Slow broadband take-up hurting rural areas

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Slow broadband and a lack of digital skills are preventing billions of pounds being added to the economy in rural areas, according to a report.

Up to £26.4bn could be added to the UK economy if rural businesses were unshackled in adopting digital technology, a report by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College commissioned by Amazon says.

It said encouraging rural businesses to use superfast broadband, train up on computing and providing technology “hubs” for businesses in local towns could add between £12bn and £26.4bn in “gross value added” – the contribution to the economy.

The report says annual business turnover in the areas could increase by up to £15bn.

Brian Wilson, the chair of Rural England, pointed to a lack of high-speed access but added that improving training and encouraging greater take-up of existing broadband would also improve things.

“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,” he said.

Sarah Lee of the Countryside Alliance said that the Government should introduce a “rural digital strategy” to ensure that businesses outside of cities should not be left behind.

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