Monthly Archives: July 2017

Old to Some, New to Others –  Minnesota Reservation gets Fiber-optic Network

Old to Some, New to Others –  Minnesota Reservation gets Fiber-optic Network

The Internet is getting faster and faster- the fastest being fiber-optics. Internet via fiber is the new standard in the high-speed internet market.

We live in a day where the internet at home and on your phone is commonplace but, even still, there are cities, countries, and regions that don’t have that luxury. All the major cities are reaping the benefit of their location and population when it comes to good internet access. Now, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa can consider themselves part of the minority of the world with fiber-optic speed internet.

The Fond du Lac Band (FLB) of Lake Superior Chippewa is an area East of Duluth, Minnesota that about 120-sq-miles in size- massive. And thanks to $8 million dollars in broadband funding they will soon be equally connected to the world.  The greater percentage of the funding came from Community Connect grants from the US Department of Rural Development.

If you are reading this and you don’t consider this a big deal you are, most likely, not from a super small (population wise) town. The director of FLB’s planning division told that receiving the fiber is, “kind of like back in the ’20s and ’30s when telephone service and electricity were starting get to rural areas of the United States.” Now, when was the last time you heard a comparison like that to a new piece of technology or gov’t initiative? Probably never.

This is going to be big, better yet, HUUUUUGE!!!

The fiber-optic system is expected to have over 160 miles of the main line plus about 78 miles for household connections. One benefit that the big cities don’t have is the competitive pricing. The most popular fiber internet out right now is Google Fiber which will cost a user a minimum of $70/month. With the assistance of the funding and the planning division, a user rate structure was created that would keep the costs down.

The internet makes the world seem so small for its users; so, I have no doubt that this technology will make an impact on community engagement in this rural area. The people will be able to connect with one another and their local government through platforms like social media, GIS, web-based meeting applications, and information disseminating applications.

That said, I encourage everyone to not take the “normal technology” for granted. The Internet, even fiber-optic internet, is old news for some of us, but to the Fond du Lac Band it’s a brand new engagement tool.

Yours in Service,

Eric Marsh, MPA@UNC
→ Stay up to date with their progress on their website ←-


Code for America Helps Build Community in a Variety of Ways

Code for America is a non-profit, non-partisan organization seeking to embolden communities and city governments to solve issues that arise in governance and community building using technological solutions. By enlisting the help of technology professionals, Code for America applies its resources to a city or community’s unique situation to help the entity help itself by developing apps and databases that serve a specific purpose. I learned about Code for America through the product of one of its programs in a popular city in my home state of Alabama: Code for Birmingham. Code for Birmingham is a part of Code for America’s “Brigade” program which organizes groups of local volunteers to support and maintain technology already in place or to design technology that is needed to improve the day to day operations of the city of Birmingham.

I see initiatives like Code for America as being highly effective in engaging and uplifting communities. In one way, the organization is bringing community members in to provide a very beneficial service to the city. This makes community members partners in the business of governance and community maintenance. In another way Code for America is providing a much-needed resource to the development of not only government effectiveness through technology, but also people’s careers. While a certain level of technological competence is needed to be effective within the organization’s grassroots efforts, Code for America’s operations allow for novices to at the very least see the inner workings of technology, and even so within their own communities. This is the perfect way to cultivate a future workforce for the already massive, yet rapidly growing technology field.

To learn more about Code for America and its four other programs visit their website:

Prime III Voting System

The developers of Prime III bill the technology as “the single most accessible electronic voting system.” Created in 2005 at Clemson University Human Centered Computing Lab, Prime III is a multimodal voting system that allows multiple users to simultaneously cast their vote using touch, voice, or both. The technology came about with efforts to improve upon the two main methods of voting from simpler times: paper with levers and punch cards, and computers and scanners. This is where Prime III gets its name: it is the third generation of America’s voting system. In addition to necessary security features, the system includes a “universal design,” which is to say efforts have been made to make the technology usable for “as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.” Complementary systems have been developed or are currently being developed to both enable telecast voting for deployed military personnel and prevent voter fraud using video verification. To learn more about Prime III visit their website:

A Data Driven Partnership…Esri meet Waze, Waze meet Esri.

A Data Driven Partnership – Esri meet Waze, Waze meet Esri.

The Esri and Waze Collaboration

As a techie that works in local government, I love a good story, especially one of a partnership between a public sector and a private sector technology. Here we have Esri, a builder of the world’s most powerful mapping and spatial analytics software, and Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Well, Esri isn’t exactly public sector technology but we, public sector engineers and managers, rely on it pretty heavily. Waze is a great app that I have personally used too. The drivers share real-time traffic and road info. This information, when used properly, saves me a lot of time and gas money on their daily commute. Waze has a slogan of. “Outsmarting Traffic, Together.”

