“Connectivity and digital issues are hot topics in rural areas, especially in the wake of the global COVID 19 pandemic which saw a massive increase in demand for technology, connectivity and digital services.”
The session was opened by Dr Greig Paul who provided a detailed introduction on digital transformation. Emphasis and examples were identified focusing on how we have evolved and achieved digitally in a global pandemic context, and where we could be within the next five to ten years as technology develops. Reflections on how technology and connectivity has changed over the past decade were referenced, with examples such as not being able to travel abroad without incurring excessive roaming charges or being somewhere rural and remote and having no access to data, service or connectivity. In the present day, we live and work in a world where connectivity has developed to a point where we can successfully interact from a screen. A point was raised that this can incur positive and negative expectations, as the pressure to always be connected and contactable is rising.
Further conversation focusing on the digital resilience of communities on a local and regional level in more rural areas, as well as the sector focused expectation to be literate in digital skills was also mentioned. A particular focus on the ‘work from home’ phenomenon and how this has changed the way that businesses now operate from home context, proving the efficiency and importance of sustainable digital connectivity. For example, rural areas are now more densely populated during a working week as residents are no longer commuting to the nearest City or Town for work, meaning the demand for more efficient connectivity has increased and necessities such as fibre have become more a sought after requirement rather than a luxury. The next part of the session was a panel Q&A session introducing topics with discussion from attendees around what the digital landscape might look like in one, five and 10 years. The topics and key points made on what communities want and need were focused around:
- Health and social care
- Business and industry
- Entertainment / quality of life
- Public sector transformation
After this, participants joined breakout rooms of their choice and joined in more in-depth conversations. The key points made from each speaker are outlined below.
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