The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Information technology and the Delta's future

Posted on October 29, 2007 at 10:47 AM

We would like to commend the Delta Regional Authority’s information technology plan, which is another example of the agency’s fine work in strategic planning for our region. The plan is titled “iDelta: Information Technology in the Delta” and can be found on the DRA website at Its goals are to improve education, enhance entrepreneurship and improve health care through the use of information technology.

The DRA recently took part in the annual conference of the Rural Telecommunications Congress in Springfield, Illinois. This event drew experts from across the country who are focused on bringing broadband technology to rural America. The DRA has greatly expanded its initiatives for the eight-state, 240-county region regarding information technology.

Federal Co-Chair Pete Johnson, who was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2001, is to be congratulated for his leadership on this vital issue.

We would like to quote part of a recent statement he made on the importance of information technology for the Delta:

“Earlier this year, the DRA unveiled an information technology plan for the region. This plan, which has been presented to the president and Congress, was developed in conjunction with Southern Growth Policies Board. We hope to increase information technology access and utlization in the eight states we cover.

Broadband deployment can have a positive effect in numerous areas. These include:

– Distance learning: This technology will allow us to improve the quality of education in our public school systems, colleges and universities. Advanced placement courses will be available in even the most rural school districts, workforce training programs will be expanded and adult literacy programs will become more common. To have the workforce that businesses now demand, continuing education is a must. Our people must never stop learning. Distance learning programs will ensure they don’t.

– E-commerce: Delta businesses will be able to use their websites to reach new markets and generate additional sales. These businesses also will be able to go online to conduct administrative services and provide continuing education services to staff members.

– Telemedicine and telehealth services: More than ever, private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid are offering reimbursements for telemedicine services. These programs are instrumental in advancing the access to and delivery of quality health care in rural areas. By sharing information among hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, we’re improving patient care and case management for rural residents.

– E-government: More Delta government entities need to be offering information on the web concerning public hearings, agendas of meetings, plans under review, etc. This will increase citizen participation. At the same time, we should be able to go online to obtain license plates, register automobiles, obtain business licenses, pay taxes, locate various government services, participate in surveys, contact our elected officials and more. We can also improve the criminal justice system in rural areas by using video conferencing services for arraignments, medical assessments, routine hearings, pretrial motions and expert witness testimony.

…We live in a knowledge-based economy. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ll never advance the Delta economy unless we can create an environment that better supports innovation and entrepreneurship. Relying on our rich soil and agricultural roots is no longer enough. Widespread broadband deployment is a key step that must be taken to build a knowledge-based economy.

The bottom line is this: We must provide all of rural America with access to affordable, reliable, advanced communications services to compete in the economy of the new century. If we can do that, we’ll improve the health, safety, education and economic opportunities of those who live in this region. Williams Jennings Bryan once said, “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” We control our destiny in the Delta. In communities across the region, we must give up the economic development model of the 1950s and educate ourselves on what it will take to attract business investment in the new century. While many of our communities have continued to focus on an industrial, manufacturing-based model of economic development, the world has changed around them. They now must navigate in a knowlege-based economy where entrepreneurship and innovation are the keys to success.

Universal broadband availability would unleash an estimated $500 billion in economic growth in this country and create more than 1.2 million high-wage jobs. Instead of being a follower, let’s vow to become a leader in the Delta when it comes to broadband accessibility.”

The Delta Grassroots Caucus encourages all of our partners to support the DRA’s efforts for broadband deployment throughout the Delta. Thanks very much. Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347