The Intelligent Community Forum, a nonprofit organization that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community, has named two rural communities as Smart 21 Communities for 2014. And Appalachia can learn a lot about investing in and developing an economy around broadband Internet from those communities: Mitchell, S.D., and Walla, Walla, Wash. (Creative Commons photo)
“Though Mitchell and Walla Walla may have smaller populations, the communities have big ideas about the role of broadband connectivity in raising the standard of living. And they’ve invested in infrastructure to help residents use digital tools to create jobs, improve education and reverse population loss.”
Mitchell promotes “precision farming” with GPS, Internet and other digital tools, which all helps the community control farming costs and generate larger crop yields. Walla Walla invested in a new fiber optic connection network that “encouraged new business development,” Tim Marema writes for the Daily Yonder.
High-speed broadband Internet could be used in very useful ways in Appalachia to help revive the economy. Improving access to education and helping small, locally owned businesses connect to the global economy are two examples. And the region could follow the lead of other small, rural communities from across the country to achieve those goals.