Cities are the future and the countryside is doomed, as far as population growth, jobs, culture and lifestyle are concerned. Right?
Certainly, that is the mainstream view expressed by two analysts from Brookings in an article titled “In 2017, Rural Places Won a Little more, But Will It Last?” Their conclusion? Not likely. “Many of the industries that added jobs in rural communities in 2017 – such as logging, mining, oil and gas, and construction – remain cyclical given economic and commodity trends…The types of physical and rote jobs prevalent in rural America remain disproportionately vulnerable to automation and globalization.”
What is interesting about their list is its complete dismissal of a digital economy in the countryside.
Yet as the digital age continues to unfold, conversations around the impacts it has and will have on the socioeconomic landscape intensify. On one hand, one camp argues that the digital age is as prone to clustering as the industrial age was. Digital will deepen and accelerate the competitive advantage that cities have always had in the economy. On the other hand, other pundits and researchers argue that the digital age will result in a “decentralization” and a more leveling playing field between urban and rural. Digital technologies are insensitive to location and distance and potentially offer workers a much greater range of opportunities than ever before.
The real question is whether such decline is inevitable or if the digital economy has characteristics that are already starting to write a different story. We have recently completed research that suggests it is.Read more
Dr. Roberto Gallardo (pictured right) of the Mississippi State University Extension Intelligent Community Institute has published a 50-state Digital Divide Index using data provided by the FCC.
The DDI is a county-level index score (from 0 to 100) measuring the digital divide. The higher the number, the larger the digital divide. The objective of the DDI is to serve as a descriptive and pragmatic tool for policymakers, community leaders, and residents. The DDI consists of two components: infrastructure/adoption and socioeconomic characteristics.Read more
In 2001 we established five ways that a community, whether large or small, could reconnect itself after the separation that occurred worldwide in the post-industrial economy. Among the five, the fourth was “Digital Democracy,” now known by us and communities as “Digital Equity.” It is simple to explain but hard to achieve (evidently). It means simply that, as in the great moral mandate of our species, we leave no one behind. In our case, we urged that all communities find ways to ensure that all of their population, rural or ex-urban or dense city blocks, be given access to the global economy. For it is in the “global economy” where opportunities, ideas and vast treasures and muck proliferate in ways that can rebuild our local places.Read more
People who live in big metropolises, like New York City, London or Hong Kong, often say that they can always find someone within a few miles who has a special skill they need to complete some project or build a business. I’ve pointed out that the close proximity of millions of people with so many different skills is part of what has made cities successful economic engines during the industrial era.Read more
I’ve written before about the ways that small towns and rural areas can take advantage of broadband Internet connections to gain access to global economic opportunities, educational and cultural resources, even the virtual equivalents of coffee shops that used to be only available in big cities.
Perhaps the biggest remaining barrier to a 21st century rural renaissance is access to world class health care.Read more
Today, the 50 most prosperous cities in America produce 34% more economic output per person than the national average. Their populations are growing at 3 times the national rate. That’s because they are magnets for ambitious and talented workers and the companies that need their services to power growth.Read more
Last year, the ICF Institute at the Mississippi State University Extension Service issued a competitive call for research papers focusing on the impact of broadband on small rural communities. Three papers were recently chosen for publication on the Institute’s Web site.Read more
Much of the discussion about economic growth and the availability of broadband assumes there is a vast gulf between rural and urban areas. I’ve written before about how, in some ways, trends in this century seem to be leading to something of a convergence of rural and urban areas.
So I thought it especially interesting that the NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association yesterday hosted a policy meeting in the US Capitol that was titled: “Beyond Rural Walls: Identifying Impacts and Interdependencies Among Rural and Urban Spaces”.Read more
The maker movement is one of the hottest trends in the public library world. Maker spaces in libraries have the latest in 3D printing technology, digital media tools and other tools for the creative person who wants to make things. These are full-fledged STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts and math) labs.Read more
The countryside is in trouble. You know it. I know it. The United Nations says so. The share of the world’s population living in the countryside is shrinking as megacities grow. Opportunities for education and employment are shrinking with it, forcing bright kids to leave town to pursue their ambitions. The tax base erode, schools consolidate, services falter and stores close.Read more