Our Project Team recently attended the 2011 Rural TeleCon Conference in Raleigh, NC where we were able to hear from other broadband advocates to learn about innovative ideas to expand broadband resources and technology training being implemented across the Nation.
Several states and localities have developed programs to help individuals and small businesses gain access to better broadband, equipment and digital literacy training, particularly in rural areas. For example, the Rockingham County Business and Technology Center in North Carolina, is one of seven centers established in distressed counties (with unemployment rates up to 17%) which provide entrepreneurs, small businesses, local governments, and community organizations with technology resources and services. The centers provide free Internet access, as well access to printers, faxes, conference rooms and temporary office space. They also offer workshops on e-business strategies and creating business plans to help small, rural businesses expand.
The Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension offers several courses on e-commerce targeted specifically for rural small businesses. Classes on building business websites, setting up payment options such as PayPal, managing online storefronts such as eBay and Etsy, search engine optimization, and social networking are offered through OSU Extension Offices throughout the state.
Broadband Rhode Island recently launched its digital literacy program, which is a standardized curriculum that will be taught to trainers, such as librarians and other staff, to teach basic digital literacy in public libraries and community development organizations. Since libraries are a prime location for people who might otherwise lack home Internet access, they will be an important resource for teaching basic digital literacy, particularly in rural areas.
Utah has also made great strides in connecting rural areas. Most of Utah’s remote and rural communities are largely served with at least some broadband services due largely to the public/private partnerships formed and maintained between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), the Utah Education Network (UEN) and our broadband providers. Members of the Utah Broadband Advisory Council highlighted these efforts in their recent presentation to the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee on October 19. Audio of the presentation can be found here.