Institute created to aid community development

Roberto Gallardo

A New York-based think tank has designated the Mississippi State University Extension Service an Intelligent Community Institute, the second of its kind in the country.

The goal of the partnership between MSU and the Intelligent Community Forum is to help rural communities thrive in the digital economy. The Intelligent Community Forum examines best practices and researches the impact of broadband and other access technologies on job creation and economic development.

“We are pleased to be working with the Extension Service at MSU on this important initiative,” said Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Louis Zacharilla. “The Intelligent Community Forum was formed to help communities, large and small, re-energize themselves and thrive in the 21st century and its challenging economy. The program at MSU will carry forward our Rural Imperative Initiative, which is an attempt to bring to small and rural communities in Mississippi and worldwide the same technology, opportunities and prosperity that we see in places where population density has historically provided an edge.”

Roberto Gallardo, an associate Extension professor at MSU and the MSU institute’s director, said Mississippi will become a focal point for a worldwide effort designed to capitalize on the many opportunities and challenges rural communities face when transitioning to and planning for the digital economy.

“From workforce development to civic engagement to telehealth, this partnership with the Intelligent Community Forum offers Mississippi’s rural communities, and eventually the Southeast and the nation, a chance to learn from 20 years of research and the identification of best practices,” Gallardo said.

The institute at MSU will conduct both research and outreach on the digital economy. The institute will help communities better transition and plan for the digital age through an educational planning process. The institute can also help communities participate in an international Intelligent Community Award process, which creates recognition for communities that excel.

Joy Foy, director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Asset Development Division, said this new collaboration will benefit Mississippi communities.

“The Mississippi Development Authority welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with the MSU Extension Service and the Intelligent Community Institute to build on the state’s successes thus far in meeting the challenges of the digital economy,” Foy said. “MDA and the Asset Development Division look forward to the added value that the institute will bring to our existing partnership with the Extension Service.”

Former Cisco executive, futurist and Intelligent Community Forum Senior Fellow Norman Jacknis heads the Intelligent Community Forum’s Rural Imperative efforts.

For more information about the institute, contact Gallardo at 662-325-3226 or visit For more information on the Intelligent Community Forum, visit or contact Matthew Owen at or 212-249-0624.

MSU is online at,, and

Keri Collins Lewis | MSU Ag Communications

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