Consider a New Model
Broadband Program Management… What’s the Best Way?
by Michael Curri
When administering a new program to deploy broadband and stimulate adoption, governments traditionally ramp-up their internal resources or hire consultants.
But there’s an alternative – a model that leverages existing local resources and links with local stakeholders who have a vested interest in the project outcome of economic development through broadband.
T he downsides for the traditional models are apparent. Ramping-up internal staff requires hiring and getting everyone up to speed on how to administer the program. And once the program ends, the staff you worked so hard to find and train will leave. Bad enough that you lose good people you’ve invested in, but staff may be looking for a job during their time with you, looking for a better deal to move on to a permanent position. If this happens, you’re left to restart – and you lose ‘history’ before projects have been completed before they take-on their new job.
For governments that use consulting support, the hiring process can be much shorter. But there is still the getting ‘up-to-speed’ time required – and it can be extensive when junior consultants are being used. Although the cost of hiring such ongoing consulting support can be high, there are opportunities to negotiate a better rate with the consulting firm as they are acquiring broadband program administration skills and experience that can be redeployed in other jurisdictions.
A third way – the way we would advocate – involves a model where government delegates certain elements of administration to stakeholders that are local to a local broadband project. Local economic development agencies are prime candidates as they:
- Are aligned with the economic development goals of broadband projects – this could have the ancillary benefit of transforming how economic development agencies approach economic development from traditional ‘smoke stack chasing’ to economic development through broadband
- Have existing local knowledge and relationships that can be leveraged – especially where they can identify and broker new partnerships that are mutually beneficial, increasing the sustainability of the broadband project
- Can be more cost-effective in overseeing projects as they are local and as they already have some administrative capacity – more regular and spot visits are possible because they’re local, plus purchases that don’t align with the needs of the community / region are more likely to be identified right away
This type of model enables the government focus on strategic and key administrative issues, while leveraging an existing network of resources that is aligned with the sustainability of the broadband projects they would administer. And when the government programming sunsets, those local economic development agencies remain as a support system to broadband projects as needed.
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Over the last five years, job creation enabled by the Internet has doubled.