FRANKLINTON, La. – The four-year Connect My Louisiana broadband Internet initiative of the LSU AgCenter is providing touchscreen computers, 3-D printers and other high-tech equipment to local offices for public use.
Washington Parish is one of the 18 parishes where the Connect My Louisiana grant has provided this technological equipment, said LSU AgCenter agent Lacey Keating.
Other parishes with limited Internet access benefiting from the grant include Allen, Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Franklin, Jefferson Davis, LaSalle, Madison, Morehouse, Pointe Coupee, Richland, St. Helena, Tensas and West Carroll.
AgCenter Connect My Louisiana trainer Valerie Vincent said the grant ends in September 2014, but during the course of the grant, five additional sites brought Internet connectivity to nearly every region of the state.
“These additional sites are in Acadia, Ascension and Red River parishes and at the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Grant Parish and the AgCenter’s Southeast Regional Office in Tangipahoa Parish,” Vincent said.
At each location, the public is encouraged to come by and use the equipment for whatever computing needs they may have.
Keating said each office has a complete computer with wireless connectivity, but she asks that users bring their own storage device for their information since there are no printers available.
Grant Walker and the Washington and Catahoula parish locations have digital literacy labs, in addition to the stand-alone computer, Keating said.
Each lab has five touchscreen computers and a 3-D printer available to the public, Vincent said.
“People without access to computers can now come in to type documents, create presentations, check their email and browse the Internet to do research,” Keating said.
Classes are also taught in the labs to help residents better understand what they can do with computers and how broadband works.
One way a business might benefit from the 3-D printers is in inventory control, Vincent said.
“Take for instance, I sell 3-D jewelry, which is really popular right now, but I don’t want to stock a lot of inventory. With the 3-D printer, I just print the items as they are ordered, then ship them out,” Vincent said.
In some rural areas, dial-up Internet connections are the only choice available, such as the Mt. Hermon area of Washington Parish where Connect My Louisiana student worker Kaleb Danos lives.
“I can only get high-speed Internet on my phone at home,” said Danos, who is a freshman at LSU. “My high school has broadband, so I would have to stay after school to complete many of the assignments that required searching the Web.”
Keating said other than some groups and civic organizations, getting residents to advantage of the resource has been slow.
“I think we have created the awareness lately, and now people are coming in to utilize the computers,” Keating said.
“I can tell that there is a difference in people who are connected to the Internet and those who are not,” Keating said. “There is a sense of urgency with the connected individuals. They usually want their information immediately.”
The goal of the LSU AgCenter is to make that happen, she said. But the older residents who are satisfied with “snail mail” are not forgotten. “We still mail out brochures with the requested information.”
The grant that funds the initiative is sponsored through the Louisiana Division of Administration, Office of Information Technology to show the benefits of adopting broadband technology in business, education, health care and other aspects of economic activity in Louisiana. Johnny Morgan
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