USDA to fund distance learning and telemedicine projects

"Our rural communities need access to the latest educational and health care services to compete in the 21st Century," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. As a result, the USDA announced that it spend $14 million to fund 19 distance learning projects, 32 telemedicine projects and one combined project – half in counties with substantial minority and Native American populations.

For instance, Dean Health Systems of Wisconsin will receive nearly half a million dollars to set up 12 telemedicine sites throughout the state. According to USDA, these sites, “will save nearly 13,000 hours of travel time, $302,940 in travel costs and prevent $448,272 in lost wages.”

And, a $272,000 grant to the Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services will buy distance learning equipment that will enable 12 school districts to share classes interactively.

By engaging low-income rural populations, these projects will also increase computer awareness and literacy.

The USDA’s Rural Development program administers some $165 billion in loans and guarantees to, in the words of the USDA, “improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.”

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding To Improve Health and Safety, and Increase Educational Opportunities in Rural Communities (USDA news release, Jun. 6, 2012)