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Digital Dakota Network: An Alternative Solution

In recent news, the shortage of teachers throughout the State of South Dakota has really been on the radar. Jim Holbeck, a Harrisburg School District Superintendent explains, “People might tell you that it’s not real. It’s real. There’s a teacher shortage in South Dakota and it’s serious.”


In the midst of such a crisis, one BIT service may be able to offer an alternative solution. Who should you ask? The Digital Dakota Network (DDN) staff.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Digital Dakota Network is a statewide interactive video communications system that uses compressed digital technology to provide a “meeting pipeline” across the State of South Dakota and the global community. DDN services a wide variety of cliental, ranging from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government all the way to K-12 schools throughout the State of South Dakota.


So…How does this relate to the crisis?


One of the features that DDN offers is the ability for students to receive virtual interactive courses that they otherwise wouldn’t have access. With visual and audio components at both the student’s location and the teacher’s location, students are able to interact with their virtual teacher in just the same way as they would in any typical classroom setting.

New this year, Digital Dakota Network has teamed up with the Great Plains Zoo. One of the classes offered allows kids the opportunity to be introduced to a zookeeper and indulge in an animal chat with animals from the zoo! Not one for animals? Another program lets students partake in virtual tours of the historical Badlands, exploring the layers of sedimentary rock and the fossils they may discover buried within them!


[Take a brief pause to pout about the fact that they didn’t have classes like this when we were in school!]


Now for the kicker? The equipment and network is provided by DDN and it’s free! To the 200+ K12 schools who are already a part of the Digital Dakota Network, this is a resource they can utilize at no cost to them! The only part of the equation that the schools need to take care of is selecting and covering the cost of classes. Rather than not being able to offer a class due to lack of staffing,   K12 schools within the network are able to purchase the courses online and then utilize the equipment and network for free! 

Jay Etzkorn, a Technology Engineer Manager for DDN, explained, “Now more than ever is the time for schools to really take advantage of this great resource they already have. A wide variety of courses are offered and we are committed to delivering high quality programing via distance learning to meet needs throughout the state. My hope is that in the midst of this shortage,  schools would be able to look at us as an alternative solution.”


Citations: 

Apple Watch

There have been a lot of headlines and discussions centering around Apple’s upcoming watch.  Of course Apple isn’t the first company to enter the emerging smartwatch market.  Samsung, Motorola and Asus have released smartwatches in the past year while Apple’s version, called the Apple Watch, went on sale April 15th.

Besides the standards you would expect from any smartwatch—a choice of watch faces, keeping time within 50 milliseconds—Apple promises other features to make their watch useful.  For example when communicating with friends or family, you’ll be able to send direct messages, send taps which they’ll feel, drawings you make, or even send your heartbeat.  In fact, like other recent smart fitness-tracking devices, Apple tells us that their watch will be able to track your daily routines and suggest life-style changes based on what it learns over time.

Of course beyond fun and fitness, Apple is planning multiple decorative and personalization options to suit each owner’s style.  Business partners will assuredly line up to make custom accessories as well. Other features that are expected include: Bluetooth technology, retina (or high definition) display, wi-fi connectivity, motion detection via a gyroscope, and a microphone to make or receive calls.  Additionally, the display will feature what Apple is calling a ‘Force Touch’ screen which is currently not available elsewhere in the smart device market—something new and interesting the market is eager to test out.  Lastly, the watch will be water resistant, assuring that no one sees their new investment ruined by the next rainstorm.

In staying with their historical use of third party vendors to develop custom applications to take their devices beyond their base functions and options, no doubt the new Apple Watch will see its most impactful and exciting uses emerge as the development community figures out what its mix of sensors and functions can do to make our lives easier and more fun.  It’s likely that only after these third-party applications are created, purchased, and fully vetted by an intrigued public will we truly know if the iWatch is something which will live past its initial release.

According to some, wearable technology is just a passing fad; they point to how “Google Glass—computerized eye wear” came and went as proof that wearable tech’s time has not yet come.  However, in the near term it appears there’s more than enough interest in the Apple Watch’s features for a lot of people to make the initial investment.  We are watching to see if, as the iPod broke the mold for music players and captured the hearts—and ears—of millions, and the iPad broke open the tablet market to usher in a new era in portability and functionality, whether Apple’s new gem will prove that the smartwatch’s time has finally come.  If so, perhaps another Apple product will be the one to set the bar for an industry—Apple has done it before and millions are watching to see if they can do it again.  So, here’s to you, Dick Tracey, consumer reality may be finally catching up to the amazing abilities of your comic book wrist watch.

*A special thanks goes out to Tony Rae for providing the BIT blog with this article!*

BIT’s Strategic Plan Overview

The Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) strives to partner and collaborate with clients in support of their missions through innovative information technology consulting, systems and solutions.  BIT is made up of the following divisions: Administration, Data Center, Development, Telecommunications and South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB). Each division is committed to providing quality customer services to ensure the state’s I/T organization is responsive, reliable and well-aligned to support the business needs of the State of South Dakota.

BIT is working toward three common goals focused on intended outcomes/results. BIT’s Strategic Plan shapes and guides what BIT is, who we serve, what we do and why we do it, with a focus on the future.  Visit http://bit.sd.gov/about/BIT-Strategic-Plan for a complete look at BIT’s strategic plan including the goals, strategies, tactics and projects that make it up.

