Corporate Eye

Digital Champions and the Digital Divide

rural CheshireThe county I live in, Cheshire—a large county in the north of the UK—has ambitious plans: aiming for 100% coverage of superfast broadband by 2015.

For some of you, who live in big cities or in other countries, this won’t seem much. Apparently 50% or more of European households already have a connection of over 100 Mbps, and the EU definition of superfast is only 30 Mbps.

But Cheshire is a rural county: 60% is classified as rural, and the settlements are small and dispersed. That is, a lot of us live in tiny villages that are scattered across the green countryside. Yes, that is an image of Cheshire countryside to the right.

For two-thirds of the geographical area of the county it is simply not viable for telecommunications companies to roll out superfast broadband without financial subsidies.

A challenge, in these straitened times.

I went to a Connecting Cheshire Digital Champions event last week, representing the tiny village I live in, and was struck by two things that follow from the statistics they shared:

  • Your web visitor is struggling to see your pages

    Over 5% of Cheshire inhabitants can only get a maximum broadband speed of less than 2 Mbps

    And yet the size of web pages continues to grow. The average web page is now 1 MB. Even if your rural visitor could actually achieve the maximum of 2 Mbps, it takes a significant time to download your 1 MB page.

  • And there is still a potential audience you haven’t reached online

    15% of Cheshire inhabitants have never used the internet.

    How easy is it for someone who is unfamiliar with internet convention to understand and use your website? This group may well include some of your stakeholders, such as shareholders; a rush to e-communications is not going to serve a group who don’t use the internet, or whose connection isn’t good.

One more thing: you’re not alright, Jack

There is a digital divide. And it is one that affects most of us, even if you are lucky enough to live and work in a high-speed area. Because if there are consumers and businesses that can’t make equal use of the internet, those are potential customers, clients, shareholders and job-seekers of yours that would struggle to find your business online.

It’s not just Cheshire.

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Lucy is Editor at Corporate Eye
 
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