UConn-AAUP Update – August 10, 2020

In this issue:

  • Addressing the Digital Data Delta/Divide in Connecticut

On July 30, the Lamont administration (CT Mirror) announced a digital portal to streamline business incorporation within the State, with impressive results already seen. This is surprisingly good economic news, in the midst of a pandemic. This comes on the heels of a Hartford Courant report that Governor Lamont has invested $43.5 million in an effort to boost internet connectivity and to provide technology for the most in-need students and families and low-performing educational districts. He has called this “the Brown vs. Board of Education of our generation” to address the disparity between those who have a device and access to the internet and those who do not.  But this is just the first step in what needs to be a long-term plan to create a data-driven, digitally dependent modern economy throughout the state.

The pandemic is taking a financial toll on Connecticut.  If we merely reopen our economy, we are reopening to where we were in 2005. States that recovered quickly after the 2008 recession were highly digitally dependent; however, Connecticut was not among them. The state government projects revenue declining by $8.5 billion through FY 2024; the total fiscal gap is probably $11-14 billion, or $2.7 to $3.5 billion annually. This fiscal crisis cannot be addressed merely through taxation.   If economic development is not enhanced, the gap will likely be even worse.

You can help: The CT legislature is expected to hold another Special Session in September. Call your state Representative and your state Senator and insist they focus serious, sustained attention on Connecticut’s economic development in order to quickly and powerfully strengthen our economy to be data-driven and digitally dependent.

The Proposal: The state has a dense network, with limited access that has to be made more accessible.  Governor Lamont’s $43.5M begins to address this issue in education; however, Connecticut has the intellectual capital for innovative data analysis across health, and industry, in addition to education.  Current resources are not optimized for synergy, but they could be. Some suggestions:

1)    Expand current network infrastructure across the state to a dense 100-gig presence.

2)    Solve the `last mile’ connectivity problem at an attractive cost to small businesses.

3)    Use that enhanced network foundation as the springboard to wireless 5G.

4)    Create a non-profit entity to coordinate a rich university-research environment of consisting of the numerous public and private institutions of higher education throughout the state with JAX-CT, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), UTC, EB, etc.

5)    Create a non-profit entity to coordinate the delivery of university-level remote/online courses that could prepare high school students in low income areas for college level courses and reduce tuition/housing costs for those attending colleges and universities.

Some addition options include data intensive opportunities in electronic health records (UCHC-Yale-Hartford Hospital-Mt. Sinai++), bio-science (JAX-CT), gaming (ESPN-Disney), advanced manufacturing (UTC, EB), and education (tech transfer to primary and secondary education).

Modest incentive investments by the government could make an important difference:

·      Provide $5M to connect small businesses to high speed internet

·      Reduce traffic congestion, pollution and maintenance by ‘moving many bits, not one body’

·      Complement ‘concrete’ with ‘connectivity’ – a ‘win-win.’

·      Reinvigorate our state and cities with young digitally-savvy professionals by promoting CT housing & lifestyle to those living in Boston and New York.

Please contact your legislator and make your voice be heard.

Thank you.

Mary Ellen Junda, President

Jeffrey Ogbar, Executive Vice President

Michael Bailey, Executive Director