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Annual Reports

2016: PDF
2015: PDF | Infographic | Infographic (printer-friendly)


The digital age is upon us. Its exponential, digital, combinatorial, and disruptive characteristics are ushering in revolutionary changes to our economic and social landscape. While serious privacy and security concerns abound, applications such as e-commerce, telehealth, telework, precision agriculture, and artificial intelligence show that the overall benefits of the digital age are larger than its potential problems. This digital revolution creates challenges and opportunities for all segments of society, but the transformations it will bring have the potential to level the playing field between urban and rural communities. Traditionally, innovations have been sparked where people and resources were concentrated in close physical proximity, such as in big cities or large companies. This “physical density” is becoming less crucial as a “virtual density” powered by digital real-time, two-way communications now allows diverse groups of people across the globe to collaborate regardless of where they live and work. This changing nature of innovation provides unique opportunities for rural areas. However, several issues must be addressed before rural communities can take full advantage of these opportunities. A “digital divide” is leaving many nonmetropolitan areas behind, and generational conflicts between older policymakers and younger residents often undermine rural efforts to fully enter the digital age. Some communities may miss these new opportunities altogether, further exacerbating economic inequalities. But how can this important message be conveyed to rural audiences to increase their awareness of both the challenges and the opportunities? This book showcases a four-step process—based on the community development asset-mapping model—in which the state Extension Service plays a critical role in helping rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age.



  • 2015 June - Percent Population without Access to Fixed Broadband 25/3 (JPG)
  • 2014 ACS - Percent Households with Broadband Internet Subscriptions (JPG)
  • 2014 December - Average Advertised Fixed Broadband Download Speed (JPG)
  • 2014 December - Average Advertised Fixed Broadband Upload Speed (JPG)


  • 2015 December - Percent Population without Access to Fixed Broadband 25/3 (JPG)
  • 2015 December - Percent Households with Broadband Connections 10/1 (JPG)
  • 2015 December - Average Maximum Advertised Download/Upload Speeds (JPG)

Mississippi Broadband Quickfacts

The Mississippi Broadband Quick Facts were compiled from two household surveys funded by a grant from the Governor's Office and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). Older briefs are available here.

Brief No. 9 -- Home Sweet Home. The percent of Mississippi households with at least one member using the Internet at home or elsewhere increased from 78.6% in 2011 to 83% in 2014, a gain of 4.4 percentage points. Download PDF

Brief No. 10 -- Geography & Demography. The percent of Mississippi households using the Internet by race and age groups increased between 2011 and 2014. Largest increase took place among households where the respondent was age 65 and over. Download PDF

White Papers

We are glad to share with you some interesting research, sponsored by the Institute, of the impact the digital age is having in rural communities. If funding becomes available, more request for proposals will be announced early next year.

Broadband and Civic Engagement in Rural Areas: What Matters? (2015)
Dr. Brian Whitacre, Oklahoma State University

Dr. Whitacre looked at which broadband-related measures (access and adoption) are most relevant to metrics of civic engagement (including but not limited to voting in local elections, discuss politics with family or friends, trust people in neighborhood, etc.) in rural areas controlling for ideology, race/ethnicity, income, and other socioeconomic indicatos. Using aggregated county-level data to non-metropolitan portions of 47 states from the the National Broadband Map as well as individual household data aggregated to non-metropolitan portions data from the Current Population Survey, he found that broadband adoption, rather than access, mattered the most in a positive way for many of the civic engagement measures analyzed. Higher broadband adoption rates in rural areas were associated with higher rates of expressing opinions and joining organizations among other civic engagement measures. On the other hand, higher broadband adoption rates in rural areas resulted in less seeing/hearing from friends or talking with neighbors. Higher rate of community anchor institutions in rural areas, some of which provide broadband access, resulted in higher interactions with neighbors and confidence in local schools. Interested in the white paper? Please contact us. 

Does County Broadband Access Affect Civic Engagement? (2015)
Gina Rico, Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University
Bryan Farrell, Stennins Institute of Government at Mississippi State University

Ms. Rico and Mr. Farrell looked for empirical evidence to support the argument that more broadband access increases civic engagement in Mississippi. Using county-level data from the 2014 general election and the Mississippi Secretary of State the authors calculated voter turnout to measure civic engagement and lack of fixed broadband (25Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) access and faster speeds of more than 50 Mbps down from the National Broadband Map controlling for education, income, and different economic regions in the state. The authors found that as lack of access to broadband increased, so did voter turnout, contrary to their hypothesis. They argue that this may be the result of a disenfranchisement and turnout abstention due to a hotly contested Republican primary that same year. Interested in the white paper? Please contact us.

Developing Intelligent Communities: Investigating Benefits and Barriers of Telemental Health in Mississippi (2015)
Dr. Joseph H. Holland, University of Mississippi

Dr. Holland explored the benefits and barriers to use Telemental Health in the state of Mississippi. Telemental health is defined as the provision of mental health services from a distance using information and communication technologies. Dr. Holland administered seven (7) semi-structured interviews over the phone to operational personnel at Community Mental Health Centers in Mississippi. Some of the questions asked included implementation of any telemental health methods in the health centers areas and if not, why not; what are the benefits/barriers of telemental health as perceived by the personnel; does the state of Mississippi have any initiatives that support the implementation of telemental health? Results indicate that telemental health has several benefits including greater access to trained mental health professionals, saved wait and travel time for patients, and enhanced organizational and professional development among other. Among some of the barriers identified implementation cost was an issue, insurance/Medicaid reimbursement and security issues. 

eBaby4u: Improving Infant Feeding Among African American Teen Mothers through Social Media (2015)
Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale, Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University
Dr. Michael Breazeale, College of Business at Mississippi State University

Dr. Ragsdale’s research team undertook a multi-phase eHealth project to help fill the gap in online outreach for African American teen mothers, with the goal of improving infant feeding outcomes—such as breastfeeding—among first-time minority teen moms.  The few existing web-based and text-based programs tend to target older, more educated mothers.  Filling the gap in technology-based infant feeding outreach that is culturally relevant to minority teen mothers is important given that 95% of teens are online, nearly 80% have cell phones, and resource-limited and minority teens are equally likely as high-income teens to have smartphones.  We secured funding from USDA NIFA to conduct Phase I of eBaby4u, which is driven by three research questions: 1) How do we harness social media to optimize infant feeding outcomes among minority teen mothers? 2) How do we adapt content so that it is culturally relevant to minority teen mothers? and 3) How do we distribute content so that it is accessible to minority teen mothers? To address these questions, we partnered with Just In Time Parenting, a national USDA eXtension program providing scientifically accurate information on infant feeding and care to parents.  We translated Just in Time Parenting content into culturally relevant and mobile-friendly content for minority teen mothers.  We convened the eBaby Expert Panel of Extension Specialists, research scientists, and university faculty to ensure that all eBaby4u content was scientifically accurate.  We convened the eBaby Community Advisory Board of minority teen and young mothers to ensure that all eBaby4u content was culturally relevant and tailored to our target audience of minority pregnant and parenting teens.  Key deliverables include 1) Developing and pilot-testing the eBaby4u logo, 2) Developing, pilot-testing, and launching the eBaby4u mobile-friendly website, 3) Producing and pilot-testing 9 eBaby4u teen parent education videos, and 4) Creating the eBaby4u YouTube channel to distribute the 9 teen parent education videos on the Internet.

Download the eBaby4u white paper.