The following are BIT’s Strategic Plan goals:

  1. Provide a Reliable, Secure and Modern Infrastructure.Provide a well-designed and architected, secure computing and communications environment to ensure optimal service delivery to our business partners. Architecture and process will be optimized to support agile and reliable computing and communication services.

    Technology assets must be high-performing and dependable to ensure services are available whenever needed. Centralization, standardization, and collaboration are vital to efficiently leverage investments. To maintain public trust, we must secure data and technology assets through leading security tools, policies, and practices.

  2. Deliver Valuable Services at Economical Costs.Develop innovative and cost-effective solutions through collaboration, cooperation, and in partnership with our clients. The solution sets include developing customized business solutions, efficient project management services and productive relationships with clients.

    “People should be online, not waiting in line.”

  3. Build and Retain a Highly Skilled Workforce. Improve the effectiveness, productivity and satisfaction of employees in order to attract (and retain) a highly qualified workforce to foster individual innovation and professional growth. Appropriate training and tools will be provided to enhance and improve career skills in the workforce.

BIT’s Strategic Plan Overview

The Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) strives to partner and collaborate with clients in support of their missions through innovative information technology consulting, systems and solutions.  BIT is made up of the following divisions: Administration, Data Center, Development, Telecommunications and South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB). Each division is committed to providing quality customer services to ensure the state’s I/T organization is responsive, reliable and well-aligned to support the business needs of the State of South Dakota.

BIT is working toward three common goals focused on intended outcomes/results. BIT’s Strategic Plan shapes and guides what BIT is, who we serve, what we do and why we do it, with a focus on the future.  Visit http://bit.sd.gov/about/BIT-Strategic-Plan for a complete look at BIT’s strategic plan including the goals, strategies, tactics and projects that make it up.

The following are BIT’s Strategic Plan goals:

  1. Provide a Reliable, Secure and Modern Infrastructure.Provide a well-designed and architected, secure computing and communications environment to ensure optimal service delivery to our business partners. Architecture and process will be optimized to support agile and reliable computing and communication services.

    Technology assets must be high-performing and dependable to ensure services are available whenever needed. Centralization, standardization, and collaboration are vital to efficiently leverage investments. To maintain public trust, we must secure data and technology assets through leading security tools, policies, and practices.

  2. Deliver Valuable Services at Economical Costs.Develop innovative and cost-effective solutions through collaboration, cooperation, and in partnership with our clients. The solution sets include developing customized business solutions, efficient project management services and productive relationships with clients.

    “People should be online, not waiting in line.”

  3. Build and Retain a Highly Skilled Workforce. Improve the effectiveness, productivity and satisfaction of employees in order to attract (and retain) a highly qualified workforce to foster individual innovation and professional growth. Appropriate training and tools will be provided to enhance and improve career skills in the workforce.

BIT and DENR Work Together to Upgrade FoxPro Applications

BIT is working closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) staff on a project to rewrite 37 existing FoxPro systems to .net applications with GIS components utilized in all applications. Microsoft is no longer supporting FoxPro which is why BIT is taking the systems off that platform, adding enhanced system functionality, and building desired GIS functionality into each system.  The added GIS functionality is allowing for direct online user access of information being displayed in a user friendly format.  Providing this information online is saving DENR staff time and money of retrieving it manually for taxpayers when requested.

BIT Development, Network, Data Center and DENR staff have worked to be the first state in the nation to flow data through EPA’s Virtual Node. This allows data to be shared from the EPA through a secure channel in order for it to be shared on one of DENR’s websites with the public. The same group has been working to land a 2015 grant from the Western States Water Council.  If awarded this grant, this project will allow data to be exchanged between several states to provide better access to water allocation, supply and demand through a shared site.
(For more information visit:  http://www.westernstateswater.org/wade/about-wade/)

BIT has been fortunate to be able to work closely with knowledgeable DENR staff to upgrade their systems from FoxPro to SQL and .NET. Having the ability to better serve DENR and the public’s needs by making improvements and enhancements is the icing on the cake for BIT.

For more information, the below article was recently released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

PIERRE, S.D. – Today at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Environmental and Ground Water Quality Conference, DENR demonstrated four new interactive database GIS maps to a crowd of more than 100 people.

Located at http://arcgis.sd.gov/server/denr/gallery/default.html, searchable maps have been added to DENR’s GIS Interactive Map Dashboard. The maps provide data for more than 13,250 spill sites, about 5,000 closed and active regulated storage tanks, more than 150 locations to take recyclable materials and 97,620 filings for water right dry draw location notices.

These four interactive maps are in addition to the department’s interactive oil and gas map and construction aggregate map that have been available online. The oil and gas map opens 1,900 files for oil and gas holes and geologic logs from 96,595 other holes with a simple mouse click. The construction aggregate map shows the location of 4,651 active and closed construction aggregate mines across the state.

“As part of DENR’s continuing efforts to implement Gov. Daugaard’s priority of making state government more open by expanding e-government, these interactive maps provide information from four more huge databases that can be searched online by the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said DENR Secretary Steve Pirner.

(State News posting)