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Audrey Roy NextGen 09
 

Audrey Roy NextGen 09

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Audrey Roy, Programme Manager Rural Services Commission for Rural Communities discusses the reality of living in rural England and explains why digital technology is critical at the NextGen 09 ...

Audrey Roy, Programme Manager Rural Services Commission for Rural Communities discusses the reality of living in rural England and explains why digital technology is critical at the NextGen 09 Conference in Leeds on 16 and 17 November 2009.

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  • In May of this year the Commission for Rural Communities, working with the Community Broadband Network, produced Mind the Gap: Digital England – a rural perspective. This report was the first empirical national study of broadband in rural areas. In it, we identified that the reality of life for rural residents, in terms of access to broadband and the right broadband speed or bandwidth, is in fact far from the typical picture painted by many internet service providers. Data gathered as part of this report indicates that 60% of people living in areas most likely to see next generation broadband investments are almost exclusively in deeply urban areas; geographically tightly focused and densely populated areas. So where does that leave the rest of us ?
  • The rural idyll, is in fact far from the rural reality. Life in many sparsely populated areas of England is one which is not far from hidden pockets of disadvantage and deprivation. Poverty is in fact increasing in rural areas. Over the last two years for which data are available the percentage of the population under the poverty line rose 3% in rural areas compared to 1% in urban areas. In terms of digital technology, only 54 % of rural households have a public internet access point within 2km, compared to 90% in urban areas. (It takes approximately 45-50 minutes to walk 2km on average by the way. Of current broadband users, 37% of those in rural areas receive broadband speeds lower than 2mbps, compared with only 6% in urban areas. We told you so. In 2005 the Commission worked with DEMOS to produce a report : Beyond Digital Divides the future for ICT in rural areas. This report highlighted the issues around digital technology in rural areas and warned that as broadband becomes increasingly embedded in rural lives, the divides that it creates, perpetuates or reconfigures will be less digital and more social. The reality is that in rural areas we have not made much progress in bridging the digital divide and the social impacts of this ever widening gap are already evident. For example, educational attainment amongst children without access to the internet is lower than for those Children who are “online”. Digitally included individuals are likely to perform better academically (increase of 25% in GCSE grades per subject. As broadband becomes more of an essential and everyday part of daily life, this unevenness in its rollout and use needs to be tackled with fresh urgency. Many rural communities are already using broadband to strengthen social networks, develop and grow their businesses and access a far wider range of economic opportunities.
  • What’s the problem for rural areas ? Rural Economy In some rural areas businesses are contributing proportionally less economic output than would be expected thus showing the existence of unfulfilled potential from firms and workforce in rural areas. SMEs and micro businesses in rural areas lose out to larger businesses who have invested in high-speed broadband and also to competitors operating from urban areas with adequate broadband. Those without broadband cannot even use simple business tools (a website) and means of communication (email). This damages small businesses, reducing their scope to compete and expand. Education and training Small employers in rural areas may be reluctant to release staff for training , due to the costs and travel time. Access to online training allows staff to develop their skills in the workplace or at home, with minimum impact on the business. Social exclusion . Many rural communities are excluded from what are for a large section of the population, now basic services, e.g. online shopping, applying for a tax disc online, online banking, downloading music, BBC iPlayer and social networking sites. Apart from the obvious economic disadvantages it is also having profound social implications.
  • We think the story for Rural Broadband can be summed up into two simple words Gaps and Speed. We don’t have adequate broadband coverage in rural areas. Where we do have coverage we don’t have the right speed.
  • Rather than blind you with science or statistics let me ask you a few questions, for which I would just like a show of hands please : How many of you used the internet to attend this conference – travel arrangements, the itinerary, hotel booking ? Hands up ... How many people have used the internet during the last seven days for shopping ? How many people have used the internet to find out information about something or someone ? How many people have accessed on line news services or other media including facebook, etc? How many people have used the internet to access emails Need I say more. The reality is that we all need the Internet to function and live our lives to their fullest potential, and that includes everyone, regardless of where they live . We therefore need the broadband speed in the right place at the right time, no if’s, no buts. The case is clear. So why should rural areas be left out !

Audrey Roy NextGen 09 Audrey Roy NextGen 09 Presentation Transcript

  • To have and have not: the rural digital divide fact or fiction ? Next gen09 ; Audrey Roy Commission for Rural Communities.
  • Mind the Gap
    • CRC’s input into the Digital Britain process
    • The first empirical national study of broadband in rural areas
  •  
  • What’s the problem in rural areas ? Rural Economy fails to reach it’s potential Education and learning is not optimised Lack of access to cultural & social opportunities, and e-government services .
  • What’s the story for Rural broadband ? Gaps Speed
  • The harsh reality Hypothesis: “ 60% of the English population might get superfast broadband from commercial operators ” And this is where they live!
  • A There are a lot of gaps !
  • Why is access to digital Technology so important to our daily lives ? Internet Shopping & Travel Entertainment
  • Questions