The project will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
ECDI Director Joe Sumners said rural areas are where broadband is needed most because of economic, social and physical isolation.
He said he thinks the project will have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of Alabama citizens.
“Allowing people to figure out how they can use that technology to improve their lives is something we’re excited about,” Sumners said.
Sumners, who will help oversee the project, said the ECDI has been looking for a way to get involved with communications technology for several years.
“We must have our rural communities connected to the economy,” Sumners said. “If they don’t have broadband, our rural communities can’t compete.”
The primary goal of the project is teaching Alabama residents the social and economic benefits of broadband technology, as well as its practical applications.
The project was designed by Amelia H. Stehouwer, ECDI research and training manager.
Stehouwer is the lead developer for the proposal and said she is optimistic about the benefits it will have for Alabama citizens.
“People in general are really at a disadvantage when they do not have access to broadband,” Stehouwer said. “They are left out of the whole global network.”
A statewide campaign and eight local and regional campaigns will be conducted to raise awareness for the project, Stehouwer said.
The project-awareness campaigns will reach an estimated 1.51 million Alabamians per year, and training programs will be offered to approximately 11,500 Alabama residents.
Stehouwer said the ECDI will develop 10 training modules targeted to meet specific needs and take advantage of assets of target populations.
County Extension Coordinators will deliver at least six training modules, with two to three sessions per unit, to target audiences within every county in Alabama.
CECs will also deliver training in Spanish and English in 26 of those counties.
Training will be offered at 19 community-college campuses and 26 English-as-a-second-language facilities.
Guidance programs will also be offered at eight institutes for the deaf and blind, and they will be available at facilities on Poarch Band of Creek Indians land as well.
Austin Monk, senior in public administration, is the associate grant administrator for the ECDI.
Monk said he will help plan the training sessions and will be an assistant at various modules around the state.
“It allows me to implement a grant program in an efficient manner to help benefit citizens of Alabama,” Monk said. “So it goes well with my background in public administration.”
The ECDI will partner with the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, the Alabama Rural Action Commission, the Alabama chapter of the AARP, the Alabama Community Leadership Network and ADECA’s Community Services Block Grant Program.
Stehouwer said she believes the program will impact the Alabama job market by giving people access to online classes.
She said it could even create 349 jobs throughout the state.
Stehouwer said the focus when promoting broadband technology would be on demand instead of supply.
Education and training would foster technology adoption and increase local demand for services.
“We believe people who adopt that technology and begin to use its services will lead to decreases in costs of services,” Stehouwer said. “In order to run the line to somewhere, the company would need to divide the cost by number of customers.”
This would lead to an increase in the number supplied, which would lead to an increase in demand.
“People have to realize how this is relevant to their lives in order to take advantage of it,” Stehouwer said.