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13 March 2018 14:32:27 |News,Rural Life

Unlocking rural digital potential could add up to £26.4bn to UK economy

Greater digital adoption in rural areas could add £12 to £26 billion a year to the UK economy, says new report

Greater digital adoption in rural areas could add £12 to £26 billion a year to the UK economy, says new report

Unlocking the digital potential of rural areas across the UK could add £12 to £26.4bn annually in Gross Value Added – equivalent to 4 to 8.8 percent - to the UK economy.
According to a new report Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), it could add at least £15bn to rural business turnover each year.
If digital constraints are removed and the digital potential is realised in rural areas, microbusinesses (0-9 employees) in rural areas would see the greatest benefit, generating an additional £9.4bn in annual business turnover.
This would be followed by £4.6bn for small businesses (10-49 employees), £700m for medium-sized businesses (50-249 employees) and £200m for large businesses (over 250 employees).
The report found that the South West, Eastern and South East regions, which have the largest share of rural businesses in the country, are set to benefit the most from greater digital adoption.
However, in a response to the consultation on the future of telecoms infrastructure, the NFU has used evidence from its member survey to highlight the growing rural-urban divide.

In summer 2017, only 9% of farmers surveyed could confirm they receive broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more and only 15% had a reliable outdoor phone signal across the farm.
Brian Wilson, Chair of Directors at independent think tank Rural England, said rural businesses are to a considerable degree already "strong digital adopters", and most recognise the importance of going further in future.
“However, their ability to go digital has been held back by constraints which have included connectivity but also extend to a lack of skills, training and resources,” Mr Wilson said.
“To help address these constraints and boost rural economic productivity, we believe there are some straight forward ‘quick wins’, which if delivered locally, nationally and UK-wide, could have a significant and positive impact on the quality of life for rural communities and the UK economy as a whole.”
To unlock the billions of pounds additional GVA from greater digital adoption in rural areas, Rural England and SRUC outline a number of recommendations for the public and private sectors, including streamlining digital support services and establishing Digital Enterprise Hubs in rural towns.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said of the report: “The internet has the potential to ensure the countryside can flourish in a way that combines preserving the environment with economic dynamism. Digital technology can open opportunities, build skills and connect rural businesses to global markets."


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