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Category: Technology and Broadband

Secretary’s Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America.

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America. (click to enlarge image)

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn’t have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them. Read more »

Better Service for Rural Renters: Innovative App for Field Employees Streamlines Recordkeeping

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Velma Hansen has lived in Fort Benton, Montana for over 60 years, the last dozen of them at Canyon Villas. The engaging 91-year-old keeps an impeccably clean apartment in the rent-controlled complex financed by USDA Rural Development. As one of our hundreds of multi-family properties across rural America, Rural Development regularly inspects the properties to ensure they meet basic standards for safe and sanitary housing. If problems are noted, the property owners must address them, and do so immediately.

Right now, a specialist inspects the property, takes paper notes and digital photos, and then returns to the office to input all the data – essentially touching all the data twice to get it in our system – before being able to follow up on any necessary repairs that were noted during the servicing visit. We decided there was opportunity to invest a little technology in streamlining this process. Read more »

Connecting Communities: Broadband for Rural America Benefits Us All

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced over $190 million of investment in broadband projects through USDA’s Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.

Time and time again, we hear stories about the significant impact USDA’s investments have in the lives of hard working Americans, and we know that an investment in our rural communities is an investment in America. Read more »

“The Last Frontier” is on the Cutting Edge of On-Farm Technology

Alaska may called The Last Frontier, but their farmers are on the leading edge of technology.  Check back next Thursday for more fun facts as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.

Alaska may called The Last Frontier, but their farmers are on the leading edge of technology. Check back next Thursday for more fun facts as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Alaska may be the largest state in the United States, but due to our geographic location, our farmers have an extremely short growing season. On average, Alaskan farmers only have about 105 growing days in a year according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which limits what types of crops we can grow, in comparison with about 198 days in northwestern Missouri, according to NOAA.

Despite the length of our growing season, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are 762 farms in Alaska, up 11 percent from the last Census, conducted in 2007. Nearly 834,000 acres of our land is dedicated to farming and ranching. In 2012, Alaskan farms produced nearly $59 million worth of agriculture products. By the way, nearly a third of all of the farms in Alaska are run by women, significantly outpacing the national percentage. Read more »

Participants in Open Data Roundtables Guide USDA on Ways to Provide High Quality Data to Users

“Find out who your audience and users are, then figure out the best, easiest way to provide data to them.”

Last week, the Obama Administration focused on a specific climate risk – the risk to the food supply – and the ways data could be used to help increase “food resilience.” The goal is to make data, computational power, and analytic tools available to help food producers, distributors, and inspectors keep the food supply reliable and robust.

As part of that effort, last Friday the GovLab and the USDA co-hosted an Open Data Roundtable on food resilience to bring together government officials, companies, and nonprofits to improve the use of data on climate and agriculture. Like the Roundtable we hosted with the White House and the Department of Commerce in June, this event was designed to promote a dialogue between government agencies that supply data and the companies and organizations that use it. The ultimate goal of all our Roundtables is to make open government data more relevant, accessible, and actionable. Read more »

Open Data for Transparent and Effective Disaster Relief

Support for those affected by disasters is critical. By developing more comprehensive tools that prepare citizens and government before the next event helps.  Helping communities rebuild and become more resilient to extreme weather in the future is vital.

Citizens need to be able to access accurate information in real time, before, during and after these devastating events. The growing open data collaboration between data producers and data users can help with recovery efforts while being more transparent and local. Read more »