Mississippi lags behind the rest of the nation in education, healthcare, technological equality and more, but entrepreneurs and activists are discussing ways they are changing the state for the better.
Sitting in the historic Capri Theater in Downtown Jackson, yesterday, Kermit the Frog joined about 20 other speakers talking about everything from creativity to healthcare to installing high speed Internet. As part of Mississippi's first TED Talk, speakers from various fields were brought together to explain what they do and how they are working to expand development in their particular area of expertise. Jackson attorney David Pharr helped organize the event.
"We decided to theme our event around fertile ground, the concept of fertile ground, which is a reference to Mississippi's agricultural history, but also the numerous opportunities that exist now in Mississippi," says Pharr.
Pharr includes education as one area Mississippi could see that exponential growth. Pamela Shaw is a policy consultant and one of the yesterday's presenters. She says early education is the key to improving Mississippi's educational system.
"You can't do economic development without developing the human capital," Shaw says. "Children don't stay children; they're going to grow up. If we can collectively, this group of people, come together and say 'Hey, we want to have pre-k for all three and four-year-olds,' it'll make a difference in this state."
Another field that received a lot of attention is in the realm of healthcare, and how Mississippi is leading the way in providing basic medical services to those residents living in the most rural parts of the state. Kristi Henderson runs the telehealth program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"Sixty-five percent of our state has to travel over forty minutes to get access to a specialist. Telehealth uses technology to connect normal people to healthcare, and it doesn't matter where you are they can connect the two together. I'm here to tell you that we're telehealth all over the state and average people are having their lives changed and we're saving lives.
While this was the first TED Talk in Mississippi, organizers say they hope to make the event an annual occurrence.