El Paso, Texas (January 24, 2024) - Smaller towns possess a distinctive allure that’s attractive to many people, whether that’s because they’re captivated by the picturesque landscapes, they want to escape the bustling urban environment, or they long for the deep connections that result when multiple generations grow up alongside each other in rural enclaves.
Over the years, an increasing number of younger individuals have migrated to larger cities in pursuit of more expansive opportunities that are not available in rural settings, which has resulted in a significant population decrease in these communities. The consequent scarcity of available workers poses significant economic challenges, contributing to the decline of these smaller towns.
Historically, rural communities have endured as agricultural hubs or relied on tourism and alternative industries. Today however, urban areas pose a formidable threat. That’s largely due to the availability of technology.
Many rural areas experience a prevailing technological disparity in comparison to larger cities. Fortunately, some recent initiatives supported by state and national funding have helped increase their access to broadband, presenting a transformative avenue for these smaller communities.
Broadband and related technology can serve as pivotal assets in these communities. Technological advancements offer substantial advantages to rural areas, enhancing tourism, telehealth services and education, and attracting diverse businesses that can invigorate local economies.
Bringing rural communities into the global economy
Broadband access plays a central role in advancing education, particularly in areas where conventional resources are limited. Online learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and e-learning opportunities have broadened educational horizons, while skills development programs and training initiatives have become more accessible through collaborations with universities, corporations, and nonprofit organizations like Connected Nation.
Broadband expansion also addresses the health care gap in rural communities. Telehealth services provide rural residents with access to highly skilled medical professionals, thereby mitigating the challenges associated with limited health care resources.
In the economic sphere, technology serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurial endeavors, fostering the growth of small businesses, artists, and farmers. E-commerce platforms offer these entities the opportunity to expand their reach beyond local confines, increasing revenue and product visibility.
Furthermore, the proliferation of remote work, facilitated by improved broadband access, empowers residents in rural communities to partake in the global economy without having to move away.
Agriculture, a longstanding pillar of rural economies, is transforming through technological innovations such as precision agriculture. Sensor drones and GPS systems enable farmers to optimize resource allocation, monitor crop health in real time, and enhance overall productivity. Additionally, farmers benefit from instantaneous access to weather data, market trends, and best practices in agriculture.
As you can see, technology brings many positive changes to smaller rural communities, fostering connectivity, economic development, health care accessibility, and educational opportunities. The imperative for these communities to adapt to technology and secure ongoing support from state and national funding sources underscores the pivotal role that innovation plays in ensuring a future where progress extends beyond urban centers, inclusively touching every corner of our diverse world.
About the Author: Alek Argueta is a Connected Nation Digital Inclusion Trainer. Alek is responsible for teaching, developing, enhancing, and sustaining the digital skills of individuals who require them to make good use of high-speed internet to prepare for jobs that demand higher skill sets. Alek provides effective coaching, mentoring, and training through virtual and in-person sessions in both English and Spanish. Alek assists in coordinating, planning, creating custom training materials, and promotes awareness for Connected Nation's digital inclusion activities.