Rush County’s Digital Inclusion Plan 2020-2025 is the first of its kind in Indiana according to Dr. Roberto Gallardo, the assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, who has guided Rush County’s all- volunteer broadband task force for the past year.

The plan has four main goals with defined objectives that go well beyond their vision of affordable, adequate and reliable internet access for every home and business in Rush County. Not only does this plan address the issue of broadband infrastructure, but also charts a course to leverage this technology for community economic development.

Digital inclusion is every bit as important as internet connectivity. There is no point in connecting if you don’t have the device and/or know how to use it. Digital inclusion refers to the meaningful use of the technology to improve a community’s quality of life. This is critical given that more and more information is demanded online: job search and job applications, e-learning in education, banking, farming, medical information, social services and the list grows.

Plans are underway to connect high school students (the digital natives) with the older generation. Studies have shown that reversing teaching roles helps to foster bonds of understanding and helps senior citizens feel less forgotten. They more easily can stay connected to their families and friends. Students can earn community service credits that will go toward graduation requirements.

Computers and laptops are often replaced by businesses every three or four years. When donated, they will be reformatted and offered to those who have completed the free internet essentials classes.

Those receiving government assistance are offered less expensive internet subscriptions if they resided within certain service areas.

These are only a few of the strategies to help bridge the digital divide in Rush County, integrating technology in the fabric of the whole community.

With a total population of less than 17,000, this rural Ag community knows the important economic advantages of being broadband-ready, having received their certification from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation several months ago. They also know the expense and difficulty in getting the last mile of “to your front door” service and work with providers to ease the way wherever possible.

Rush County is finding ways to help its residents fully participate in the rapidly developing digital economy and society. This community wants to help span the digital divide and to improve the quality of life for everyone.

To view the complete five-year digital inclusion plan, follow the link www.rushcounty.in.gov/broadband. For more information, visit us on Facebook or contact task force co-chairs Mark McCorkle markdmccg@gmail.com and Carole Yeend broadbandconnect@rushcounty.in.gov

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