"The community showed high rates of poverty, low educational attainment, and outmigration through the 1990s, as declines in the domestic tobacco industry dragged this, 'the second most tobacco dependent county in the U.S.,' into economic decline," Ardery writes. "But community leaders made a major investment -- in local citizens and technology. Since providing all students grades 6 through 12 with laptop computers, beginning in 2003, and installing an affordable countywide wireless internet system so that those computers are easy to use, there have been remarkable changes."
Since then, the county has seen:
- SAT composite scores go up 41 points.
- High school proficiency scores increase from 53 percent to 78.4 percent.
- In 2006, 80 percent of high school seniors applied for college, up from 28 percent in 2004.
- 12 new business in 2006.
Ardery also notes the cost of connecting rural communities may be going down. Intel announced a rural connectivity platform last week, and Google has been working to use "buffer frequencies" between TV channels to transmit wireless service. (Read more)