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Unlocking the Digital Potential of Rural America

March 2019  |  Nam D. Pham, Ph.D. and Mary Donovan

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Unlocking the digital potential of rural America is vital to economic growth. While accounting for nearly 15% of the adult population and covering over 72% of the land, annual revenues of businesses located in rural areas make up less than 10% of the U.S. economy.  The use of digital technologies, including access to high-speed internet and online tools, is gaining popularity in rural areas because they create opportunities for small businesses. We combined a survey with official statistics to estimate the economic impact of digital technologies on rural small businesses. If rural small businesses better adopt online tools and technology, their gross sales could increase by an additional 20.8% during the next three years, the equivalent of $84.5 billion per year. This increase in sales could contribute an additional $46.9 billion value added to U.S. GDP per year and create 360,054 jobs with $14.8 billion wages per year.