LoneEagleLogosmall.jpg (2622 bytes)

Lesson Five -
Community Economic Development Strategies

Lesson Goals

The Strategies Behind Lone Eagle Telework, Telecommuting, and Telecomputing

The Smartest Strategies For Creating Measurably Smart Communities

The Strategies for Corporate Relocations and Individual Entrepreneurship

The Strategic Differences Behind Volume, Value, and Human Bandwidth Benefits

Telecommuting and Telework Opportunities

Telework can become a community economic strategy as well as an individual work strategy. Many communities are seeing that a community-wide initiative to develop citizens' skills can become a valid economic development initiative. Communities can promote a skilled citizenry as an available skills pool to attract corporate relocations. At issue is how can both individuals and communities most quickly elevate their skills level and put it on public display?

Training certification programs, such as this course, can support community-specific listings of electronic portfolio resumes for all citizens showcasing their skills, achievements, and willingness to receive additional training. Individuals who have shown the initiative to complete the certification training and post their electronic portfolio resumes will stand a much better chance for employment than those who have not. Having demonstrated your ability to learn online puts you in a likely position for future online training. Communities who are savvy enough to host electronic portfolio resumes online will stand out as innovative and "Ready!"

More and more businesses are realizing that rural teleworkers offer

  • less turnover
  • a higher work ethic
  • fewer missed work days
  • and will often work for lower wages than their urban counterparts.

La Grande, Oregon, received over fifty telework jobs by finding funding to install fiber optics as part of a partnership with a Portland-based healthcare organization. With the fiber optic connections, local workers became teleworkers telecommuting to work for the Portland headquarters.

Telework is a term that relates to work performed via telecommunications. Telecommuting is a term that relates to commuting to work via telecommunications. Telecomputing is a term that relates to working on a computer via telecommunications. All mean roughly the same thing. Be aware that many businesses have resisted hiring employees for telework for many years because they are unfamiliar with managing employees who are out-of-sight. There has to be a degree of trust, effective work performance measures, and sometimes also regular meetings face-to-face to maintain these working relationships.

Employers are finding the higher quality workers are demanding this type of flexible work arrangement as a condition for employment. Your strategy should be to learn as much as you can about what's actually working regarding telework opportunities and where you can find the best training, support, and job-finding resources. The web tour presented in this lesson will present an initial exposure to telework and telecommuting resources.

Smart Communities - Require More Than Just a Snappy Name

Just a few years ago there were many new initiatives touting the term "smart community." But, the term has been overused and many now recognize that being a smart community is far more difficult than just calling themselves a "smart community." The original assumption was that if high speed Internet was brought to a community, it would be obvious how to use it in clever ways to produce measurable benefits. These smart communities became smarter by realizing - IT IS NOT OBVIOUS - how to leverage measurable benefits from faster Internet connections.

It is an important fact to recognize that easy access to local dial-up Internet didn't result in the anticipated benefits. Avid local collaboration through the efficiencies of electronic mail did not occur as hoped, and volumes of quality entrepreneurial resources didn't quickly appear on local community web sites. In fact, many existing community networks advocating the benefits of the Internet actually were shut down due to lack of local support. A smart community is one that has a real strategy to create an inspired and motivated learning community.

The subtle truth is that you need to have both a vision and a plan for how any given infrastructure can be best utilized. Many communities have developed the attitude that the Internet is a toy best suited for kids with time to kill. Attitudes can be a major factor in whether or not any level of Internet access is put to good use. Would those in your community agree, or disagree, with the following statement?  "We've yet to see a rural community benefit significantly from use of the Internet." The fact that we're short on stories of communities who empowered themselves through local dial-up suggests that something more than just faster Internet connections are needed to see real economic development occur.

