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e-Rutherford Part of International Study Through IBM

11/06--The (NC) Daily Courier

By JOSH HUMPHRIES
Daily Courier Staff Writer

FOREST CITY - The county's E-Rutherford initiative was chosen as a model for a large study that should have far reaching results and influence.

The Institute for Community Inclusion picked Rutherford County's initiative to be one of three in the country, along with three in the United Kingdom, for a research project that will investigate the creative and innovative ways to introduce the Internet to people who might not have had the opportunity to use it before.

The project is funded by the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Participation in the study should be a great exposure for Rutherford County and its effort to expand Internet use and availability in the community.

"The study will be used to motivate and encourage people who may not have had a chance to use a computer and technology," said Heike Boeltzig, a research associate with ICI at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

"We want to learn about effectiveness and challenges and how to overcome them and compile it into a report that will be published by IBM."

This six-month project researches the six initiatives that have successfully equipped disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities, with the skills and motivation to use the Internet, particularly e-government services, according to the ICI web site.

E-Rutherford was chosen as a successful initiative and the study will analyze the key features that make it effective.

The overall goals of the project will be to recommend ways that initiatives that have been successful might influence new or faltering initiatives.

The study aims to encourage information-sharing at all levels, from grassroots to government, according to the ICI web site.

The study will eventually lead to a webcast conference, a final research report published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government in both electronic and hard copy format, at least one peer-reviewed journal article targeted at academics and researchers, at least one ICI brief targeted to practitioners working in the digital inclusion field, and at least one international conference presentation.

The study is looking at the people who have implemented the E-Rutherford Initiative including E-Rutherford board members, officials at the Union Mills Lifelong Learning Center, the Community Empowerment Resource Center, local Internet service providers, and end-users who utilize the initiative for one purpose or another.

Rutherford County became a N.C. Certified E-Community when the E-Rutherford initiative began about five years ago. It has remained on of the more successful initiatives in the state, a fact that may be attributed to E-Champion Kerry Giles, who the county government decided that spearheading E-Rutherford should be part of her job along being the with marketing director of the Economic Development Commission when she was hired.

"We have a mission to get broadband to the entire county," said Giles. "Everyone is pushing it and we have made some strides in that direction."

E-Rutherford conducted a study about two years of people who wanted high speed Internet access but could not get it and provided the information to locals ISPs. About 300 people responded to the study and now 80 percent of them have high speed access.

Giles said that the study will be conducted again Rutherford County web site.

Officials are excited about being a part of the ICI research project and the fact that Rutherford County's effort will be used as a model for other communities across the world.


Pilling, D. & Boeltzig, H. (2007). Moving Toward E-Government – Effective Strategies for Increasing Access and Use of the Internet Among Non-Internet Users in the U.S. and the U.K. Paper presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research, 20-23 May 2007, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Boeltzig, H. (2007). Moving Toward E-Government – Effective Strategies for Increasing Access and Use of the Internet Among Non-Internet Users in the U.S. and the U.K. Paper presented at the 2nd Annual Graduate Student Research Conference on Social Inequality and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies/University of Massachusetts Boston, 23-27 April 2007, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Boeltzig, H. (2007). Moving Toward E-Government – Effective Strategies for Increasing Access and Use of the Internet Among Non-Internet Users in the U.S. and the U.K. Paper presented at the 22nd National Technology and Social Science Conference, 15-17 April 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities