Winner of the most deceptive headline of the week award is Cherry Creek News for this gem:
SCHWARTZ BRINGS BROADBAND TO RURAL COLORADO
The actual story? A bill passed one step of the legislative process. Several big steps to go. So that is hardly bringing it, right? And what does the bill actually propose? Mapping. It directs a state official to map the regions underserved by broadband. I must say that I’m underwhelmed, compared to the definite headline.
I haven’t ranted on broadband nearly enough lately. Here’s what better rural broadband could mean:
- Local business competing globally
- Entrepreneurs innovating new technologies
- Local professionals connecting to training, resources, conferences
- Web workers from all over moving (back) to small towns
- Students learning from the full range of available media
- Communities tying together into regional information alliances
While the US has improved on average in e-business readiness, according to the 2008 rankings, the rural-urban divide persists.
The IBM/Economist analysts came up with some guiding principles, intended for helping developing countries, but equally applicable to US states and regional development groups:
- Let the market build it… Competitive telecoms and Internet service markets are more efficient than governments in building networks and finding affordable price points for consumers. Policymakers should allow market forces to determine the course of the digital economy, and must resist the urge to steer its ICT industry into technology-specific directions.
- … but step in when needed. Governments must, at the same time, ensure that investment finds its way to society’s digital have-nots. Rural and poor communities, for example, tend to be left behind if service providers follow a purely market-driven course.
- Lead by example. In poorer countries, governments should strive to be an early adopter of digital practices that other organizations and individuals can emulate. They can also create demand for technology and digitally enabled services, both through their own direct purchases and through the creation of additional channels for procurement, tax filing and other operations.
- Don’t do it all. Governments must champion digital development, fund their own ICT infrastructure, regulate lightly and encourage others to adopt — a complex juggling act. But they must also be as unobtrusive as possible if digital business is to thrive. For one thing, they should remain staunchly technology-neutral in their procurement and licensing practices.
- Keep at it. As this year’s rankings show, it is precariously easy to fall back on more strategic digital objectives, and thus lose some of the ground gained in building networks and communities. The world of e-readiness is a place with ever-shifting targets, where policy and practices must be reviewed and refreshed frequently in order to meet the aspirations of the communities that governments serve.
So despite the exaggeration in news headlines, we have a long way to go.
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