Corporate Relocations Vs. Developing Local Entrepreneurs

Community planners would generally like to see robust economic development to generate tax revenues and a strong local economy. There are 26,000 communities competing for an average of 400 corporate relocations each year. But, in contrast, the majority of new jobs and economic growth comes from small businesses which produce over 80 percent of our international exports. While it might be a nice idea to attract a big company which might hire and train hundreds in your community, your odds may be much better investing in local entrepreneurs and small businesses. The current trend, however, has focused on attracting corporate relocations, not on developing local skills or aspiring entrenpreneurs. Both strategies can, and should, be developed together.

Small businesses run by entrepreneurs account for 70 percent of current economic growth in the U.S. There are 100,000 call centers in the U. S., but the six largest call center companies have just moved their operations to India where 50,000+ citizens are learning to speak with an American accent. If a company comes to town, there will be no guarantee they will stay. However, developing your local entrepreneurs is much more likely to bring economic stability for the long term.

Five years ago, local dial-up Internet was expected to be the key to economic development, but did this turn out to be true? Emphatically, "No!" Though the potential was indeed there, much of it was missed, because it was not recognized and promoted. Today, we hear that broadband is considered to be the key to economic development. Can you detail how you would use broadband compared to local dial-up Internet? Be wary of promises and assumptions: work from the facts and proven measurable outcomes.

Internet Infrastructure and Bandwidth Issues

One common strategy is to install fast Internet infrastructure to attract corporate relocations and Internet entrepreneurs.  The speed of Internet connections is referred to as bandwidth. Dial-up modems typically have low bandwidth; fiber optics deliver very high bandwidth. It is true that broadband applications will best evolve after everyone has convenient access in the home and in the workplace. (The term "broadband" generally means far faster Internet than dial-up services offer.) But, you should always ask for specific numbers as broadband is too general a term to hold much specific meaning anymore.

A local telecenter with fiber optics  can allow any business located within that telecenter direct access to extremely fast Internet speeds. Anyone else will need to dig a trench to lay fiber to their location. This is often prohibitively expensive. Increasingly, wireless options present a more cost-effective alternative for distributing fast Internet access than wired options.

Faster Vs. Smarter

Many telecommunications companies will tell you to take their word that you should invest heavily in their high speed infrastructure products. Cisco System's commercials challenge: "Are You Ready?" While faster Internet speeds definitely open the door to additional applications, the level of benefit depends primarily on what you've learned to do with the Internet - regardless of the speed.

The smartest use of dial-up Internet connections may not be obvious. Online collaboration can be very effective regardless of Internet speeds, but requires written communication and relationship-building skills. This type of  "human bandwidth" relates to true collaborative capacity and the speed or volume of data transport should not be considered to be equal to the value of the information sent. You might find it useful to think in terms of  "value bandwidth" instead of just "volume bandwidth." Maintaining an Ecommerce web site effectively may not require more than a basic dial-up Internet connection. Watch for examples of the many smart ways to leverage the highest levels of benefit from even the slowest of Internet connections.

One example: Offline browsers are an example of tools that allow capturing any number of web pages for offline viewing  in a manner similar to high speed Internet. Offline browsers can be used automatically to capture all new information on any number of web pages during the night. A used car dealer could use an offline browser to have all the competition's web pages automatically ready for instant viewing every morning. The newer versions of the Internet Explorer browser have this feature built in. A $45 offline browser called Webwhacker can be downloaded for a 30-day free trial from http://bluesquirrel.com .

The degree of benefit from any level of Internet speed is typically more related to the level of training and thoughtful application than to Internet speeds alone. Never assume you'll figure out how you'll use an expensive infrastructure after you've invested heavily. Know beforehand exactly which specific applications will justify your investment.

The need exists to demonstrate those community applications which best justify the considerable financial investments required to provide community-wide broadband and to distinguish these from the best applications of low-bandwidth Internet access, such as local dial-up services. An accurate initial assessment of the best dial-up applications will be necessary to make a clear case for the need and role for broadband services.

A common mistake is to presume that the value of the community Internet applications are directly related to the level of bandwidth. On the contrary, other factors, such as human bandwidth, play a vital role in determining the level of benefit, regardless of the volume bandwidth. Years of experience with Internet training of teachers have shown that if each dollar invested in infrastructure is not matched with a dollar for Internet training, the resulting seriously under-utilized infrastructure will devalue the infrastructure investment.

