Report from Michigan: Building Our Information Economy

In 2010, I helped to lead three Michigan State University projects that received BTOP broadband stimulus awards to increase computer access and broadband access throughout Michigan. These three projects will expand broadband access in library computer centers in rural areas, create additional public computer centers in Michigan’s core urban areas, and stimulate broadband adoption by expanding knowledge and access to broadband in urban areas of Michigan. Now more than ever, our state needs to focus on its economic growth. These projects are providing that positive change, and helping transform our state to participate in the information economy.

These projects have provided amazing opportunities for me as a researcher, but also for our students and most importantly, for the residents of Michigan who will have increased technology at their fingertips. For example, as the State News reported, this funding has allowed us to directly help Michigan libraries and to help match unemployed residents with available jobs. In a state that has been among the hardest hit nationwide, this is an important tool as we work to rebuild rapidly. As a land-grant pioneer, MSU’s work is vital in that rebuilding effort. In the past few months, we have installed computers in 15 underserved counties of our state.

One student who has witnessed this transformation firsthand is MSU media and communication technology senior Ryan McBride. Ryan was part of a team of MSU students who traveled with me to Marquette, Mich. this summer to help install computers in a low-income housing center and a children’s community center in a low-income area. During that trip, our students’ real-world work confidence increased dramatically as they installed computers, solved network problems, mastered cord and cable management, and created systems that would not have been accomplished without them. They are using their skills to enrich the lives of others in our state, and that will help their own enrichment and career growth.

As Ryan shared with me “I look back on my time in Marquette knowing I did a small part to get Michigan back on its feet. I know from the smiling faces of adults and children that we met in Marquette that our efforts meant the world to them. Although we have a long way to go, our initiative in Marquette makes me incredibly optimistic about the future of our state. There's certainly still a lot of work to be done, but I think the future of technological innovation in Michigan is bright. I'm proud to be a part of it.”