Charlevoix County, Michigan was recognized today as the first county nationally to be certified as a “Connected” community under Connected Nation’s Connected community engagement program. The Connected program facilitated by the non-profit’s state affiliates supports the building of a comprehensive action plan for a connected community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment of broadband access, adoption, and use.
“We congratulate Charlevoix County on this milestone achievement,” said Connected Nation President and COOTom Ferree. “The hard work of local leaders in this effort will pay off for all area residents for many years to come.”
Northern Lower Michigan has historically had limited options for broadband services due to natural topographical barriers and a highly dispersed population base. A major step forward in closing the digital divide came when officials enrolled in Connected earlier this year.
“In this day and age, high-speed Internet is absolutely critical. It is no longer a luxury and it is essential for any kind of business growth,” said Andy Hayes, president of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. “No one can grow a business and no one will locate a business that depends on high-speed Internet access to an area without this vital utility. Working with organizations that can help us build that critical mass is essential to our economic development strategy.”
Dozens of communities across the nation have joined the Connected program to enhance the economic, educational, healthcare, and quality of life opportunities that come with increased broadband access, adoption, and use. The program is designed to be scalable so that the assessment is applicable in rural and urban communities of any size. It is also designed to be self-serviceable through a user-friendly online portal allowing the community to work at its own pace.
How does the community engagement program work? The Connected methodology has a 4-step process that consists of:
1. Identification and empowerment of a community team leader (local champion) and creation of a community team composed of a diverse group of local residents from various sectors of the economy including education, government, healthcare, private sector, and libraries.
2. Assessment of community technology resources guided by Connected Nation’s Connected portal and based on adoption, access, and use of broadband.
3. Development of a community technology plan and implementation of recommended actions that will lead to community certification as a Connected community.
4. Once a community is certified, it has an avenue to discuss its success and pursue opportunities as a recognized, technologically advanced community.