Many rural places already have key assets in place that can be used to build digital economies, including gigabit-speed broadband, available space, low cost of living, attractive downtowns, outdoor amenities, colleges and universities, and strong community connections. Rural communities can use these to build inclusive digital economies.
We’ve identified the Foundational Elements, Necessary Infrastructure and Direct Drivers communities need to build thriving digital economy ecosystems.
These are the key elements within a community, such as housing or an attractive “live-work” downtown, that enable a digital economy ecosystem to thrive. Every community will have a different configuration of these elements, and while not all of them will be robust, large gaps will prevent progress.
Necessary digital economy infrastructure
We’ve identified the necessary infrastructure communities need to participate in the digital economy. These are imperative for communities if they want to drive outcomes on their own. Without them, communities will struggle to achieve local wealth creation and quality digital employment.
- Broadband infrastructure
- Coworking and entrepreneurship spaces
- Local leadership capacity
Direct drivers enable communities to successfully compete in the digital economy. These focus on building local capacity and providing access to digital jobs, capital, and workforce development and support. We focus on developing these through the Rural Innovation Initiative:
- Scalable Tech Entrepreneur Support and Incubation
- Digital Workforce Development and Support
- Access to Capital
- Inclusive Tech Culture Building
- Access to Digital Jobs
Our work is primarily focused on the development of these five direct drivers. While we recognize the importance of establishing these include foundational elements and the necessary infrastructure, our core focus is on the direct drivers needed to create economic transformation in a rural community.
Outcomes of a thriving digital economy ecosystem
- Digital employment: Workers are successfully matched with quality digital jobs that can be done from small towns, either through remote work or homegrown digital roles.
- Wealth creation: Local entrepreneurs build digital-related businesses that bring wealth back to the community, support other local businesses, and stabilize the community’s tax base, and grow the local economy.
Our work in action
To see what digital economic development can look like in rural America, explore our programs and learn about the rural communities that are charting their own courses towards economic prosperity.
Rural Innovation Initiative
Through our Rural Innovation Initiative, our team of in-house community managers and data experts works with cohorts of rural communities to create place-based digital economic strategies. This intensive technical assistance program has helped our communities raise more than $17 million in federal funding and matching dollars. Many of these communities go on to join our Rural Innovation Network after completing the Initiative. Read more.
Rural Innovation Network
Our Rural Innovation Network is a growing community of small-town economic development leaders from across the country who are committed to building thriving digital economies in their hometowns. We connect our members with other rural leaders and advocates working on similar development initiatives, while partnering closely with them to develop strategies, assess opportunities, and execute on new ideas. Read more.