It’s not about Miami’s sun and surf or glamour and glitz portrayed by movies and TV shows based in Miami. It’s all about the TQ, Technology Quotient, a measure of the connectivity of Miami-Dade residents to the digital world.
The Miami Dade Broadband Coalition (MDBC) is a member organization of Miami area anchor institutions representing government, healthcare, education and not-for-profits. It started with a grant from the Knight Foundation which challenged some self-acknowledged ‘geeks’ to use technology to:
– develop a strong community access to relevant information;
– create an understanding of that information; and,
– motivate new users to take advantage of skill training opportunities that will make sustainable impact on a range of issues throughout their lives.
In the overall scheme, an elevated TQ is designed to lead to a more resilient local economy as South Florida strives to attract a diversified industrial base. The MDBC believes a highly-trained workforce and the information/technology infrastructure required is the best lure to attract new 21st century industries to the community.
The MDBC board notes that technology is a tool that enhances productivity and innovation in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, bioengineering, logistics, media and marketing. These are resilient industries that South Florida needs to attract and/or develop to diversify the economy, prosper in all economic times, and become a globally competitive region.
According to James Osteen, Executive Director, “We are a grass roots organization partnering with leaders to pool technology power and create a community with enhanced educational opportunities, job skills, productivity and quality of life via technology adoption.”
“A good analogy is that we aggregate our bandwidth network capabilities and re-distribute that accessibility throughout the entire community. Think of MDBC as a pipeline of affordable technology services – the Sam’s Club of Miami’s TQ,” he quipped.
The South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association is an active MDBC member. In fact, some MDBC initiatives are at the foundation of improved health care projects.
For example, a University of Miami clinic headed by Robert Schwartz, M.D., Professor and Chair at the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the University of Miami’s Miller School, caring for an underserved indigent population, had major issues with patient compliance.
The City of Miami’s Elevate Miami program and MDBC assisted Dr. Schwartz in establishing a patient information portal and taught low-income patients how to use technology to enable live chats with health care providers. After learning basic computer skills patients earned refurbished computers for their homes, to allow remote medical monitoring of prevalent chronic diabetes. Treating illness in real time can positively impact the outcome. This same approach can easily be adapted to other chronic conditions such as, asthma, high blood pressure, etc. Computers, donated from businesses in the community, are a major step in crossing the digital divide.
With the help of MDBC, Miami’s healthcare technology is also penetrating the technology gap in industry and education with a canopy of connectivity. In this regard, MDBC is working closely with the Health Choice Network, the South Florida Regional Extension Center and its technology members/partners to deliver high quality, high-speed internet access at affordable rates which will enable those offices to effectively implement “meaningful use” data exchange with hospitals and other medical offices.
In one pilot project, a health care pod will be implemented in a business that had no budget for an on-site employee health clinician. Now, through video monitoring, physicians can take history and physical info, check blood pressure; and, with real time, high resolution remote video can determine a plan of treatment for a variety of illnesses, before they end up in absenteeism for the business and emergency visits for the employees. In addition, a private video visit with the clinician gives workers peace of mind and results in a major stress level reduction. The result of this enhanced access is improved health care and increased employee productivity.
As a not-for-profit coalition, a portion of all realized savings are reinvested in the community through the coalition’s sponsorship of training and Internet connectivity for Miami’s underserved neighborhoods. Some recent graduate success stories are an 83- year-old grandmother who suffered from depression and loneliness but now claims she is ‘part of the world’ again because of her internet skills; or families who are suddenly in touch with service members in Iraq by email, or skyping with family members from South or Central America or the Caribbean.
Undeniable evidence of a MDBC’s magnet community transformation is that since 2009, a handful of charter members have been joined by forward thinking organizations and entrepreneurs totaling 35+ members committed to promote digital literacy in the community and workforce.
“While our goal is ambitious, our success will provide a more resilient, diverse and self-sustaining local economy,” Osteen said.