Julian leads group of MPs in lobbying government on rural digital opportunities
February 26, 2018
Earlier this month, Julian led a cross-party group of MPs and peers in writing to the Minister for Digital, Margot James to highlight the huge opportunities for rural businesses from greater use of digital tools, and the need to ensure sufficient broadband and mobile coverage to allow these to be taken up.
This initiative grew out of a November meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business, which Julian chairs. The meeting discussed new UK-wide research commissioned by Amazon UK that highlighted the very significant digital opportunities rural businesses can exploit once the basic broadband and mobile infrastructure is in place. Over 60% of rural enterprises are currently making use of cloud computing, while 37% feel that artificial intelligence and machine learning are important for their future growth potential. This represents encouraging evidence for the role digital technology can play in eroding urban-rural economic divides, boosting skills and employment in rural areas.
However, the consensus of the meeting was that there is a real risk of this potential going to waste owing to the fact that far too many rural areas still do not have broadband and mobile access of sufficient quality and reliability to allow for the running and expansion of digital-reliant businesses, which prompted the group’s decision to lobby the Minister directly on the issue.
After despatching the letter, Julian said “I was very happy to lead on this, and I will be looking to see that the Digital Minister is fully aware of this vital aspect of the broadband and mobile coverage issue.
The government needs to continue its work to narrow the ‘digital divide’ between well- and poorly-served areas, and improve business access at the same time as that of households. If we are to keep our rural communities prosperous and our economy balanced, the latest digital tools need to be equally accessible to rural and urban enterprises, ensuring we boost productivity, earnings and skills in all communities.”