Tuesday, August 24, 2004

wi-fi and regeneration

I have been rather remiss about updating this blog... but here's something I've done in the meantime... It's an article published in Regeneration & Renewal (a UK publication for regeneration professionals) about how wireless broadband schemes are being used for regeneration purposes in urban and rural areas across the UK. The precis of the article is below (unfortunately you need to be a subscriber to see the full article on their website).

The aims of these wireless broadband schemes fall into three main categories: providing broadband access to people who have little or no access currently, whether for rural or digital divide reasons (e.g. Kingsclere, Hampshire, Newham); attracting people and investment to particular areas (e.g. Cardiff); and as a corporate network to improve council services (e.g. Portsmouth, Westminster). These networks are implemented by different groups or partnerships depending on their purpose: community activist groups, local authorities or groups of local businesses.

The potential of public wireless broadband schemes lies in allowing users to access the Internet, wherever they may be located. This offers the opportunity of overcoming locational barriers for rural businesses. In the city it opens up huge possibilities for new types of mobile applications and services. An example is transportation information systems, helping users to navigate the city and organise their time, as is happening in Portsmouth.

Obstacles to running a successful network and meeting development objectives include: sustainability; getting the target audience to use the network once it has been implemented; and technical implementation issues including choosing the right implementation partner. The mitigation of these obstacles will depend on the objectives for the network. Selecting the right business model will be key in keeping the network running beyond the initial period of investment. The regeneration agency should be realistic about the objectives for the network and the whole package of services that are required to deliver on those objectives. However there’s no doubt that this is an exciting tool for communities and government.
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