The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) has received a $129,281 grant from the USDA’s 2020 Rural Business Development Grant program. With this new funding, SCORH will collaborate with the South Carolina Rural Innovation Network (SCRIN) to develop a Digital Economy Ecosystem in two rural communities – Barnwell and Williamsburg counties.

A Digital Economy Ecosystem will feature technical education, job training, and community planning to bring quality digital jobs, local entrepreneurship, and remote work opportunities to these rural communities.

“Across the country, the digital economy is growing rapidly with advances in technology, increased broadband access, and an increasingly mobile workforce,” said Paola Gutiérrez, SCORH’s lead strategist for the Rural Health Action Plan. “But rural communities – those with a population of fewer than 50,000 people – have been largely left behind.”

The Digital Economy Ecosystem project will begin with training sessions, facilitated by Jim Stritzinger with Revolution D., Inc., that provide an overview of broadband technology and its applications to rural community leaders.

Once trained, community stakeholders will work with SCRIN to develop a rural innovation roadmap that reflects the communities’ assets, competitive advantages and goals for a digital economy. The roadmap may include education, job training and leadership training in partnership with local libraries, public school systems, technical colleges, and four-year universities.

“The goals are to increase the overall digital literacy of the community and to build a talent pipeline for technical jobs in order to attract quality employers, and retain a digital workforce within the rural community,” said Kim Bowman, president of SCRIN. “This work could be later replicated in other well-suited rural communities. The ultimate goal is to establish a network of innovation hubs, activities, and jobs of the future across the Palmetto State.”

Workforce development and broadband access are key components of the RuralForwardSC program at SCORH. RuralForwardSC grew out of the 2017 Rural Health Action Plan, which identified 15 recommendations and 50+ action steps to guide collaborations between the health, housing, educational and employment sectors.

“In this time of public health crisis, we are learning how advanced technology can allow us to treat our patients, teach our students and do our jobs more efficiently and more safely when we can’t rely on traditional delivery methods,” said SCORH CEO Graham Adams. “But it only works if communities are properly prepared with the technology they need, and residents are trained and comfortable using it. Our rural communities are no exception.”

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About the South Carolina Office of Rural Health
The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) is a non-profit organization with a mission to close the gap in health status and life expectancy between rural and urban communities in the Palmetto State. SCORH has been promoting investment, opportunity and health within rural communities since 1991.
With 27 percent of our state’s residents living in rural areas, SCORH believes in preserving the unique character of rural communities without compromising their opportunities and access to critical services.

About the South Carolina Rural Innovation Network
The South Carolina Rural Innovation Network (SCRIN) is a modern action tank with a mission to revitalize, re-energize, and future-proof rural communities across the Palmetto State.
Utilizing the Digital Economy Ecosystem Model developed by the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and its Rural Innovation Strategies (RII) arm, we partner with rural communities to help unlock their potential through a comprehensive approach to digital economic development, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Our strategic framework focuses on digital job creation, technical skills training, remote work opportunities, active community engagement, and the establishment of modern amenities.
SCRIN is a non-profit charity recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501c3 of the IRS Federal Tax Code.