A joined up vision – regionally and nationally – is essential in improving digital connectivity in rural areas.
This was a key finding of a discussion event led by Mobile Access North Yorkshire partners Lancaster University Management School where all-encompassing digital infrastructure strategy would help drive a holistic view.
Bringing together several Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’ 5G Testbed and Trial projects and rural local authorities the discussion centred on the benefits that can be brought when there is a continued dialogue with each other, communities as well as ensuring Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are brought in on conversations early. These learnings will now inform a social engagement toolkit which LUMS are developing following their engagement with residents in North Yorkshire.
Having a holistic view would give digital infrastructure projects an overarching assessment of an area including what else is happening, whilst also understanding the assets available to connect the – currently – unconnected. However, what is also essential is ensuring those who own the assets have a clear understanding of the value they hold in supporting rural communities to flourish both economically and socially. Recognised by all the projects as a way forward, this solution would mean infrastructure projects work for the place. Moreover, according to LUMS researchers this is essential when working in rural communities because of the resident’s sense of the area being an extension of their lives, more so than urban areas.
A strategy would, also, enable the bridging role LUMS researchers described in their Report. The importance of social engagement in putting 5G connectivity in place – ensuring what is happening in policy, projects and those technologists working on them to see the importance that social engagement has to a digital infrastructure project.
As is normal, most projects and councils do things slightly differently with varying degrees of success. Not one way is the right way but by developing continuous dialogue with others mean that the learnings of one project could be transferred to another rather than each one working in silo. Made all the simpler now digital collaboration has become the norm, it is something that most want to see continued.
If you are interested in trialling the toolkit, email us.