Spirit of full disclosure – I think Roberto Gallardo is inspiring. He spoke at the Minnesota Broadband conference last fall. I love the idea of the digital era making way for a rural renaissance. So I wanted to share a piece of work he did recently (but recommend you check out the whole article), which was reprinted in the Daily Yonder and I wanted to invite folks to start using the hashtag #Rural2pt0 when you share something that feels like rural renaissance in action…
You see, the digital age and its applications has the potential to eliminate density and geographic proximity requirements, that were so critical during the industrial age.
It is possible then, in the digital age, for a rural community to maintain its “rural” feel and continue to leverage its natural amenities while taking advantage of what only dense urban areas enjoyed last century. Things like access to funding (crowdfunding), worldwide markets (e-commerce), savvy employees (teleworkers) and real-time information; collaboration and innovation (videoconferencing and soon mixed reality); certain level of healthcare (telehealth); and educational opportunities (massive open online courses, online certifications).
So, what is in our way to achieve #Rural2pt0?
For starters, ubiquitous ultra-fast internet connectivity. Just like electricity, internet connectivity needs to be everywhere. Data limits need to go. We have a long way to go before reaching parity regarding broadband infrastructure between urban and rural.
Another thing getting in the way to #Rural2pt0 are digital skills. The vast majority of digital savvy workers are located in urban areas. Investments to improve digital skills in rural are lacking, or very inadequate. This needs to change. A digital literate rural society is a must.
Lastly and the most serious challenge, is that the traditional 20th century mindset still exists in rural communities. A change in mindset, that better understands the implications of the digital age, is a key ingredient for #Rural2pt0. This change in mindset can take place through increasing awareness, be it through spreading the word, education, presentations and/or formal or informal conversations helping rural communities transition to, plan for and prosper in the digital age.