NET WORK: Corrie MacDonald, standing, a librarian at Cranston Public Library, works with Rhode Island College student Meury Inirio.
PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
BY RHONDA MILLER PBN Staff Writer
Ninety-eight percent of Rhode Island has high-speed Internet access, an accomplishment broadband advocates point to as a stellar foundation for working on a less-impressive statistic – about one-third of adults in Rhode Island don’t go online.
“The fact that 30 percent of adults in Rhode Island don’t use the Internet, even though they have access to it, means we have to keep working hard to increase digital literacy in the state,” said Stuart Freiman, broadband-program director for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. “That could lead to giant gains in education, quality of the workforce and quality of life.”
Rhode Island earned an 11th-place ranking in the TechNet 2012 State Broadband Index, despite the gap between near-complete broadband, or high-speed Internet access, and the glaring percentage of adults who have not adopted digital habits.
“What this index demonstrates is we have to leverage the stuff that is really good, like our infrastructure, and do more to promote it and make people in the state more aware of why it’s important,” said Freiman, who is program director of Broadband Rhode Island, an initiative of EDC.
TechNet, a bipartisan policy and political network of CEOs and senior executives that promotes the growth of technology-led innovation, ranked Washington first on its state broadband index and Massachusetts second.
Freiman said when TechNet last did its broadband rankings 10 years ago, Rhode Island wasn’t even in the top 35.
The Broadband Rhode Island initiative pushed the state deeper into digital territory when it got a $4.5 million federal stimulus grant in 2009. Broadband Rhode Island has gone over the 50 percent mark in spending the grant money, Freiman said.
“A lot of the early spending was on data collection. The highest priority for the federal government was creating a national broadband map,” Freiman said.