Bridging the Digital Divide: Enhancing Rural Digital Inclusion

In an increasingly digital world, rural areas in England still face significant barriers to digital access and inclusion. "The Economic Impact of Digital Inclusion in the UK", a report recently published and commissioned by Good Things Foundation, emphasises the urgent need for enhancing digital skills among the rural and elderly populations to foster economic growth and social inclusion.

Rural communities continue to lag in digital connectivity, with substantial portions unable to access high-speed internet or reliable mobile coverage. This digital gap significantly affects older demographics prevalent in rural regions, who are also the least likely to possess necessary digital skills.

The report highlights several key benefits of digital inclusion:

  1. Economic Growth: Enhanced digital skills drive productivity and facilitate access to new job markets, particularly vital in rural areas where traditional industries may be declining.
  2. Healthcare Access: Digital skills can greatly improve access to healthcare services, reducing the need for travel and providing remote consultation options.
  3. Social Inclusion: For many elderly residents, digital connectivity offers a critical link to social interactions and services, helping to reduce feelings of isolation.

Investing in digital skills training presents a strong economic case. The report details that for every £1 invested in digital inclusion initiatives, nearly £10 returns to the economy through various channels, including increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and greater social cohesion.

You can download the report infographic by clicking on the image below:

Digital inclusion is a cornerstone of the Rural Services Network's 'Winning the Rural Vote' campaign. By advocating for enhanced digital connectivity and skills training in rural areas, we not only address economic and social disparities but also empower rural communities to actively participate in the democratic process. This alignment ensures that the unique needs of these communities are recognised and addressed in policy-making, reinforcing the vital role that rural votes play in shaping a more equitable future for all.

Kerry Booth, Chief executive, Rural Services Network

"As we strive to empower rural communities and secure their interests, addressing the digital divide is paramount. Enhancing digital inclusion is not just about technology; it's about ensuring equitable access to opportunities, healthcare, and social connections. By bridging this gap, we amplify the voice of rural areas in the national dialogue, reinforcing the pivotal role of the 'Winning the Rural Vote' campaign in shaping policies that reflect the unique needs and aspirations of rural populations."


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