Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rural Connectivity

Reading DEFRA's Rural Statement 2012 (produced in September), I was interested to learn that the government has made a commitment to ensuring that the UK has the most efficient superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 and that DEFRA will work to make sure that this will include rural areas. To this end they have introduced three investment programmes
  • The Rural Broadband Programme - £530m dedicated to delivering 2Mbp broadband to all rural premises and superfast broadband in 90% of cases.
  • The Rural Community Broadband Fund - A £20m fund to help 'hard to reach' communities receive the same services. This fund works by financing 50% of the cost of local initiatives to develop broadband in an area.
  • The Mobile Infrastructure Project - £150m in capital expenditure to improve mobile phone coverage (welcome news - we have to hang out of a window or climb up the back garden to hold a mobile conversation!)
There is also support for Local Enterprise Partnerships in the form of research and 
information to help them in their development of local intiatives to get more businesses connected to superfast broadband. There is an organisation called Go On UK working to improve digital skills across the rural population.

All this got me thinking about churches. We still have three churches that do not have electricity in this archdeaconry and several that do not have water. We all know how difficult that makes it to use and maintain the building, romantic candle-lit carol services apart. We are the generation that needs to make sure that our churches don't end up with the same scenario as reagrds broadband. In twenty years time (probably a lot sooner) public buildings which are not connected to broadband will become limited in their potential usefulness and attractiveness as places to gather for community and arts events, worship, education, even for meetings.

The Go ON UK website has information about getting involved and making a difference locally - click on 'Act Now' and go to Organisations. It also tells you how to become a 'Digital Champion' in order to use your skills to help others. I've lifted the UK Digital Skills Charter from their site.

'In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults still do not have the Basic Online Skills to fully benefit from the internet - including 4.6 million people in the workforce. At Go ON UK, we believe that:
  • Everyone in the UK should have the Basic Online Skills to enjoy the full benefits of the web
  • Everyone deserves world-class digital services that meet their needs and are useable by all
  • Communities that don't have the skills to fully enjoy the benefits of the internet should not be left behind
  • Every organisation - in the private, public and voluntary sector - has a role to play in building our nation's digital capability.'
This is something that, with our track record of educational opportunity for all and, most importantly, our understanding of God as a God who communicates through word and interpretation, the churches can and should be engaging in. I'd like to see churches encouraging members to become involved in projects to bring broadband and digital skills to the homes and businesses of their area, in using social media themselves as a primary means of communication (among others), and in working to make sure church buildings are included in the communty's plans for broadband.

For more information go to or  and click on 'site map' then ' Rural Community Broadband Funding.'

No comments:

Post a Comment