Adoption of high-speed internet service in rural areas can add value to the lives of residents and community-based services. While many recognize access to broadband and other forms of high-speed internet can help improve rural economies and healthcare services, the adoption of high-speed internet can also help increase community involvement. Although residents of rural communities tend to have higher levels of engagement, involvement levels increased even more when residents used the internet, according to an Oklahoma State University study.
Community Engagement Activities
Community engagement includes joining a local chamber of commerce, participating in sports organizations and local community groups, serving on public school boards, voting in elections, contacting local public officials about community issues, volunteering, and talking with neighbors to help solve problems. Participating in these activities reflects care and concern for a city’s well-being.
Joining local community groups can increase a sense of belonging and demonstrate the impact an individual’s actions have on everyone in the community.
High-Speed Internet Use and Community Engagement
The economic conditions in a rural community can influence residents’ perceptions of each other. According to the Carsey Institute, residents of rural communities with resources and population growth tend to view their neighbors in a positive light. In these communities, there are higher levels of trust and involvement. The highest levels of trust among residents and community engagement exist in rural communities that are starting to experience economic downturns.
Access to community resources, such as the infrastructure necessary for high-speed internet, does not influence participation in community activities. It is the continued use of those resources, including high-speed internet, which determines whether engagement levels rise.
According to The Conversation, the rise in mobile internet use also has some ties to an increase in community engagement among residents that rely on wireless service.
The Reason Behind the Connection
Frequent and intermittent use of the internet increases how much people know about what’s happening. Local news stories, city websites, community organization websites, and social media contacts all create awareness of things that are going on. Awareness of issues, events, and opportunities that can make a difference in residents’ daily lives can stir interest or an emotional response. When someone already has a strong sense of connection to a community and a desire to help, finding out about local causes can prompt more action. Even reading news stories that inform residents of proposed laws, changes to community landmarks or about those in need can increase involvement.
The internet is not the only way rural residents can increase their knowledge of what could impact their communities, but it seems to be a way to spread the word faster and farther. After all, the internet is a means of communication and connection. As Rollo May states “communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”
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Have you gotten involved with a cause within your community due to a local news story or word of mouth through social media? Tell us about it in the comments below!