Connecting Nebraskans to the digital age

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Updated: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 06:47:48 CST

Eighty-one percent of Nebraskans say they have access to the internet, whether it's at their house or at the library.

There's a digital divide that could mean missed opportunities for rural communities in Nebraska.

We've got Smartphones, tablets, basically the world at our fingertips, but at the Broadband Connecting Nebraska Conference, it's about making sure people understand how to utilize that technology.

If you have internet access, you're in the majority here in Nebraska. The real question is do you have access to broadband high speed internet? Members of rural communities are more likely to say no.

Some schools in the state still don't have computers.

There's no question we live in a digital age, and, now we're beginning to see a digital divide.

Kearney based business, Intellicom is an outsource Information Technology department for over 350 companies across the country. They control and manage internet services.

"We consider ourselves critical partners in their ability to do business." Said President and CEO of Intellicom, Dan Schundoff.

Without broadband they wouldn't make it very far.

It's not just businesses that benefit from high speed internet connectivity, it's entire communities.
They need high speed internet to compete with other communities to attract and retain companies and talent.

"If it costs three times more to get the same type of connectivity or if you simply don't have the connectivity, it's really hard to compete for those resources." Said Schundoff.

That's where digital place making comes in. It's basically marketing a community.

"With North Platte it's this manufacturing, industrial, blue collar, railroad based town and that's a strength it can build on." Said Michelle Stephens, Co-Founder of Verso.

Stephens says one way of doing this is capitalizing on the easy access of social media.

"The community can start building this social presence, this web media presence that says this is who we are, we're open for business." Said Stephens.

The message here? Broadband internet will help grow businesses and help keep them in their original communities.

The conference wraps up Thursday the 17th with even more information on how to bridge the digital divide.