Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Using the Internet to Enhance Business Opportunities in Rural Areas

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Using the Internet to Enhance Business Opportunities in Rural Areas

Article excerpt


A workshop on the use of Internet technology and electronic commerce introduced rural textile and apparel businesses to the economic potential of the Internet. The curriculum was evaluated through a pre- and post-survey, and a six-month follow-up interview. Although participants varied in amount of Internet experience prior to the workshop, all reported an increase in their use of the Internet to shop competition, obtain technical support, and advertise their current business, and in their ability to develop and evaluate a home page. It was important for participants entering the program to have prior computer knowledge and skill in order to develop their businesses through the Internet.


In rural areas, there is an increasing need to diversify and optimize economic opportunities in order to maintain both economic and community vitality. Economic opportunities could be increased for small, rural business owners with Internet-specific knowledge and skills. If a program for use of the Internet is developed carefully, it can be a valuable resource for rural businesses. However, what constitutes successful use of Internet technology varies from product to product. Participants with product-specific interests can become a community of learners.

Electronic commerce is more than web commerce; it involves all types of communications technology, including the World Wide Web, e-mail, private bulletin board systems or value-added networks, intranets, and extranets. E-commerce is more than selling online; it is using online resources and tools to do business better (Access Minnesota Main Street Curriculum, 2000). E-commerce can work for a business because it involves the business cycle from production, procurement, distribution, sales, payment, fulfillment, restocking, and marketing. From sourcing for product development and manufacturing to marketing and distribution to the consumer (Electronic Commerce Conference Proceedings, 2000) the Internet can be a rich source of retail business and knowledge. Thus e-commerce is a general term to describe a rapidly expanding approach to business using the Internet (E-commerce, Wall Street Journal, 2000).

Rural areas are ideally positioned to take advantage of e-commerce solutions by first establishing adequate access and then tapping new markets and identifying new supply sources and efficient on-line relationships with trading partners (Wall Street Journal, 1999). By utilizing technology such as e-commerce, a more diverse selection of employment options in rural areas is created. Kate Searls, Research Director of ASI Associates, believes that with over half the jobs in Minnesota now located in rural areas, employers with Internet-enabled communication tools would significantly affect the states economic stability (Shea, 1999).

The purpose of this project was to evaluate an e-commerce curriculum for small rural business owners who specialize in textile and apparel products. A general e-commerce curriculum was modified by using specific textile and apparel products in all exercises and applications. A primary focus was active participation in learning within a community of similar interests. In such a situation, social participation results and enhances learning, according to Wenger (1998). In this instance, learning refers to the process of active participation, as well as constructing identities within these learning communities. Thus, participating in such learning is both an action and a form of belonging that shapes and helps interpret the learning (Wenger, 1998).


Two independent projects helped to link e-- commerce education with specific product knowledge. The first was the Midwest Textile & Apparel Industry Directory (1999), a compilation of apparel and textile-based manufacturers and businesses located in midwestern states that provided a specific list of potential participants for this project. …

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