Satellite and Wireless Options

There are some immediate options to consider while waiting for fiber optics to reach your front door, even if they might be short-term. A broadband satellite can bring 2-way Internet to any location in the lower 48 states for as little as $70/month for a single PC. Other options can serve multiple PCs and businesses. As one example, the instructor for this course lives on a remote ranch with a 2-way Tachyon satellite dish. Wireless connections can be far faster than copper phonelines and the newer technologies are creating exciting economic opportunities for rural citizens. Articles and resources for satellite and wireless solutions are at  http://lone-eagles.com/wireless.htm

Hands-on Activities

1. Review a sampling of the smart community guides and
    community networking applications listed in the following resources.

Community Networking Clearinghouse
Select the section on "Community Networking Guides and Reports."
The best ideas and resources from dozens of community networks and related organizations.

National Rural Development Partnership
Their rural links
and their Rural Development Listservs!

Four Federal Rural Development Regional Centers
Explore for rural development resources.

BC Smart communities 
One company's approach to creating smart communities. They claim to have more smart resources than anyone else. See if you can find them.

ABCD http://www.nwu.edu/IPR/abcd.html
Community Asset Mapping - services and information. An exceptionally interesting organization!

Economics Textbook Links
A web site for an economics textbook with exceptionally interesting resources.

2. Explore

Telecommuting Jobs Listing and How-To-Telecommute Handbook
Interesting focus for a home business to teach others telecommuting skills.

Smart Valley Telecommuting Guide
A good guide from Silicon Valley

Mining Company Telecommuting Resources
Note the related sites on the left-hand menu and that you're invited to ask questions of a real person.

Telework Tools and Telework Resources
Extensive resources from the University of Washington. Includes a guidebook, training manuals, and links to more such resources.

3. Practice Your Searching

A three-minute search using "telework" as a keyword produced the following resources:
http://www.telework.gov   from the Federal Government
http://www.att.com/telework  from AT&T
http://www.telework.com  http://telecommute.org  http://www.intelework.com as businesses and http://www.telework.ch for International telework information in German, click on the English button.
http://www.ivc.ca/webring.html International telework webring listing. See what you can find for telecommuting, telecomputing, AND training, tutorials, courses and/or lessons.

Recommended Readings

Read each article once without clicking on the presented web addresses.
Then return to explore those links that interest you.

Read last 2 pages of Rural Community Internet Empowerment

The Idaho Ecommerce Homesteader's Cooperative
A grant template for Idaho communities with the potential to become a statewide initiative.

An Executive Overview for Project Planners on the Hard Questions for Community Internet Empowerment
A hard look at what's not obvious for planning a successful community project.

Review the Community Networking Guides listed in chapter 11
http://lone-eagles.com/chap11.htm from The Good Neighbor's Guide to Community Networking http://lone-eagles.com/cnguide.htm.

An Introduction to Internet Connectivity Solutions
Scroll to the technology section and select the Schools Online Connectivity Guide. Written by Steve Cisler regarding school connectivity, but very
helpful regarding community connectivity.


Submissions Required for the Ecommerce and Telework Certification

  1. Email your instructor a one-page write-up on the time you spent on this lesson and which specific strategies you're prepared to adopt.
    Reference the best specific resources you reviewed during this lesson with emphasis on your particular interests.
    Verify that you've completed all activities and readings presented in this lesson.

    Share with your instructor a self-assessment of your skills related to this lesson and which skills you plan on developing further.
    Use the following Subject line in your message "Submission for Lesson Five"
  2. Learn about Mentoring as an Essential Internet Skill

Level Four - Learning-to-Earn for Sustainable Communities
(The Power of Building Online Communities)

      3. Post the best telework resource you've found during this lesson to the class listserv.
          Please post only original resources not already listed in this lesson.