site. Several of the school districts, South Koochiching-Rainy River, Cook County, Sibley East and Long Prairie, took the lead in gathering neighboring districts to form regional telecommunications hubsites which will be funded by the state. Most of the schools accessed Internet on computers in computer labs, media centers and computers in each classroom. Of the eight sites, five developed wide area networks (WANS) throughout the district. The other three are in the process of planning and implementing WANS.
The districts report that the Internet connection opened up a whole new way of learning for students and staff. Teachers corresponded with other teachers and participated in projects in other parts of the world. Students in the Sibley East Schools worked with students in Norway and Spain and accessed many educational sites in their classrooms. Most of the teachers in the districts received e-mail accounts. Many students also received e-mail accounts. Issues such as parental permission and acceptable use of the network were addressed.
The timing of the Access Minnesota project could not have been more opportune for Minnesota school districts. The project allowed a handful of districts to explore the use of networking and Internet and share the information with their communities and other schools. These districts along with some of the larger metropolitan districts led the way in the crusade to connect all schools in Minnesota to Internet. The net effect of the last year was a major effort partially funded by the Minnesota State Legislature to plan a statewide infrastructure for K-12 schools. Many of the schools and districts in the project are leaders in the regional efforts.
The districts in the project expressed some concerns that were addressed during the year of the project. The most common concern appeared to be student and staff access to inappropriate sites on the net. A number of acceptable use policies were developed. Some districts developed Internet/e-mail permission forms to be signed before students were allowed to use the Internet/e-mail. The acceptable use policies included consequences for students caught accessing inappropriate sites.
As is the case with all networking projects, each of the school districts faced a number of barriers that needed to be resolved before the Internet connections were successfully installed. Perhaps the biggest barrier was the lack of technical expertise available to the schools in rural regions of the state. However, despite the barriers, all schools were up and running by early spring. All of the districts have network support people identified to keep the network at this time.
The eight school districts included in the Access
Minnesota project all expressed their gratitude for the opportunity
provided. The project team from the Minnesota Extension Service,
TIES, the University of Minnesota, MNet and all the partners in
the project worked hard to make the project a success and their
efforts are appreciated. This information was compiled by
Marla Davenport, TIES.
The county extension offices benefited from the
Access Minnesota project by: increasing the technological knowledge
and expertise among staff, helping position them as technology
leaders and bringing new clientele to Extension.
"It positioned us as leaders in the use of educational technology."
"Made us more visible in the county - citizens now think of Extension as also knowledgeable about technology."
"We would never have known the extent the internet has affected telecommunications as a whole without this access."
"It brought a new audience to our extension office that was unaware of extension educational programming."
"Access MN brought over 250 people into our office this winter specifically for the project. "
"400 new Extension supporters - - first time users of Extension as a resource support base."
For staff at many of the public access sites,
the best things about the Access Minnesota project were: providing
public access and increased visibility for their offices:
"The best thing about this project was providing local access - giving people the opportunity to see new technology. (Seeing is believing)."
"The best part was the public access that it offered."
" The best things were the increased visibility & new respect for Extension & Educator's opportunity to learn & use this technology."
Staff at Access Minnesota sites see themselves
continuing to play major roles in shaping the telecommunications
infrastructures in their counties.
"I will continue to promote information technology for community, economic, personal development."
"(I see myself ) as an active, knowledgeable catalyst to keep things moving."
"I will continue to promote and educate people on Access MN."
"I do believe we can be a model for other entities - public health, human services, education in how we use technology to link an organization across the state and nationally. We need to share our experiences with other organizations."
"I will continue as a player on our Information Services Committee."
"Will support committees and connect people together."
"Will plan to advocate for a whole system upgrade including internet access in each department."
Overall, the staff at the Access Minnesota sites
were extremely positive about the Access Minnesota project.
"This project has had and will continue to have significant impact on how we do our work and communicate with each other. I predict that in five years we will look back and mark many changes in the Minnesota Extension Service that were the result of the Access MN Project."
"This was a program that undoubtedly was beneficial to our community. I cannot say that about very many programs, as many times the impact is very difficult to notice. The awareness of and adoption of this technology has truly been effected in our communities by the Access Minnesota project."
Wabasha, home to 2,400 people and site of the films "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpier Old Men" is also home to one of the 60 Access Minnesota sites for internet access. The presence of a single computer with direct 56 kb connection into the internet has prompted not only a chance to "try out" the internet, but also fosters wider socioeconomic implications for telecommunications and information applications in a small town. The project brings computer-learned people out of the woodwork to help others realize the opportunities in telecommunications for community and economic development. One recent Wabasha transplant emerged to tell his story of being able to telecommute to his job in Minneapolis, thanks to the foresight of his employer, who pays for the direct connection into the Twin Cities. A software development manager for a major retail department store, now uses the presence of the Extension Office's Access Minnesota project and his own story to help traditional economic development and city planners in Wabasha recognize the potential of telecommunications and information technology to attract and sustain residents, businesses, education and health care opportunities in smaller communities.
During the grant period, data was collected though several means, including the monitoring of traffic, as well as electronically administered voluntary user surveys at each public access computer in each community. User surveys collected information such as purpose in accessing the internet, success in finding useful information, and identification of types of information needed but not available.
At the end of the grant period, Access Minnesota asked community representatives to help assess the value of the internet resource in their community. Indicators of value include plans for and actual development of additional public or private access points within the community; development of local servers to dispense community information; and additional indicators related to specific community interests, needs and usage. Access Minnesota also assessed the opinions of the staff at the public access sites to determine the value of the experience to Extension individuals and the organization.
The data items collected are listed below.
Interviews with community representatives
40 people from Minnesota communities were identified by staff at Access Minnesota sites and were interviewed over the telephone at the conclusion of the grant. They were asked to comment on how their community benefited from having the Access Minnesota project, what community discussions had ensued, and changes that occurred as a result of having the Access Minnesota project in their community. The text of the interviews is in Appendix B.
Survey of Staff at Access Minnesota Sites
At the end of the project, all site coordinators received a final survey on the project. The survey addressed numerous issues such as benefits to the community and to their office, advice for other agencies providing public access, and changes that occurred in communities as a result of the Access Minnesota project. 45 sites responded to the survey. The data can be found in Appendix C.
Logs of users at the Access Minnesota sites
For a one week period in March 1996, each site kept a log of each person that used the public access terminal. The data gathered provided a snapshot of the users, including information such as their age, sex, occupation, and use of the public access computer: how often, time of day and how long.
Electronic User Feedback Form
Throughout the project, online and paper surveys were collected to measure user interest. The online survey permitted users of the sites to fill out a Web form and immediately register their opinions about the utility of the resources that were made available through the project. Over 1000 users voluntary completed the electronic feedback area of the Access Minnesota website. Users indicated if it was their first time accessing the Internet, the purpose of their visit, what information they were looking for and whether or not they found it, and professional and personal value of the Internet.