The Rural Equity Project

The Rural Equity Project is sponsored by the County of Orleans Industrial Development Agency (COIDA), in conjunction with Orleans Cornell Cooperative Extension, to ameliorate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic which have exacerbated long-standing rural disparities. Inequities facing our region include limited job opportunities, limited access to communication networks, limited access to health care specialists, and high rates of health risk behaviors. The pandemic also promoted The Great Resignation which has impacted our micro businesses and largest employers. Over time, these factors erode the vitality of communities.

Economic development leaders and regional partners have come together to induce the expansion of digital literacy and distance learning strategies through the Rural Equity Project to address complex inequities from economic and digital divides.

The REP economic and community revitalization initiative pairs CCE’s Small Farms Program and 16 digital literacy courses with a new suite of flexible online classes in professional development, digital training, horticulture, meditation, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and other courses to improve job-ready skills, health and well being for those living and working in Orleans County and the GLOW region. Funding for the project ensures Cornell’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts/agriculture, math) curriculum and robotic workshops can also be adapted for online learners.

The Rural Equity Project is designed to bridge income barriers and digital literacy barriers that exist in micropolitan communities just beginning to gain access to high-speed broadband service. In addition to distance learning programs, the REP imbeds technical (digital) instructors in the community through COIDA’s small business assistance ‘MAP’ program, Orleans Cornell Cooperative Extension, Orleans Workforce Development, and the county’s four NIOGA libraries. COIDA will also work with employers to offer distance learning and workplace programs that support employee growth and retention.


The Need for STEM Education in Rural America | RobotLab

It takes a village: Solving the Broadband Adoption Problem in Rural America | CNET

The Necessary Foundations for Rural Resilience | Brookings

Last updated April 26, 2022