December 26, 2012 By Wayne Hanson
All good things must end, the saying goes, and eVermont, a stimulus-funded program of the Vermont Council on Rural Development -- designed to increase broadband adoption in rural Vermont -- recently completed its two-year run.
Studies indicate that about one in five Americans does not use the Internet, and many of those see no need for it. But the Internet has become an essential medium for communication and progress. Thus, physical "last mile" Internet connectivity goes hand-in-hand with demand, and demand is based on demonstrated value to individuals and organizations. eVermont addressed this need, bringing together seven different organizations to work within 24 rural Vermont communities, helping with small business, schools, libraries, digital literacy and municipal websites.
Among eVermont's accomplishments: 1,300 students received one-to-one computing through Digital Wish; 8,500 subscribers to Front Porch Forum built neighborhood conversations and connections; 15 municipalities created a Web presence with the Snelling Center for Government; 150 businesses received expert advice on everything from websites to social media and e-commerce; and Community College of Vermont students helped community library patrons gain essential Internet skills.
Although eVermont's time has expired, the program may yet have an afterlife. "We put a lot of work into creating tools that anyone can use," said e-Vermont Project Director Helen Labun Jordan, "even after eVermont is gone … We've taken the lessons learned in working with individual communities around the state and turned them into references for any rural town interested in improving how they use online resources. The result is a final report as well as multiple online toolkits.
"We've accomplished a lot," said Labun Jordan "and the partner organizations that made up the e-Vermont collaborative are poised to do even better work going forward." The program's appeal has spread to two other states, and one year from now, all Vermont households and businesses will have access to broadband service, according to the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.