Supporting a digital countryside

13 Apr 2015 |Written by Chris Andersson

As recent weeks have brought sunshine to much of the UK, and Spring actually seems to have sprung, it’s the perfect time for Good Things Foundation to launch a new project and partnership. And as new born lambs gambol across the nation’s meadows, it seems apt that this work is with The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Rural communities are facing challenges different to those of many other parts of the country, and that’s particularly true when it comes to digital skills. Access to reliable broadband is a problem for many, and delivering digital inclusion activity can be difficult when local populations are spread across wide geographical areas that often don’t have regular and reliable public transport links.

These problems are no less for businesses based in rural areas which often suffer from the very same issues when it comes to gaining digital skills. And with 60% of small businesses saying that being online helps them attract more customers, it’s clear that digital can go a long way to making these business successful and sustainable.

That’s why I’m so proud that we’re working with The Prince’s Countryside Fund and members of the UK online centres network based in rural areas, to help up-skill local SMEs, so they can start to experience the full benefits of digital.

For the next year, a group of Digital Advice Hubs will be working with more than 200 rural SMEs, helping those with no, or very little digital skills.

This support could be with anything from the basics of online banking, to setting up a business Facebook page, or even helping to find an affordable website developer.

Of course, the other key challenge facing rural communities in this area is connectivity, but I hope the roll out of schemes like the Rural Broadband Programme means that many will be getting the opportunity to take advantage of the internet for the first time. And with Government agencies such as the Rural Payments Agency shifting more processes online, individuals and organisations without the right skills will inevitably get left behind.

I’m really proud of the work the Hubs will be doing, and look forward to hearing - and sharing - some of the great stories that we expect to come out of the project. From B&B owners and dairy farmers, to sole traders, restaurateurs, and more, we’ll be helping them grow their businesses for a truly 21st century UK.