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Study: More Federal Workers Seek Teleworking Opportunities

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010 – More federal workers wish to telework and the government should study private sector efforts to make that happen, according to a new study.

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WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010 – More federal workers wish to telework and the government should study private sector efforts to make that happen, according to a new study.

A new report out from media firm FedScoop titled “Telework 2010: Telework in the Federal Government” addresses recommendations laid out in the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan that addresses incentivizing off-site working opportunities within the federal government.

FedScoop’s study asks the question of whether the government is prepared to implement such a policy, and then “assesses current attitudes and practices of telework in the federal sector, and ways technology can improve operations.”

The study’s sample is skewed toward public sector employee respondents, with 62 percent of respondents coming from the federal government, as opposed to 38 percent, who come from private industry. Of these combined groups, 47 percent are in management positions. The study is geared as a guide to management, and this slight skewing in favor of non-managing personnel seems to reflect that intent.

According to the study, 93 percent of federal sector employees report that the ability to telework would make working for an organization “more desirable.” This contrasts with the current state of federal telework – 23 percent of respondents report teleworking “regularly or exclusively,” as opposed to 64 percent of private sector respondents.

The lack of teleworking alternatives does not spring from lack of confidence with technology among the federal sector. Ninety-one percent of respondents working in the private sector felt qualified to engage in telework, while 95 percent of respondents working in the federal sector felt the same way. This confidence gap is inversely proportional with current availability.

One element of this, the study suggests, may lie in a difference in federal priorities versus private sector priorities. When asked about the importance of cost saving, hiring disabled persons, having a positive environmental impact and preserving a flexible work environment, federal government workers rated their organizations between 12 and 32 percent less likely to care about these goals than private sector employees.

The study notes that 93 percent of all managers surveyed are satisfied with the quality of work done remotely, while the same percentage also said that they trust their team members to telework remotely. The only question where any gap appears is in managers’ confidence in their own ability to manage teleworking employees. Eighty-one percent of managerial staff felt that their management ability was unaffected by telework.

The study also suggests that telework may become immediately valuable as a practical matter in crisis situations. One section of the study contrasts the response of the private sector to the response of the federal sector with respect to the snowstorms that occurred last winter. Of those surveyed, 92 percent of federal employees reported that their offices were forced to close by the storm, whereas 37 percent of private sector employees reported the same thing.

Having demonstrated the differences between public sector telework and private sector telework, the study makes three recommendations. Firstly, the federal sector should “empower management through telework training programs.” Secondly, the federal sector should “put performance standards and procedures in place so that managers can track results” and lastly it should “encourage managers to work with their agency’s designated telework coordinator.”

The study also suggests that the federal government distribute laptops to its employees, train them in data backup/password usage and equip all work-related technology with industry standard Virtual Private Network software to allow remote work.

Broadband's Impact

Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say

‘Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections.’

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Photo of Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore's Office of Broadband and Digital Equity

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 – Local leaders from Baltimore said at a Benton Institute event that there needs to be an alignment with the community and leadership when it comes to closing the digital divide.

“Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections,” said Amalia Deloney from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which invests in projects to improve the quality of life in the city. The foundation estimates that 74,116 households don’t have internet access.

The event’s speakers pointed to digital redlining, in which segments of racial minority and lower income Americans are disconnected from services or can be considered living in low priority areas.

Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, said the city is a “pioneer in redlining,” and “a century later, we still see the effect on the digital divide.”

To address this, Deloney said the foundation’s approach to the digital divide in Baltimore by starting at the social level through its Digital Equity Leadership Lab. This is a program for Baltimore residents to “increase their understanding of the internet and strengthen their ability to advocate for fast, affordable and reliable broadband.”

The program aims to train and build leadership within the community to advocate for closing the digital divide. It points to a strategy of bringing “advocates together with community leaders,” as “digital equity is social, not a technological problem,” said Colin Rhinesmith, founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center.

Michelle Morton from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Association also said local leaders need to work with community members to have a bottom-up approach. “You have to work with the people doing the work on the ground.

“Their voices matter,” said Morton.

Mayor Brandon Scott has allocated $35 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide across Baltimore “by the end of this decade.”

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Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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