COVID-19 has sped the adoption of virtual programming in Cooperative Extension across the nation and has highlighted a need for information about connectivity at the county level for use in planning virtual programs. A new tool developed by a team at Purdue University may help. With funding from eXtension Foundation, they’ve created a County Connectivity Landscape Dashboard to help Cooperative Extension professionals as they plan online programming and outreach methods.
Dr. Roberto Gallardo, Director of Purdue’s Center for Regional Development and a specialist with Purdue Extension led the team. He said that “The County Connectivity Landscape Dashboard can be used by Extension professionals at the local level to inform their program design and delivery, particularly in making choices for reaching audiences with digital formats.”
The dashboard is intuitive and easy to navigate. Users can quickly identify a range of county-level statistics on access to the internet, computing devices, limited English proficiency, along with state-level metrics for comparison purposes. This can be helpful in program planning. Gallardo notes, “If a county’s share of children with no computers is higher than the state average, the Extension professional can plan accordingly by, for example, providing digital devices as part of their digital programming.” The goal of this project is to support Cooperative Extension Professionals in making data-driven decisions as they meet the needs of their communities in new ways in response to COVID-19. The funding comes from the New Technologies for Agricultural Extension cooperative agreement with USDA-NIFA through Oklahoma State University.
The dashboard is accessible here, and is free-of-charge.