How Connectivity Can Help Retain Younger Generations in Rural Communities
- Julie Bushell
Over the last 20 years, rural communities have experienced a significant outmigration, according to The Brookings Institution. Recessions paired with the promise of new job opportunities in urban areas inspired younger generations, in particular, to leave small-town America.
As a result, cities have become generally more youthful and diverse, sprouting dynamic pockets of innovation. Meanwhile, rural communities are grappling with the consequences of depopulation.
Many of the decades-old water and energy supply systems made in rural areas and designed for larger populations have become vulnerable to various failures. The American Bar Association, which has been monitoring changes in water systems across the country, reports that lack of capital, shrinking populations, and aging infrastructure contribute to the increasing water quality concerns in these communities.
Rural communities are realizing that if they don’t address the root causes of outmigration, they cannot revitalize their economy or infrastructure.
Economic Trend Reversal Opens Up an Opportunity
Between 2010 and 2017, rural employment grew at an average annual rate of 0.5% — compared to 1.8% in urban areas. By early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused unemployment rates to reach levels not seen since the Great Depression, peaking in April at 13.6% in rural communities, 14.6% in cities, and 14.4% nationally.
Fortunately, unemployment rates have since returned to pre-pandemic levels in rural counties but are still significantly higher in urban ones.
Because of the pandemic, more businesses are developing a company climate that embraces the “Work From Home Movement.'' That and the Great Resignation have created an opportunity for rural communities to serve this digital-first market of remote workers and newly-minted solopreneurs.
Currently, nearly 40% of the workforce are millennials. Given a chance to "work from anywhere," this group is now rethinking their priorities. Younger populations can choose to explore and live in rural areas but may only stay if those areas accommodate their professional and personal needs. Communities are looking for the best ways to create an environment that allows young people to put down roots.
How IoT Can Help
Generally, millennials and Gen Zers are socially conscious innovators and entrepreneurs who value community. In addition to this, they are embedded in technology and everything digital. It’s not part of their life; it is their life. This generation, with their tech-savviness, is more likely to support community investment in technology.
According to Nielsen research, nearly three-quarters of millennial consumers say they are willing to pay between 10% and 25% more for sustainable products and services. So, technologies that promote connectivity, like LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) and IoT (Internet of Things), can allow millennials to support initiatives that commit to sustainability and seek products that align with their values.
Smart water metering, for instance, can improve conservation and enable real-time monitoring, resulting in cost savings and increased efficiency. In turn, this investment can lead to a better quality of life and strengthen the community.
Smart Tech to Retain the Talent of Younger Generations
Investing in Internet of Things and connectivity solutions can help rural communities attract and retain young talent in several ways. Through remote work, remote learning, high-quality jobs, they also have a practical and innovative avenue to support this technology. These opportunities can inspire young adults to innovate in their own small communities. Connectivity fosters hope and spurs action, both of which are needed to solve the sustainability challenges in rural areas. It gives younger generations a reason to stay, drive change, and protect their homes for years to come.
Are you interested in learning more about how connectivity and resource management can influence future generations and benefit your community?
Ethos Connected, boasting North America's largest contiguous carrier-grade LoRaWAN network, is rebuilding and returning relevance to the industries we serve by helping businesses and communities leverage technology using rapid, wireless connections. Our ability to illuminate gaps in efficiency drive informed decision-making and ultimately revolutionize our customer’s ability to do business.