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Looking forward to a digitally inclusive world

"If given the choice, do you prefer to get online or in line (in-person)?” asks Roberto Gallardo, of the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) and Purdue Extension community and regional economics specialist.

After a year of online shopping, zoom calls and social distancing, awareness and knowledge of digital capabilities has increased, but that doesn’t always mean individuals and communities are ready to address these needs.

Purdue Extension and the PCRD are on a mission to bring Indiana communities and individuals into a digitally inclusive world. With a mission in engagement and a regional mindset, PCRD brings new ideas and strategies, technical assistance and data interpretation into communities to promote innovation. This strategy is often blended with other Extension in-depth programs and tools that bring research-based education to individuals in all 92 Indiana counties.

Gallardo explains that this close relationship benefits Indiana. “When working together, we can offer a more robust toolbox for Indiana communities and that is powerful.”

Roberto Gallardo

Workforce Development

The partnership has spurred an initiative to help individuals and businesses striving to be more digitally knowledgeable and keeping those skills current with changes. The Essential Digital Employability Skills (EDES) program teaches basic skills and functions to help employees communicate and collaborate professionally with colleagues. Digital Ready Business lessons teach employers the importance of the digital economy and how to include basic digital strategies into their business.

“These programs are meeting workforce development needs in our communities. PCRD also completes workforce data analysis and research that is then turned into tools or knowledge that can be shared with local and state leaders to make impactful decisions,” said Gallardo.

PCRD and Purdue Extension’s Community Development program also partnered with Utah State University Extension to offer the Master Remote Work Professional certificate course. This one-month training equips workers with the necessary tools and skills to work from home as a remote employee, freelancer or entrepreneur.

Digital Inclusion

Gallardo recently completed a report that points out hundreds of thousands of people in Indiana lack access to reliable internet speeds of at least 25 megabits per second. This gap between people who have access to reliable, fast internet and those who don’t is called the “digital divide.” PCRD and Purdue Extension are working to answer with short-term solutions, such as offering wi-fi hotspots across Indiana, and long-term solutions from gathering and interpreting data to raise awareness of implications to digital exclusion.

“How can we help? That is the question I strive to answer every day. PCRD and Purdue Extension can identify a community need and address it. Together, we can help in the areas of workforce development and digital inclusion,” said Gallardo.

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