Tag Archives: Rural

Rural Prospects in Digitally-Enabled Economy

29 May

A theme paper for an Environment Management conference in Delhi has sparked debate about the underlying assumptions.

Beautiful country area with small town and brightly colored fields

The paper characterises city dwellers as materially rich compared to rural citizens described as ‘poor’ – but then considers the prospects for lifestyle values that would position rural citizens as environmentally rich and city dwellers as increasingly impoverished.

The author’s intent is clear – to challenge delegates with a potential reversal of fortunes – but the problems with these characterisations are two-fold.

Firstly, we are well aware of material deprivations in cities, towns and villages across the land – economic inequalities cannot be fully correlated geographically.  There is no doubt, for example, that rural areas may have a raw deal in terms of transport and digital infrastructures but it is, at the same time, far from realistic to assume that city-zens are much better served.  If you really want a life off-grid then 1 mile downstream from Tower Bridge in SE16 may be just the digital desert you desire.

Secondly, it is mistaken to assume that rural citizens value being less connected.  Some may well luxuriate in leafy glades surrounded by natural wonders and wildlife but making a living, having and creating gainful employment, being able to access medical care and education, and contributing to wider society are not absent from non-urban family agendas.

The key to reconciliation between different environments lies in the priorities given to issues of resilience.  You might imagine that cities need, for example, stronger environmental efforts and rural areas need better digital infrastructures – but those are a generalisations; policies based on averages are ‘merely average’ and, generally, unfit for purpose.

Places and peoples are different and have diverse needs.  The presumed-to-be unstoppable tidal flow of humanity towards major conurbations is as much in need of thoughtful management as migrations between countries.  The leadership effort surely needs to be directed towards ironing out the relative risks and inequalities that prompt these migrations.  Leaving them to grow and fester will surely only fuel future problems.

 

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2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Rural Networks

10 Aug

 

The Rural Network Award has been part of the Digital Challenge since 2010.

NGShortlisthi-resPrevious winners include B4RN – now recognized across Europe as an exemplar of community investment.

With the launch in September of ICF’s 2016 Connected Countryside campaign we can expect far greater recognition of the massive economic growth contribution that originates in areas beyond the major metros.

The 2015 Shortlisted Finalists are;

Abthorpe Broadband AssociationThe Tove Valleys journey, from Satellite to FTTP, illustrates more than a decade of development. The villages and remote properties are now served partly by fibre directly to their premises or via wireless from village access points.

Gigaclear plcPiddington and Ludgershall ultrafast broadband deployment. These rural communities had one of the fastest ever sign ups with the support and help of the local people.

Lothian Broadband Networks Limited – Providing Fast Broadband in Rural East Central Scotland. Lothian Broadband provides high-speed wireless services via strategically positioned masts to reach 1000s of village properties that would otherwise be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Satellite Internet – Superfast Satellite for Communities (SS4C) – positioned as a solution for extremely hard-to-reach areas. Using a mix of satellites with different footprints, there is now a range of flexible packages that can deliver a variety of services.

Vfast Internet – Providing super fast access to some of the hardest to reach communities across Kent. Vfast uses its fibre network to feed local wireless broadband services and now also offers a fixed line service for customers within range of its local cabinets.

The independent judging panel will review all shortlisted contenders during September and the winners will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks ( marith@nextgenevents.co.uk ) or call 07734 919 479

 

 

 

 

 

Global Trade Development outwith the Metros: not beyond belief

3 Jun

[This background discussion paper is written ahead of the Intelligent Community Forum’s 2015 Global Summit in Toronto. The Rural Master Class session is focused specifically on cross-border trade and explores how smaller cities and rural regions develop international connections to power their growth.]

Conventional wisdom says that the pursuit of global growth is surely what has led to the success of major cities.  Few doubt that many enterprises are drawn to locate in great international trading hubs and, for sure, capitals like London, New York, and major regional hubs around the world get most of the attention from the media, lobbyists and politicians.

Managing Metro growth and its consequences (migration, housing, health, transport, etc.) has given rise to the re-emergence of the City State, with all that implies for local empowerment and devolutionary pressures in countries hoping to remain united.

Beautiful country area with small town and brightly colored fields

The notion of growth in international trade from enterprises rooted in our countryside and less-regarded towns may, at first glance, seem unlikely.   Scratch the stats however and beneath the glossy megacity headlines you can sniff the fragrance of a less-urban, more rural, renaissance.

Digital transformation is enabling business to thrive in places where employees like to live – in places where they can afford to live – in places where they can appreciate the value of community – in places where they feel more at home.

Those enthusiasms for being somewhere beyond the Metro’s rainbow are not just found in extremely remote, hard to reach, rural locations. Much the same homely attraction applies to smaller cities, market towns, hamlets and village communities. The reality is that digital infrastructures are now making a greater difference in places that might previously have been considered disadvantaged relative to those hungry Metros that suck in so much talent.

These less-regarded places are familiar with making do without much, if any, external intervention (or interference) from their national or regional governments. ‘Just Do It’ the locals will say, or more likely ‘JFDI’. This inbred capacity for action plus our newfound ability to network ideas and contacts without the hassle of travel points towards a greater levelling up of opportunity.

Dig deeper still into life beyond Metros and you’ll find a diverse and complex fabric of connections and capabilities – with very different channels and enablers for international trade.

The reality is that, because it’s diffuse and difficult to count, economists, policy developers and headline writers everywhere (except perhaps in local ‘provincial’ communities) have largely chosen to disregard the massive economic and societal contributions made outside of those Metros – the places whose sustainability we are now all supposed to be worrying about.

These good non-Metro citizens have built international trading networks without needing nightclubs and not being too offended by being dismissively described as ‘cottage industries’.

The prevailing economic ignorance of non-metro global trading stems directly from a lack of cohesive advocacy and the complexities of ecosystems that are not well suited to centralised policy interventions. Moreover the impacts of this general ignorance are reflected in sub-optimal priorities for digital infrastructure investment.

If the pursuit of global trading success is regarded as a priority in the national interest, then it might be expected to be incumbent on policy leaders and market regulators to understand and further encourage the evolution of these complex ecosystems.

But however well economic growth priorities are recognised at a national level, the limited effectiveness of top-down policy development in economies that are over-centralised reveals the need for empowerment and application of local leaderships.

Download the full paper (PDF 8.6 MB) Trade Development outwith the Metros

 

The Rural Imperative – Dig for a Gigabit-enabled Future

14 Apr

As the UN considers the prospect that by 2050 over 70% of the global population will be working and living in cities, and as policy developers continue to invest in cities to stimulate their economies, the New-York-based Intelligent Community Forum announces its Rural Imperative – a focus on developing smarter rural communities to offset the strains of unbalanced and unsustainable mega-cities.

The economic and creative power of cities cannot be denied but inequalities in digital infrastructure provision are beginning to drive rural communities towards radical moves to build a more-balanced economy.

Full story here