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MSU team to offer broadband education
JACKSON – The third phase of a project intended to increase digital literacy and Internet usage among Mississippians is now underway.
Mississippi State University Extension Service’s Broadband Education and Adoption Team, e-BEAT, began surveying Mississippi citizens in 2011 about their Internet usage. The team mapped the availability of broadband, also called high-speed Internet, throughout the state to get a better idea of how the Internet is used. The team worked with community leaders, businesses, educators and elected officials to decide the best ways to implement education and adoption strategies throughout the state.
The team will now focus on planning and providing educational programming on using broadband internet to address the unique opportunities and challenges of households, businesses and municipalities in different regions of the state.
“Our mission is to increase the use of the Internet for promoting civic involvement, expanding educational opportunities to Mississippi residents and building new economic development strategies for local businesses,” said Dan Brook, MSU e-BEAT team member.
The e-BEAT team and the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition are partners brought together by the Mississippi Broadband Task Force created in 2009 by Gov. Haley Barbour to study high-speed Internet usage and availability in Mississippi and to find solutions to Mississippi’s barriers to high-speed Internet usage.
According to the MBCC summary, improving broadband availability and adoption is key to improving Mississippians’ lives.
“From the delivery of online courses for students, to workforce skills training for adults, to the provision of clinical and preventative healthcare to citizens who may be home-bound, to greater civic engagement for all citizens, broadband is a powerful communication tool that has the potential to profoundly improve the quality of life of people in Mississippi,” according to the coalition’s report.
After surveying more than 2,400 households, e-BEAT found that almost 80 percent of Mississippi households already use the Internet at home or in some other setting, such as work, school or public libraries. However, increasing usage for seeking and applying for jobs online, taking part in web-based education programs, sharing business opportunities through e-commerce, and sharing opinions about local issues with local government leaders are all areas in which Mississippi needs improvement.
Having and using technology is essential to participate in the national and global economies.
“The velocity of change in information and education in America is increasing almost daily,” Barbour said at a recent event held to share the coalition’s findings. “Mississippi has some catching up to do. We have the ability to make services, healthcare and education available regardless of geography. Innovation and technology drives productivity in Mississippi’s economy. Ultimately, broadband Internet saves the consumer and keeps Mississippi competitive. What this group of people is doing gives Mississippi a way to close the gap and make up some ground. Let’s keep our foot on the accelerator.”
All currently planned phases are expected to be completed in three and a half years. The MBCC and e-BEAT will continue to meet and are planning another public meeting for this summer.
Interested citizens can view the complete MBCC report and access blogs, social networks and other applications to offer feedback by going to the Broadband for Mississippi website at http://www.broadband.ms.gov.