Funded grants announced

Since the Rural Futures Conference this past November, teams have been coming together to submit grant applications for one or both of the Rural Futures Institute’s competitive grant programs. After several rounds and multiple review sessions, the RFI is pleased to announce the funding of seven Teaching and Engagement grants and four Research and Engagement grants. The quality of the grants was excellent this year and the teams that reviewed the grants were impressed by the diversity of topics and the transdisciplinary approaches that were proposed. The grantees have been notified and they will begin work on July 1, 2014.

2014 AWARDED GRANTS INCLUDE: click here for printable PDF

Teaching and Engagement Grants

  • Rural Community Engagement and Leadership Program, Gina Matkin, UNL with other UNL partners and Nebraskans for Civic Reform
  • Justice by Geography: Issues that Inequitably Impact Rural Youth, Anne Hobbs, UNO with Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association, Nebraska State Bar Association, Nebraska Association of County Officials, Nebraska Juvenile Services Division, and Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
  • Addressing the Rural Shortage of Mental Health Providers Through a Virtual Mentorship Network, Howard Liu, UNMC with other UNMC partners and Region III Behavioral Health Services
  • Principles of Community Engagement in Public Health: Service Learning, Community-Based Participatory Research, and Civic Engagement, Kyle Ryan, Peru State College with College of Public Health at UNMC and Rural Health Education Network
  • The Great Question Challenge, Shane Potter, UNL Extension with the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UNL and DuPont Pioneer
  • Community Gardens and Farmer’s Market for Curtis, Nebraska, Brad Ramsdale, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) with University of Nebraska Extension
  • The Nebraska Hayseed Project, Petra Wahlqvist, UNL with the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at UNL, Lied Center for Performing Arts, North Platte Concert Association, and Midwest Theater

Research and Engagement Grants

  • Healthy Food, Healthy Choice, Christopher Gustafson, UNL Agricultural Economics with Child, Youth, and Environments Center for Community Engagement at the University of Colorado, and Health and Nutritional Sciences Department at South Dakota State University
  • Bridging the skills gap: Workforce development in rural communities in the Great Plains, Carolyn Hatch, North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, Michigan State University, University of Nebraska Extension, South Dakota State University Extension
  • Nebraska Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network Project, Christopher Kratochvil, University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) with other UNMC personnel, Department of Health and Human Services, and rural Nebraska physicians
  • Catalyzing the Role of Micropolitan America in the Future of Rural America: Why Not Begin this New Frontier for Research and Engagement in Nebraska?, Eric Thompson, Bureau of Business Research, University of Nebraska-Lincoln with other UNL partners, Rural Policy Research Institute and the University of Nebraska-Omaha


New Broadband Survey Notes Progress…


                — New Broadband Survey Notes Progress in Four Years in Nebraska

April 24, 2014

New Broadband Survey Notes Progress in Four Years in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — Although elderly and low-income Nebraskans continue to lag behind other demographic groups in Internet access, they have made significant gains in the last four years, according to a new survey.

The survey, “Internet Connectivity and Use in Nebraska: A Follow-up Study,” tracks progress made since a 2010 survey that asked about Nebraskans’ current use of technology, their opinions about community technology resources and their technology training needs.

Tracking this information is key, said Chuck Schroeder, founding executive director of the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute.

“We know that Internet access, and the speed and reliability of broadband service, are critically important to the viability and resiliency of rural communities,” he said. “Entrepreneurial business opportunities, robust educational programming, quality healthcare and overall quality of life are significantly enhanced when current information technology is part of the community infrastructure. And rural people are at a significant disadvantage when it is not. While the disparity between rural and urban locales continues, we are pleased to see the progress shown in this report.”

Both surveys were conducted by the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, a partnership of state and University of Nebraska entities.

Overall, 86 percent of Nebraska households have Internet access, and 82 percent have broadband service, up from 81 percent and 76 percent, respectively, since 2010.

While older people, people with lower household income, people with lower education levels, households without children and households in nonmetropolitan areas continue to be less likely to have Internet access and, specifically broadband service, some of those groups increased Internet access considerably since 2010, noted Becky Vogt, survey research manager with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

– Persons aged 65 and older with Internet access at home increased from 56 percent to 69 percent. For broadband service, those numbers are 48 percent and 64 percent in 2010 and 2014, respectively.

– The proportion of persons with the lowest household incomes with broadband service at home increased from 44 percent to 53 percent.

The survey also found that Nebraskans in the Lincoln and Omaha areas were more likely to have broadband service at home – 90 and 87 percent respectively – compared to Central Nebraska’s 73 percent. However, Central Nebraska has seen a significant increase, from 56 percent in 2010.

Other findings:

– Sixty-five percent of non-Internet users don’t have a computer; 36 percent said Internet access is too expensive; and 34 percent say they have no interest in the Internet.

– Use of several Internet activities has increased in four years, including: social networking, up from 69 percent to 80 percent; watching videos, up from 72 percent to 79 percent; online banking or bill pay, up from 72 percent to 79 percent; VoIP, Skype, magicJack, or other video phoning technology, up from 19 percent to 37 percent; and two-way audio/video meetings, up from 15 percent to 27 percent.

– Nebraska households are generally satisfied with the reliability, speed and support of their Internet service but less satisfied with its price.

– Seventy-seven percent of Nebraska households have access to a local place, such as a library or school, where use of Internet-accessible computers is free.

– Many Nebraskans are interested in information technology courses such as website development and basic computer networking. And most prefer traditional delivery methods for this training, such as CD or DVD, face-to-face workshops, online courses and videos.

Frank Landis, chairman of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, said he was encouraged by the findings.

“Today’s survey report shows real progress in the deployment and utilization of high-speed Internet capability in Nebraska. It reveals that almost nine in 10 Nebraska households have Internet access at home,” he said. “However, a gap remains for consumers living in our rural areas, for low-income consumers, and for our aging population.  For example, over a third of non-users cite affordability as the reason for not subscribing to Internet at home.

“Having the very best data is critical in the development of a comprehensive broadband plan to increase Internet access and adoption going forward,” Landis added. “I appreciate the work of our partners in the Nebraska Broadband Initiative. More importantly, I thank the many Nebraskans who invested their time to respond to this survey.  The PSC looks forward to doing our part to tackle the challenges ahead. ”

Schroeder said, “In order to address this issue, we must understand the availability of technology, its utilization and the training needs of rural residents. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as a partner in the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, is an essential component in conducting this research in a timely, thorough and credible fashion.

“We cannot effectively address challenges and opportunities only described anecdotally. This research provides a powerful tool for understanding and strategic action by both public and private sector players in the broadband arena,” Schroeder added.

The Nebraska Broadband Initiative is a partnership of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Information Technology Commission and the AIM Institute.

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