Assess What You Have

Assessments are an important part of the Connecting Communities process — use them but don't get stuck in assessment mode for too long.

Before you start calling people to work with you on Connecting Communities projects, it will be helpful to do some assessments to answer as many of the following questions as possible.

  • How ready is the community to undertake connecting communities projects?
  • Who are the formal and non-formal decision makers in the community?
  • How widely is information technology used by organizations in the community (public and private)?
  • Are there any on-going community projects focusing on the digital divide or information technology (public access through schools or libraries, training, improving access to broadband, etc.)?

Community Capacity Assessments

Engaging community leaders is a critical element of successful Connecting Communities projects. The key is to identify community leaders and technology experts who are willing to work together to increase the diffusion and adoption of digital tools across the community and to secure the level of broadband connectivity needed by the various entities within the community.

A quick assessment of the community's history of working together on issues will help you gauge how the community leaders will come together to develop and implement connecting community projects. The Community Readiness Assessment is designed to gauge the level at which community leaders and organizations will collaborate to identify, develop and implement Connecting Communities projects. If your community has a history of not working well together on projects, this project will likely have the same outcome. Keep in mind however, that the community may not have had a compelling reason to work well together in the past. Persons like the I.T. directors working for the various entities within the community are likely focused on providing service to their individual institutions. Simply creating a forum for these individuals to talk about their broadband needs, opportunities, and threats may be all it takes to create an environment for collaborative solutions.

Community Benchmarking Assessments

Benchmarking assessment tools provide a snapshot of your community use of the Internet and digital tools. These tools provide information critical to setting goals for your Connected Community and identifying projects that you can implement to reach those goals. The Connecting Communities project champion, leadership team, or a group of community leaders can use the following tools:

A quick assessment of the technology infrastructure and use of digital technology in your community will give you a starting point before you begin to get goals and identify projects. What connectivity is there? What training is there and how is it being used?

What if you don't know what's available in your community? Ask others — city or county government personnel, colleagues, or community members who might know. Ask the local Internet service providers what they offer locally. If you don't know who the service providers are, look in the yellow pages of the local phone book under "Internet" or search the internet for "internet services providers" in your state. In addition, beginning in 2009 the NTIA's State Broadband Data and Development (SBDD) Program has provided funding for states to identify and map broadband service providers' coverage. For more information on your state see: (click on the "recipient" for your state and then scroll down to the bottom for a link to "broadband map" in the section titled, "State Broadband Links").

A Word of Caution

Don't get bogged down with the assessments. The assessment tools in this guide are designed to provide a lot of information but do not require a consultant. Remember that connecting your community is a process and it is more important to get started than have very detailed information. As your Connecting Communities project gathers momentum you will be able to identify the appropriate tools to gather the information you need and conduct more extensive assessments.