RDI Updates: Economic Development Association of Manitoba Conference


By: Wayne Kelly

I appreciated the opportunity to present at the Economic Development Association of Manitoba 2019 Fall Forum event and to be part of the vital discussion on Critical Innovation for Communities. It was great to be able to share my research insights alongside stories of community broadband initiatives and electric vehicles. My presentation contributed to this discussion by sharing a different perspective and tool for examining and understanding digital technologies in rural communities. 
My Ph.D. research integrates rural broadband research that I helped conduct at the Rural Development Institute at Brandon University. The essence of this broadband research is utilizing community capitals to explore and understand digital tech in rural communities. I have built on that RDI research to develop a digital framework or lens for community capitals. This emerging approach to understanding digital technology in rural communities was the fundamental concept that I shared with economic development officers at the Fall Forum. 

Digital rural takeaways

 An important point that I tried to emphasize is that the physical infrastructure was only the first step in benefitting from digital technologies in rural communities. Knowing how to use digital technology and developing relevant digital skills is an essential second step. 
Another essential realization is that rural communities face common digital challenges and opportunities. Still, each rural community and region has specific digital capitals and needs that they should be focusing on. Place-based or locally-driven development applies to digital development in the same way it does for tourism, business attraction and retention and general economic development. Each rural community should strive to understand what their digital assets are and where the opportunities for digital growth and development exist. 
I was honoured to be part of this critical discussion on innovation and technology in rural communities. I look forward to continuing the conversation and research regarding digital tech with EDAM and other organizations and individuals that are leaders in developing rural Manitoba.

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