The Internet Innovation Association, a broadband advocacy group, citing research by National Public Radio and Harvard University, found that when it comes to training that will get rural residents further ahead economically, rural residents place a higher priority on computer and technical skills. Twenty-five percent of respondents cited computer and technical skills followed closely behind by 24% saying that a first or more advanced degree would best help a rural resident keep or find a better job in her community.
Coming in at 17% were writing and research skills, presentation and public speaking, and skills for starting a business.
This data seems in line with the observation that the United States is moving further into an information economy. These skills are increasingly necessary for workers seeking to make a living in an economy where extraction, production, and storage of knowledge is a process taking place more and more online. To be a competing port of call in the information trade, rural residents will have to garner these skills on varying levels.
What should state and local law and policy makers be doing? They should first continue to encourage deployment of infrastructure necessary for carrying additional “load”, to use an electric grid term. With more rural residents learning computer skills, the United States will need the digital capacity that can accommodate more digital workers. A continuously minimum regulatory infrastructure is key. State and local governments should bear in mind that broadband infrastructure requires significant amounts of investment.
USTelecom reports that $1.6 billion has been invested in broadband since 1996, the year that the Communications Act was amended to reflect a public policy that encourages advanced communications. This investment has paid off not only in terms of more advanced communications infrastructure, but with the addition of edge providers such as Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon.
Law and policy makers who are sincerely mindful of the need for an economy that can accommodate demand for digital workers should always remember that investment and a light touch regulatory scheme works.