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Rural & Community Development

Rural E-Commerce Extension Initiative

Due to an increase in retail trade in services in rural communities, the economic make-up of these communities has seen recent changes. Small firms are bringing in more business to these areas, and one critical avenue available to these businesses for improving their market share and efficiency is the use of e-commerce. In the fall of 2003, NIFA provided funding to the Southern Rural Development Center for the development of a national e-commerce demonstration project. A partnership between Mississippi State University Extension Service, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, and the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service led to the creation of the Rural E-Commerce Extension Initiative.

The initiative is looking at four important factors in the adoption and diffusion of e-commerce:

  • Do these areas have the technological infrastructure in place to adopt and apply e-commerce practices?
  • Do local governments understand the role e-commerce can play in the economy?
  • Do state and local extension educators have the knowledge and educational resources needed to support small businesses?
  • Do rural small businesses understand how to best utilize e-commerce activities?

Small business training is the key investment of the initiative, but resources are also being used to strengthen key educational products that address e-community and e-government activities by extension educators.

In August 2004, the initiative launched the first edition of e-News, an electronic update of issues surrounding the development of rural e-commerce.

In 2005, the initiative will promote outstanding e-commerce curricula development through a new NIFA competitive grants program open to all extension educators. More regional workshops will be held to train trainers in such skills as using the Internet to learn about markets, creating e-commerce products, selling in cyberspace, and after-sales support. The project's e-library will continue to expand with the addition of e-government and e-community resources. In addition, the Southern Rural Development Center, located at Mississippi State University, will take the lead in launching the conversion of select e-commerce products to comply with the new e-Extension Initiative information protocol.

For more information about the Rural E-Commerce Extension Initiative, contact Sally Maggard, national program leader, Economic and Community Systems, smaggard@nifa.usda.gov.

 

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