Members of the Koochiching Technology Initiative recently received a report outlining the county’s performance in key areas that determine competitiveness and quality of life in today’s digital economy.
Developed by the Intelligent Community Forum, or ICF, a global organization that helps communities effectively adapt to the demands of the broadband economy, the report compares Koochiching County to other communities large and small in urban, suburban and rural areas.
“Our main goal in working on the ICF evaluation was to establish a benchmark,” said Jim Yount, a member of the Koochiching Technology Initiative, or KTI, steering committee. “We are laying the groundwork for substantial improvements for our community as a whole.”
Communities are scored on six factors ICF identifies as critical for success: Connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation, engagement, digital inclusion and sustainability on a scale of zero to 100, a KTI news release said.
Koochiching scored around average on two measures - connectivity and knowledge workforce - and lower on others, with the lowest score for innovation.
- Connectivity refers to the digital infrastructure necessary for community growth. Assessments are based on factors such as broadband competition; broadband adoption by residents, businesses and institutions; and planned broadband projects. Koochiching's score was 80.3; the average was 81.03.
- Knowledge workforce reflects how well a community is preparing its people for the jobs of the future. Assessments are based on factors such as current or planned workforce projects; availability of higher education within the community; current educational attainment of the population; availability of programs connecting education with employment; and the use of technology in public education. The county's score was 77.96; the average was 79.51.
- Innovation criteria is based on the knowledge that 80 percent of all economic growth comes from developing and using new technology. This includes public policies supporting innovation across sectors; e-government services implemented to deliver higher quality service to constituents at lower total cost; and the degree of collaboration among business, government and institutions. Koochiching's score was 40.01; the average was 78.60.
- Engagement refers to the willingness of community leaders and citizen groups to embrace change and their determination to help shape it. Performance in this category is based on the extent of citizen engagement in community progress and the effectiveness of economic development marketing of intelligent community advantages. Koochiching's score was 78.36; the average was 84.08.
- Digital inclusion is the extent to which a community pushes back against the deepening inequality delivered by technology and is assessed by the types of inclusion programs in place for citizens and organizations. The county's score was 53.18; the average was 67.19.
- Sustainability refers to improving current living standards, while maintaining the ability of future generations to do the same. It is assessed by factors such as the sustainability measures tracked by a community and the political and administrative support for sustainability from local government. Koochiching'sr score was 62.99; the average was 80.03.
“While the Kooch County scores may not be stellar, they give us a good starting place for further advancement and improvement,” said KTI member Ted Saxton. “We welcome community involvement in our projects and hope people will join us in conceiving of and developing new ideas to move our county forward.”
According to ICF, today’s digital age demands new ways of thinking about what makes a community successful. The news release said KTI has embraced this understanding and works to support and help secure funding for community projects that allow the county to adapt to the new demands of the digital age.
"Those that do so survive and thrive, while those that don’t face stagnation, decline, population loss and social and cultural erosion," the release said.
For the full Intelligent Community Index Report, visit Koochiching.tech.
The Intelligent Community Forum is a global network of cities and regions with a think tank at its center. Its mission is to help communities use information and communications technology to create inclusive prosperity, tackle social and governance challenges and enrich their quality of life.
Founded in 2018, KTI’s mission is to help the community adapt and thrive in the modern world, with a particular focus on internet access and skills throughout Koochiching County and Kabetogama. For more information, visit Koochiching.tech.