Rural Communities Feel the Digital Divide

Article excerpt

ADIGITAL divide is leaving some East Cleveland villagers feeling at a disadvantage when using the internet compared to their urban neighbours. That's the finding of the Digital Villages Project led by Teesside University researchers and the East Cleveland Community Development Group in Saltburn. They have been looking at the use of and access to computers, the internet and social networking with a team of community researchers from the six urban and rural communities who have carried out surveys and organised focus groups and interviews. Among those taking part was Terry Hatton, landlord at the Toad Hall Arms pub in Moorsholm. He said: "In the past when people were moving to a village, they would ask about transport or local schools. These days they are just as interested in internet access.

"Moorsholm is fairly typical of the area's outlying villages when it comes to connection problems and internet speed.

" Limited internet access is frustrating, as it affects everyone from children doing homework, to their parents wanting to go online, to local businesses and farmers, who all need to access the internet as part of their daily routine."

An overall finding from the research, which had funding from the Big Lottery Research Fund, pointed to poor broadband access in rural villages.

This has a direct impact on local businesses and ability to access online services and led to some rural villagers feeling disadvantaged and 'falling behind' their urban neighbours. Paul Davies, of the East Cleveland Community Development Group, has led the project in partnership with Teesside University's research team Professor Eileen Green, Carrie Singleton and Steve Thompson, from the University's Institute for Digital Innovation.

Paul said: "The project has been a great success in helping us understand the nature of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) use and how it can be a real positive in people's lives. …