American Innovation Challenged by America’s Lose-Lose Dilemma
By Frank Odasz
Lone Eagle Consulting
The Missing “Promise of Broadband"
Despite physical broadband access being available in a significant number of rural communities we’re still missing the anticipated delivery of the “Promise of Broadband.” Due to widespread lack of understanding of the specific benefits of broadband, only 25% of communities with broadband will pay for the service. To make matters even worse, most of this is for entertainment, not for economic development or work-related activity.
America’s Lose-Lose dilemma is that the lack of demand for broadband is directly related to the lack of publicizing existing entrepreneurial successes at the microbusiness level. On the one hand, government and teleco broadband initiatives suffer from lack of demand while on the other hand, citizens are unaware of how they can benefit directly and in the short term. While presenting America’s lose-lose dilemma via government sponsored 2003 ICT conference keynotes in Jamaica and Australia, I’ve witnessed first hand similar gulfs in belief and reality in these countries related to presuming the right training will somehow naturally appear once broadband becomes available. Solutions exist to reverse this current Lose-Lose dilemma.
Our Loss of a Ten Year Economic Advantage
Ten years ago, there was a national push for local affordable dial-up Internet in rural communities to provide essential and equitable access for economic development and vital educational, health, and governmental information. It was presumed that community learning programs would naturally evolve to address the highest possible benefits from fingertip access to both local and global resources. Instead, few community Internet empowerment training programs emerged and the current dominant rural perception, even as the push for broadband continues, is that the Internet is a time-wasting toy best suited for children.
As a direct result of our lack of widespread understanding of the opportunities, we’ve lost a ten-year first-to-market advantage to thousands of foreign rural communities who now have achieved comparable Internet access and are innovating with passion to realize their share of these same opportunities.
An Issue of National Competitiveness
The vigor of our communities, our nation, and all nations, will depend on creating motivated lifelong learners, proactive citizens who are value-driven, innovative entrepreneurs, skilled collaborators, and citizens who are both consumers and producers - both learners and teachers, all the time.
Federal Validation Needed For Our Own American Grassroots Innovators
Within every community there are successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, innovators, and success stories – which are typically ignored locally and regionally. Without outside validation, American innovators are often shunned as prophets without honor in their home lands. The aggregate volume of innovation has grown to the point where federal agencies need to adopt policies to establish the means by which these innovations receive public recognition. We’re at an important tipping point. Emphasis needs to shift from the narrow corporate aggregate demand strategy to widespread ecommerce entrepreneurial training. The “promise of broadband” relates to widespread measurable empowerment and broad participation in specific applications I.E. info-structure and real benefits for real people.
Entry-Level Ecommerce Education for Everyone
Despite Ebay having demonstrated effective entry-level ecommerce education opportunities resulting in 114 million users, 430,000 full time self-employed Ebay entrepreneurs, and 150,000 online Ebay stores…most rural economic developers do not recognize Internet ecommerce as a workable solution. As one of the fastest growing companies in the world, Ebay has expanded into 28 countries and last year 28 billion dollars in goods were exchanged on Ebay. “Corporate Yet Populace.” Though Ebay may be a logical first step for entry level ecommerce education, it has the potential to quickly lead to successively more powerful and inclusive models.
Federal agencies have the opportunity to stimulate American innovation by looking beyond the limited number of their own funded projects to recognize the national need to validate the volume of grassroots innovation. There is a need to validate American rural innovations on a broad scale and to initiate a call to action for rural communities to recognize that the new gold rush has begun; mining raw human potential.
The New Gold Rush – Mining Raw Human Potential
National competitive rests on recognizing that there’s a new gold rush; mining raw human potential by providing entry level ecommerce education such as Ebay training. If microenterprises produce 86% of all new jobs, why are 90% of citizens are not engaged in entrepreneurial activities despite the dropping costs of computers and Internet access? Montana has more microenterprises than any other state in the union, 22% and western individualism has never been more closely tied to Americans values and future economic growth.
Federal Government Slow to Recognize Existing Scalable Solutions
Ten years of government-funded Community Technology Centers (CTCs) have not resulted in either a sustainable model or a focused fast-track curriculum. Ten years of government-funded Community Networking (CNs) projects have not resulted in sustainable models, or visible measurable outcomes, particularly related to economic development.
Quality free training resources have been duplicated nationally and could easily be brokered and made available to all rural communities along with recommended step-by-step action plans to locally validate the successively greater advantages of broadband. While 95% of the innovative grants submitted to TOP are not funded, the best submitted innovations could still be validated with social recognition and even disseminated as scalable models for all rural communities.
Federal Support for Fueling the Home Fires of Innovation
Sharing these grassroots sparks of innovation among rural communities on an ongoing basis is fundamental to fueling the home fires of innovation simultaneously in all rural communities. Even without outside funding there are ways to grow an entrepreneurial culture based on local initiatives.
Sustainable Models for Community Technology Centers and Community Networks
All rural and urban communities would benefit from an integrated Ebay Drop Off center model (Community Technology Center) that provides hands-on skills training beginning with basic Ebay skills but continuing with broader Ecommerce and Telework development including marketing for-profit mentoring services of local citizens in tandum with online mentoring and skill building systems (Community Networks) which grow measurable community capacity, real income, and real jobs. Specific implementation details are available in the grant models in the next paragraph.
Scalable Dissemination of Fast Track Training and Ecommerce Success Stories
It is viable and necessary to recognize and disseminate the best innovations, training resources, and success stories among all rural communities on a regular basis. Once even a single community has achieved the defined measurable outcomes – the national perception for the level of innovation of which rural communities are capable of will change forever. As models to underscore the above points, two key grants have recently been submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Technology Opportunities Program (TOP.) The first is a model which can easily be implemented by any community without outside funding by engaging the digital talents of their youth. "Sustainable Ecommerce Education Development Strategies" (SEEDS) at http://lone-eagles.com/seeds.htm The second grant builds on extensive work already underway in Montpelier, Idaho, "Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Centers" http://lone-eagles.com/intelligent.htm
Lone Eagle Consulting serves as an information brokerage providing fast-track training for rural, remote, and indigenous learners both online and offline. Community grant templates provide specific action plans not dependent on outside funding as a scalable model for local action relevant to all rural communities.
Current U.S. Dept. of Labor Demonstration Project Already Underway
Lone Eagle Consulting is pleased to be in a position to generate innovative working models through the U.S. Dept of Labor demonstration project here in Montana. The "Montana Choice" project is described at
Presentations are Ongoing
Oct. 12, 2004, Lone Eagle Consulting delivered the following presentation at the Rural Telecommunications Congress conference in Spokane, Washington. This presentation will also be presented Nov. 11th for the National Association of Counties in Las Vegas. A dozen rural communities will be host to Lone Eagle presentations and workshops every few months over the coming year. Additional presentation descriptions are at http://lone-eagles.com/presentations.htm
People-Centered Community Knowledge Networks for Workforce Training
The Montana Job Training Partnership has received a $3 million dollar five-year demonstration project grant providing web-based self-employment training for individuals with disabilities, community mentors, and rural citizens – many of whom could be considered “learning disabled” due to their fear of technology. The Montana Choice project is described at http://lone-eagles.com/montana-choice.htm The “Montana Choice” project is providing online train-the-trainer ecommerce and telework lessons as a first online learning experience providing a hands-on overview of “what’s working for others like you.” (Lessons at http://lone-eagles.com/ecom.htm)
Peer mentoring programs will serve as the basis for creating local low-cost community networks as online training centers helping everyone gain new skills while also staying current on national rural innovations. Inexpensive open source content management systems can streamline the flow of essential information in rural communities and serve as the basis for online Internet entrepreneurship development. Sharing innovations between sister communities on an ongoing basis creates exponentially greater benefit as more communities join this effort. See Lone Eagle's Self-employment Incubator at http://lone-eagles.oldcolo.com
Authenticating Rural Internet and Broadband Benefits -A Reality Check
http://lone-eagles.com/wings.htm Reversing American’s Lose-Lose Dilemma
A paper presented to the Australian government:
Reinventing Community Networks as Economic Development Solutions
Viable Opportunities to Share Existing Best Training and Community Broadband Awareness Resources
All rural communities today, both leaders and citizens, would benefit from clarification as to concrete evidence as to what entry-level Ecommerce training can result in short term economic growth and new entrepreneurship. Needed is greater understanding in our world of accelerating change as to what sources of new knowledge can best create new opportunities. The five simple questions in the Smart Community Self Quiz at http://lone-eagles.com/smart.htm reveals how the most basic common sense economic and educational uses of Internet have been primarily missed.