(MONTPELIER, VT) – The Vermont Council on Rural Development is sharing toolkits and lessons learned from the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project. These resources will help rural communities in Vermont and throughout the United States make better use of online tools for community and economic development.
One year from now, all Vermont households and businesses will have access to broadband service. Even today the majority of our state has the infrastructure in place to provide a connection to high speed Internet. This access provides rural Vermonters with unprecedented opportunities for everything from business growth to continued education to civic engagement and community communications -- but only if we know how to make best use of it. e-Vermont’s models for how communities can take advantage of these new opportunities online are now found at www.e4vt.org.
Over the last two years, the e-Vermont project has brought 7 partner organizations to 24 communities across the state to help build the skills needed for a digital age. Initiatives have ranged from connecting 1,294 Vermont students with one-to-one computing through Digital Wish to building online neighborhood conversations for over 8,500 subscribers in Front Porch Forum to creating a web presence for 15 municipalities with the Snelling Center for Government.
"I've had the opportunity to work one-on-one advising more than 150 business owners in the last two years - they're tackling everything from basic establishment of an online presence in the way of websites, Google Places pages, e-mail marketing and Social Media to in-depth e-commerce strategies and mobile media development. In every corner of Vermont there are businesses ready to have a strategy for online tools, they just need some assistance getting started," says Pat Ripley from the Vermont Small Business Development Center, "I'm able to help them tie online tools into their fundamental business goals."
Eric Sakai, Dean of Academic Technology at the Community College of Vermont reflects on the Internet Interns program, a successful partnership launched with the Vermont Department of Libraries as part of e-Vermont. “. . . we have seen the enormous mutual benefit of placing trained CCV students in town libraries in their communities, helping patrons of all ages and backgrounds with essential Internet tasks.”
Interns built assistance around what sparks individuals’ interest in learning computer skills, things like finding recipes popular or opening e-mail accounts to talk with family. There’s a lot of holiday time activity such as making plans with relatives or learning to use a new technology present. Many people just don't want to feel left behind.
“We have a really diverse collection of resources that we’ve created through following local leadership on key priorities,” says e-Vermont Project Director Helen Labun Jordan, “Everything from opening up public Internet access in downtowns to digitizing local historic materials. Between our website [www.e4vt.org] and our new report we’ve covered a lot of territory in bridging the skills-based digital divide.”
Specific topics include how to create public Internet access, teach basic Internet skills, start using online tools for business, integrate technology into the classroom, encourage civic engagement, begin community-wide online conversations, design beginner-friendly websites, and build digital archives of local history.
Find the e-Vermont report here: http://vtrural.org/programs/e-vermont/reports/final-report
The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to helping Vermonters and Vermont communities develop their capacity to create a prosperous and sustainable future through coordination, collaboration, and the effective use of public and private resources.