Perhaps the most underlying theme of the 21st Century is Connectivity. From our personal lives to business to education the fact that we can instantly connect with someone across the world has reshaped how we live, learn and do business.
As Colorado continues to be a leader in quality of life, innovation and economic development it is critical that we ensure the infrastructure of the digital economy, Broadband, is available to all Coloradans and continues to grow. Just as the development of the national highways system spurred the growth and development of the 20th century, high-speed broadband networks will allow Colorado to continue to lead the way in the 21st century.
While the goals of the state broadband efforts are bold, we have our challenges. Currently 2 in 5 rural Coloradans don’t have access to basic broadband and the demands from education, healthcare, public safety and economic development are straining existing networks. The broadband program within the Governor’s Office of Information Technology is dedicated to working towards collaborative solutions to these problems that bring the public and private sectors together in a creative partnership.
Below are some examples of how broadband is impacting our daily lives.
Perhaps no industry has been as revolutionized by technology as agriculture. The modern farm is full of technology that all relies on consistent broadband connections. From computerized seed planting to water monitoring to access to global markets, agricultural operations of today must have broadband access to compete.
Highlighting this trend and illustrating Colorado’s leadership in innovation, a recent story by local public radio affiliate KUNC in Northern Colorado discussed both the impact of technology in modern agriculture as well as Colorado’s leadership.
While quantitative research is just being developed on this subject a 2011 research paper highlighted some impacts of broadband on rural agriculture. The paper ‘The Impact of Broadband on U.S. Agriculture: An Evaluation of the USDA Broadband Loan Program’ (reference below) investigated the impact of agricultural output in areas that received rural broadband loans from the USDA and found an average increase in profit of 3% in such areas.
With agriculture continuing to be a driver of Colorado’s economy it is critical that we provide our farmers and ranchers the communications infrastructure they need to allow them to grow and compete.
For communities of all sizes, economic development is a primary component to increase quality of life and provide future opportunities for the community. While economic development takes many shapes and forms, broadband coverage and capacity have become critical for communities to participate in the 21st century economy. As many have stated, broadband access for communities today is as critical as roads were in the 20th century. Without the communication, connectivity and information provided through broadband communities struggle to reap the gains of the digital age.
In 2009, the Center for Economic Studies (CES) working paper (reference below) concluded that a 10% increase in broadband penetration lead to between a .9% and 1.5% increase in per capita growth. This is a measurable impact.
On a more local level, both rural and urban communities can utilize increased broadband capacity to attract and grow business and communities. From the increase in location neutral businesses in the rural communities to the demand for gigabit speeds in business parks communities are competing internationally for talent and businesses.
According to the report, ‘Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Education in the United States” by I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman of Babson Survey Research Group 69% of academic leaders believe online education is critical to the long-term strategy of their institution.
Whether it’s classroom augmentation, on-line remote learning or interactive shared learning the ability to have broadband both in the classroom and at the student’s home has become imperative. For example, Denver Public Schools recently adopted Google Applications allowing students to utilize their comprehensive suite of online tools to perform their work. The only requirement; a robust broadband connection.
Recently, the President formalized the goal that every schools should have access to at least 1GB by 2018.
One of the successes from OIT’s Distance Learning effort exemplifies the need for this goal. During the project, a small school in Elbert County was able to offer Advanced Placement (AP) calculus class to some of its students through video-based distance learning. The students participated and interacted with their suburban counterparts as if they were sitting in the classroom themselves. A second example of the power of broadband in the classroom was allowing students to participate in archeological digs in southwestern Colorado in real-time. Students were able to ask paleontologists live questions as they worked to explore and excavate fossils. All of these opportunities were made possible by the fact that these schools had sufficient broadband. It will be crucial that we ensure this type of education is available to all schools in Colorado in order to give our students the best possible education.