Having All the Right Connections: Telecommunications and Rural Viability

Having All the Right Connections: Telecommunications and Rural Viability

Having All the Right Connections: Telecommunications and Rural Viability

Having All the Right Connections: Telecommunications and Rural Viability

Synopsis

Essays, based on five years of survey research in Iowa and case study examples from across the United States, examine the implications of telecommunications technologies for rural community development. Supported by data from five years of survey and case study research, telecommunications adoption and use is explored in nine sectors of the rural community to determine the influence these organizations and institutions have on telecommunications development within the broader rural community. These sectors include local government, economic development, business, newspapers, library services, health care, university extension to communities, and farming. Also considered are the factors that promote and retard telecommunications development, particularly the impact of telecommunications policy, the availability of state-of-the-art infrastructure and service, and the involvement of telephone companies in local community development. Using a community development framework, this work discusses the physical, financial, human and social capitals necessary for holistic community development and the significance of critical mass, the roles of internal and external networks, as well as vertical and horizontal linkages, and the importance of visionary leadership and the championing of telecommunications.

Excerpt

Peter F. Korsching,Patricia C. Hipple, and Eric A. Abbott

The development and introduction of new communications technologies, including enhanced telephone services, video-conferencing, teletext services, computers with modems, and local access Internet services, have raised important questions about their probable impacts on rural areas. Are they an answer to the problems of remoteness and isolation of rural communities? Or do they represent yet another way by which a well-connected urban network is poised to gain further advantage? Will telecommunications innovations become the boon or bane of rural communities? Which rural communities will benefit from development of telecommunications and which will experience the unexpected and detrimental consequences of these technologies? Are telecommunications technologies essential? Does their lack portend the further demise of rural communities?

A quarter of a century ago Daniel Bell (1973) predicted the coming of a post-industrial society in which a service economy, driven by information and communications technologies, would displace the manufacturing industrial sector as the primary source of employment. This shift, made possible by the convergence of communications technologies and computer technologies through digitization, is now well advanced. The seemingly limitless potentials of these technologies are generating futuristic visions focused upon concepts such as information society, information superhighway, virtual networks and communities, and cybersociety. From a practical standpoint, telecommunications technologies provide easy, inexpensive and efficient access to information, and therefore are critical to the American economy. Much as the development of railroad infrastructure in the 19th century and the air transportation and the interstate highway systems in the mid 20th century facilitated economic and social development, the telecommunica-

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