Connect Arkansas Inc.

Expanding Broadband Use in Arkansas Through Education

Arkansas, with the third-lowest per-capital income in the nation, also ranks 49th in online connectivity—29 percent of its population has never used the Internet according to the 2008 Arkansas New Economy Index and a related Connect Arkansas survey. Aware that relevancy of the Internet and digital literacy are frequent barriers to broadband adoption, Connect Arkansas is proposing a project centered around the basics of digital literacy, online entrepreneurship, and access to tele-health services. First, the project will offer basic computer training and refurbished computers to qualifying families. Second, the project will feature training in the tools of business, including writing basic business plans, the principles of entrepreneurship, and other key skills and plans to showcase student businesses through the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation. Third, Connect Arkansas also intends to collaborate with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to oversee a comprehensive broadband-based health awareness campaign and provide hands-on training to medical facilities and healthcare providers.

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BTOP In Action
An instructor teaches a local student during a computer basics course

Connect Arkansas held a variety of digital literacy and workforce development workshops for more than 445 people across the state. These BTOP-funded workshops were created to boost sustainable broadband adoption through a three-pronged approach, which targets low-income youth, student businesses, and healthcare providers. Connect Arkansas partners with several organizations to provide comprehensive training centered on computer basics, online entrepreneurship, and telehealth communication services.

For example, the University of Arkansas at Monticello provides a three-day technology course for students between kindergarten and the eighth grade, which is sponsored by Connect Arkansas. The course teaches students basic computer skills and Internet fundamentals. The course also educates students on productivity software they can use for homework, reports, and other school-related activities. As an added incentive, participating students who complete the course receive a free refurbished computer through Connect Arkansas. As of October 2011, the University has distributed approximately 130 personal computers.

To increase broadband adoption among teenagers, Connect Arkansas hosts an entrepreneurship training class using in-house resources. During the class, students learn business basics, ecommerce, website development skills, and how to market a business online. Participating students also create a prototype business website as their final project, allowing them to practice their newly acquired business techniques and web design skills. As of October 2011, more than 178 students have participated in this class.

Connect Arkansas also increases broadband usage among healthcare professionals. Through the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS), Connect Arkansas educates medical professionals on using broadband and video conferencing equipment to conduct distance learning and patient visits. These classes complement UAMS’s BTOP project, which is increasing broadband capacity and installing video conferencing equipment at 474 healthcare, medical offices, and research facilities in Arkansas.

Through these classes, Connect Arkansas and its partners have been able to create 10 instructor positions. Funded by BTOP, these employees are responsible for administering these training classes across 57 Arkansas counties.

Last Updated: December 7, 2011

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