How Digital Hubs Can Bridge the Urban-Rural Divide
A team of leading economic development specialists at the University of Lincoln has produced a comprehensive guide on how to set up and run high-tech digital hubs in remote and rural locations which might otherwise suffer from a lack of digital infrastructure.
Digital hubs are physical spaces with access to superfast broadband, alongside other community and business focussed services – from providing meeting and networking space to offering opportunities to test new technologies. The project has major significance in Lincolnshire, where only two per cent of people are employed in digital jobs in both the digital and non-digital sectors, which is half the national average.
The guidelines are produced by the Lincoln team who make up part of CORA (‘COnnetcing Remote Areas with digital infrastructure and services’) – an international project bringing together a consortium of 18 organisations from seven European countries bordering the North Sea. Part-funded by the European Union’s Interreg North Sea Region programme, CORA is dedicated to stimulating digital infrastructure, services, and skills in rural areas to make them more attractive to business and families.
Liz Price, Senior Research Fellow
Our research has shown that digital hubs are potential drivers for positive change and can be a starting point to overcome these digital divide challenges. That is why we're trying to encourage more local authorities to invest in these hubs, and more residents and businesses to access their facilities. Digital hubs really could help people from rural areas to feel much less isolated and better connected. They can transform the way rural communities live and work.
The team found that rural businesses have previously identified difficulty in accessing appropriate external IT training, trouble recruiting people with appropriate digital skills, and the existing workforce often lacks sufficient digital skills. They also conducted an in-depth study of several existing digital hubs located across Europe and analysed the benefits they bring to their local communities. The new guide details the logistics and benefits of establishing a new hub and can be accessed online.
Meet the Expert
Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln International Business School
Liz Price is a Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln International Business School.
She conducts research into regional and local economic development, skills and labour markets, and business support.