This month, we’re exploring why broadband is so important to rural communities. No one quite answers that question like Dr. Roberto Gallardo, an extension professor who specializes in Tech Outreach with Mississippi State Extension and who has visited the eastern Kentucky region several times as a part of the SOAR initiative. With his role at extension, Gallardo works with rural communities to ensure that they have a thoughtful approach to broadband access and implementation in their communities.
Gallardo’s take away point for these communities is that “the real threat to economic development is the digital divide,” and that rural communities have real opportunities to prosper despite their size or geographic locale when they’re able to secure access and implement adoption in their communities. Gallardo works to help rural communities become intelligent communities: proactive communities that that understand the challenges of the digital economy and have taken conscious steps to prosper in the digital age.
Some of the questions intelligent communities ask themselves include:
• Is the community encouraging broadband development and use?
• Does the community engage digitally with its citizens?
• Does the community incentivize areas like telework or telehealth?
• Do businesses in the community realize there are multiple online presence strategies?
Though broadband access in rural areas is much lower than in urban ones, rural areas ought to push for broadband access because, as Dr. Gallardo points out, broadband levels the playing field for rural communities. Collaboration, he says, is the core of innovation. Traditionally, because of this, innovation has taken place in dense population centers. But the digital age can open the doors for innovation and provide access a booming economy for rural communities. Learn more about Dr. Gallardo’s thoughts on the digital economy in rural areas by watching his TED talk: