LSU AgCenter helps rural areas connect to Internet

As high-speed (broadband) Internet connections are being made available to rural areas of Louisiana, the LSU AgCenter is preparing residents to take advantage of this resource through the Connect My Louisiana educational program.

Connect My Louisiana is a broadband Internet education and awareness initiative for Louisiana through a partnership between the Louisiana Division of Administration’s Office of Technology and the LSU AgCenter, according to Dwight Landreneau, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor.

Launched in early 2011, the initiative is helping rural residents in 18 parishes to take advantage of Web access that others take for granted.

The four-year project provides educational content to show the benefits of adopting broadband technology in business, education, healthcare and other aspects of economic activity in Louisiana, Landreneau said.

“Part of the initiative will develop Internet cafes at central locations in rural areas, help farmers gain access to needed technologies and develop self-help classes within the state library system,” Landreneau said.

This is an opportunity for economic development that was not available in some rural areas, said Landreneau. “This is about creating awareness and connecting rural residents to the rest of the world.”

Parishes included in the program are Allen, Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Franklin, Jefferson Davis, LaSalle, Madison, Morehouse, Pointe Coupee, Richland, St. Helena, Tensas, Washington and West Carroll.

“I have been presenting an overview of the program to various groups in the 18-parish area,” said LSU AgCenter education awareness coordinator Bruce Garner. “We’re explaining what broadband is and setting more in-depth training with these groups for the spring.”

Garner said he has been presenting to broad-based audiences, ranging from civic groups to producer groups and even to parents of 4-H members.

“New educational modules are being completed and are being edited now,” Garner said.

Connect My Louisiana teaching teams will attend an in-service training session on Feb 28 to get prepared to teach these new educational modules, he said. “As the education awareness coordinator, I wear many hats, from helping the teaching team with technical issues to presenting at meetings and meeting with legislators.”

Garner primarily works in eight northeast Louisiana parishes involved in the initiative. The target audience is technologically underserved populations in all walks of life.

“The success stories are more related to clientele who are just happy to know that the AgCenter is providing training, and they can get answers to questions without someone trying to sell them something,” Garner said.