The Internet saves rural North Carolina county
There were numerous positive effects, especially for the kids and youth: the college attendance rate increased dramatically (though there were other pro-college efforts in place at the time, so how much can be attributed to the laptops and broadband is unclear), and business in the county increased.
My favorite stat was that teen pregnancy dropped a lot. I wonder why. Maybe people used the Internet to find a way to gratify their sexual impulses that doesn't involve procreation. Or maybe they used the internet to order certain things that reduced the procreative risks of the activities they continued to engage in. Or maybe they used the Internet to learn all the things they weren't being taught in their abstinence-only sex education. (I have no idea if this particular county used abstinence-only.) Or maybe they were all so busy playing World of Warcraft and updating their Facebook pages with annoying little applets that they had less time to impregnate each other. Or maybe access to computers and the Internet gave them a glimpse of a better future for themselves, so they were a little more careful with that future. I'd really be interested to learn more about why the teen pregnancy rate went down.
Anyway, I love it when something I love (cool technology) makes people's lives better.
A libertarian blogger also liked this story:
I'm not a libertarian, but I agree that farm subsidies should be phased out. Not a good use of our money, it distorts the market, and makes it hard for developing nations to compete in the agriculture sector. The latter is quite a serious moral issue: millions of people are pushed into poverty and deprivation by the West's agricultural policies.
NPR in its infinite liberal wisdom spent only a few seconds explaining that what prompted this investment in technology was the federal government’s termination of farm subsidies to tobacco growers. That fact, however, was what turned this good piece of journalism into a great story…for me anyway (being the libertarian that I am).
Greene County’s story is not just one of bold local governance…it is one of a community forced to finally grab the reigns of modernity in the absence of subsidies that kept it backward and complacent for far too long.
A liberal response to this story of rural wiring might be: what if the entire country got access to computers and broadband? Might the entire country experience the kind of revival that Greene County seems to have managed?