Through Digital Economy Program, U of I Extension empowers rural residents to stay in communities

With support from the Idaho Legislature, the university’s program helps residents gain the skills to be successful in a virtual career, writes guest columnist Amber Smyer.

September 4, 2023 4:20 am

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, more than 64,000 people moved to Idaho in 2021, but did you know that more than 57,000 people also moved out of Idaho?

Losing residents can erode the unique identity and culture of small towns and tribal communities. It may also lead to declining participation in local events and diminish the sense of community and civic engagement.

It’s not just growth. Idaho is also losing residents and changing fast.

Small towns thrive on social connections and mutual support, and when people leave, these bonds can weaken, leading to a less cohesive and resilient community. While we cannot point the finger at any one economic indicator, we can link rural economic stability to job availability.

That is why University of Idaho Extension’s Digital Economy Program is working to expand job opportunities in Idaho communities. Idaho’s rural residents sometimes feel excluded from the job prospects available in large cities. This can result in a steady bleed out of skills and funds, as people move to large cities and other states in search of opportunity.

However, the growing global digital economy has the potential to reverse this trend.

From freelance work to entrepreneurship and everything in between, endless possibilities are now available, and the Digital Economy Program has teamed up with Utah State University Extension to help Idahoans access these career options.

Through this partnership, Idahoans can now learn digital skills to help advance their careers from the comfort of their home by obtaining a Remote Work Professional Certificate.

With support from the Idaho Legislature, the Digital Economy Program helps Idaho residents gain the skills and knowledge to be successful in a virtual career.

The Remote Work Professional Certificate course can be completed online in just one month and is available to many Idaho residents for just $50.

Working from home not only allows for greater work-life balance but also helps residents stay or return to their Idaho communities. Remote work erases the physical boundaries that once compelled residents to seek opportunities elsewhere. Surrounded by the beauty of their small town, Idahoans who work remotely can help preserve the local heritage, participate in community events, support local small businesses, and foster a sense of community pride.

For more information about University of Idaho Extension’s Digital Economy Program and the Remote Work Professional Certificate course, visit


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Amber Smyer
Amber Smyer

Amber Smyer serves as the new program manager for University of Idaho Extension’s Digital Economy Program. As a native Idahoan, she is committed to helping individuals and communities grow through workforce and economic development initiatives. Amber has a bachelor’s degree in secondary agricultural education and a master’s degree in public affairs.