Hands down, these are two leaders in their respective right. If I were to pick which leader is reaping the most from the partnership I would have to say local government. Together these two agencies formed the Connected Citizens Program which enables local governments to leverage Waze data. From the Waze app, cities get to-the-second information- e.g. road conditions, traffic congestion and motor vehicle accident trends. Local governments then funnel the aggregate data into their ArcGIS and map them. Esri is the technology provider of ArcGIS. According to Esri, “about 40,000 clients currently use the company’s database and mapping software, including ArcGIS, to manage a wide collection of city assets, ranging from sewers and electricity infrastructure to locations for planting trees.” One would think that 40,000 clients is a lot of people, and it is, but Waze currently has more than 65 million monthly active users worldwide. A majority of the people reside in medium/larger cities.

The next step, as far as local governments are concerned, is using the application to disseminate information. As an employee of a Public Works Department that handles natural disasters, I can’t wait for that day. Not only could we rely on the National Weather Service to reach people, we could get messages, pertinent messages, to people phones in a jiffy.

Local governments are using the traffic jams and alerts to help plan for future road widenings, find troubled intersections, and evaluate the layouts of existing intersections. Esri is making this an easy feat for local governments too. They are monitoring the data themselves and sending it directly to the local governments that already subscribe to their services. This technology is helping local government make long-term plans and also assisting small local governments in closing the technological gap that big cities are able to manage.

In all cases, local governments are able to meet the needs of their stakeholders better. They can heed their requests and input via the Waze app and make the necessary changes. Too often residents and stakeholders say that communicating with their governing agencies is difficult, that they don’t feel heard. Through this partnership, local governments can be more intuitive.

That said, I celebrate this glorious partnership and hope it continues to develop into a beautiful relationship.

Yours In Service,

Eric L. Marsh, MPA@UNC


LimeBike – Bike Sharing App

Starting this summer, Greensboro, North Carolina will have a bike sharing program, courtesy of LimeBike. LimeBike is a new California startup company which recently chose Greensboro to be its first United States market for this bike sharing program. The company’s bikes are parked all around the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s campus (UNCG) and the bikes are slowly making their way to Downtown Greensboro. The company’s CEO Toby Sun, says that LimeBike provides a “more affordable, accessible and available way of transportation to help more people get around in an urban environment.” This bike sharing program connects college students to the inner city of Greensboro and is very simple to use. Moreover, anybody who has a LimeBike app can potentially participate in the program.

To use a LimeBike bike, riders must first download the LimeBike app on their mobile phone. The app will find the closest bike, unlock the bike, keep track of how much time the rider uses the bike and collect payment. For UNCG students and employees, it is 50 cent for every half hour and it is $1 per half hour for everyone else. Since the bikes have their own lock, they can essentially be parked anywhere.  However, Sun has designated areas on the campus of UNCG as hubs for the bike. Additionally, Sun is working with the City of Greensboro to do the same thing downtown. These lime green bikes are starting to become a hot commodity for UNCG as well as the city of Greensboro. The bikes weigh about 40 pounds and have tubeless tires that will rarely go flat. In addition, these bikes have a basket in the front of the bike with a cup holder and by pedaling the bike powers front and rear lights.

For more information about LimeBike, please visit

Happy Trails – Glenwood Springs, CO

Glenwood Springs, CO is a small city coming in with a population just under 10,000 but with a booming tourist economy with rafting in the summer and skiing in the winter. This small town is right off of interstate I70 and is the gateway to five towns after it including Aspen, CO.

There are two interstate exits and one main road that can lead locals and tourists alike through town and “down valley” to Aspen. Unfortunately, that main road begins as a bridge going over the Colorado river –  and that bridge needs to be replaced.

Beginning August 14, 2017, and lasting approximately 95 days (many bets are being made on how long it will actually take), the main road will be detoured potentially causing up to one hour delays for getting off the interstate and through town. In order to remedy the traffic problems that will no doubt occur, the city of Glenwood Springs is encouraging citizens to walk or bike to work if they can. The city’s “Happy Trails” campaign is a series of five videos released in the five weeks leading up to the detour advising citizens on bike and pedestrian safety as well as local leaders pledging to bike or walk to work. The campaign is accompanied by a survey citizen’s can participate in and a pledge to take their vehicle off the road when possible.

Please keep the citizens of Glenwood and its surrounding towns in your thoughts over those ~95 days… see you on the other side!

Open Town Hall

Open Town Hall can be purchased by local governments and added to their websites as a way to engage with their citizens on upcoming proposals, ideas, etc. This forum allows governments to post ideas to their website along with surveys and other types of open ended questions that citizens can participate in. Citizens are informed of new and/or potential happenings in their town and can then let their government know how they feel about the plan or offer any advice or concerns. Governments can then take this feedback and analyze it to see popular beliefs.

Open Town Hall is a cost effective method of community engagement that still offers up a traditional town hall approach but from the comfort of citizens’ own homes.

Want more information on how Open Town Hall can benefit you?