August 15, 2016, Rotogram: 6

The Impact of Technology on Rural Communities

August 8— Today, we are living in a “digital age.” The explosive growth of technology has created a “digital divide” between those who have access to, know how to use, and can afford digital technology (mobile devices, computers, internet) and those who don’t.

Roberto Gallardo Estrella, is heading an effort by MSU Extension’s Center for Technology Outreach to help rural communities move into the digital world.

To help us get a clearer picture of the evolution of technology, Estrella said that if a 1971 VW Beetle had evolved as exponentially as computer chips, by 2015 it could reach a speed of 300,000 mph with a fuel efficiency of two million mpg and cost only four cents!

He said a 2016 FCC report ranked Mississippi last in the nation in availability of broadband technology with 34 percent of the state’s population not having access to high-speed internet. Starkville is fortunate to be one of the state’s communities to have residential fiber optics (C-spire and MAXX-South) providing high speed internet.

The goal of Extension’s Intelligent Community Institute is to generate knowledge and share information with Mississippi and the world on how communities can transform into and prosper from the digital age.

“I do awareness training to change attitudes in rural communities,” he said.  Often asked why they need faster internet service, he likens regular internet connection as ten mph compared to 1,000 mph with fiber. “That’s about like someone in the early 20th century questioning whether they need electricity when they have candles!”

In the past year-and-a-half, the ICI effort has included more than 90 workshops and 30 presentations reaching more than 2,500 residents. 3D printers have been placed in public libraries in four communities.

“We’re part of a national network and it’s in our DNA to instruct and spread the word,” he said. The program to educate and plan for transition into the digital age has three steps:

  1. Awareness–get the digital age knowledge out to rural communities.
  2. Have communities complete a 41-question check list.
  3. Connection (accessing the digital world).

The biggest challenge is to get rural communities access to broadband (fiber). Currently, six communities are in the final step of connectivity (Amory, Carthage, Eupora, Pelahatchie, Quitman, and Poplarville). Clinton has completed the checklist phase.

“It’s important to develop on-line presence early so we have educational programs for schools, 4-H Clubs, and Boys and Girls Clubs as well as other community organizations,” he said. “We’re already in the ‘selfie generation.’”

In the next 15 or 20 years, you probably won’t have to buy a smart phone in a store. Rather you can buy a blueprint on-line and print a new phone in your living room. If that becomes reality it will have significant impact on manufacturing.

The digital age has opened the door to innovation, using new knowledge to create new products, services, or processing. Social networks provide new avenues for communication.  More people will work from home and this will lead to decentralization of the work force. Small companies and creative people in rural Mississippi can compete in the global economy. Almost everything is being digitized. Change is not easy but change is coming and coming fast.

The goal of Extension’s Center for Technology Outreach and the ICI is to level the playing field for rural communities in Mississippi and the world.

Editor’s note—Special thanks to Keith and Ruth Remy for managing the Rotogram for the past two weeks. And, a special shout out goes to Jeff Donald for handling AV.

Mississippi Agriculture

Cindy Hyde-Smith, in her second term as the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, will discuss Mississippi’s $7.4 billion agriculture industry. Bob Daniels will introduce her.

Next Week: Mississippi Undercover Agent

Charlie Spillers, a retired law officer and assistant U.S. attorney, is the author of Confessions of an Undercover Agent: Adventures, Close Calls, and the Toll of a Double Life.

For the Record—August 8

Invocation and Pledge:              Allen Tucker

Attendance:                                          66.4%

Present — 101 (42 exempt)

Absent — 81 (18 exempt, 12 honorary)

Guests: Member guests were Jason Barrett of Dennis Bock, Mark Ballard of O. A. Cleveland, Anna Katherine McGill of Scott Dodd, Dianne Jackson of Gary Jackson, and L. H. and Jack Wilson of Tommy Tomlinson. Guests of the club were Elisa Malzanni, RYE student, and Alex Onken, Starkville Daily News.

Meeting Notes

  • Larry Mullins presented the point plan for supporting the Rotary Foundation’s 100th anniversary through use of the club’s point accumulation. The points credited to each member are available to him/her at this week’s meeting.
  • Volunteers are needed for Get Swept Up! on Aug. 31. Contact Carrie-Beth Randall to sign up.
  • The Columbus Rotary Club has asked our club to help promote its second annual Shots Felt Round the World competition. The event is Aug. 27 at Prairie Wildlife Sporting Estate in West Point.
  • Our new youth exchange student, Elisa, was welcomed to her first lunch meeting.

Between the LionsLiteracy Service

Another school year brings the opportunity to enhance youth literacy. Christina Lucas is recruiting volunteers to read at three local pre-schools.

The state’s Rotarians are partnered with Mississippi Public Broadcasting to implement Between the Lions, a PBS Kids puppet television series.

“In September 2005, MPB, in partnership with the Barksdale Reading Institute, the Early Childhood Institute-MSU and WGBH Boston, began Mississippi’s Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative. The program helps children develop strong foundations in basic reading skills by providing a hands-on curriculum, learning materials, professional development, and mentors who model activities using Between the Lions episodes.”

On the Rotary Calendar

  • August is Membership and New Club Development Month.
  • Save the date for Fall Social on October 3.

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